Forty years ago, two days after Pesach ended in Israel, the day after it was over in Arizona where I was living, and forty-nine days before my wedding, I broke my arm. It is amazing how things can change in just a matter of seconds. First, I was standing in line at the kosher bakery eagerly asking for bread and other baked goodies. Then, I needed to write a check for my delicious smelling purchases. Not knowing how to spell the name of the bakery I walked backwards into the parking lot to check its sign. Instead of seeing the sign I fell backwards, hard. I caught my fall with my left hand and immediately knew something was not right.
Several hours and two X-rays later my arm was encased in a white plaster cast from just below my shoulder almost to the tips of my fingers. There were many things I could not do. I could not wash my hair or dishes. I could not wear many of my clothes. I could not drive or ride my bicycle. I became dependent on my roommates, my fiancé, and other friends. It was not a particularly pleasant situation.
There are many handicapped people in the world who have managed to become totally independent. Impatiently I wondered why I couldn’t be more like them. After a while I began to understand the reason. They had many months or years of rehabilitation. I was supposed to have my cast on for a total of six weeks, not enough time for any serious retraining.
Six weeks work out to be forty-two days. Worries about how I could tie my shoes gave way to more serious concerns. Would my arm heal properly? Would I have the cast off a week before the wedding? Would I be able to wear the wedding dress I had sewn with long, fitted cuffs from just below the elbow to the wrist? More important, would I be able to go to the mikvah before I was married?
HaShem was good to me and the answer to all of the above questions was yes. The cast was off and I had a flesh-covered, Velcro splint. My dress fit easily over it and it could be taken off and on with just a flick of the wrist. Life was back to normal except for the aches that would precede a rain storm. After several years even that passed and my broken arm became a dim memory.
Eighteen years ago, seven days before Seder night, and four days after the children had begun their school Pesach vacation, I took a few minutes to sit down for a well deserved break. I had just taken a sip of my soda when there was a loud knock at the door. That doesn’t sound good, I thought. Before I had time to stand up the knock came again, even louder. Nervously, I made my way to the door to find a twelve-year-old neighbor boy standing on my doorstep.
“Your daughter needs you,” he spoke seriously. Message delivered he scampered off to continue his play.
I pulled off my apron and set out in search of my young daughter. I found her a few houses away. Her face was pale and she was trying to swallow sobs. Another neighbor boy, this one several years older than the first, was walking her bicycle with one hand, leading her with the other, all with a big water gun tucked under his arm, and terribly guilty look on his face.
Relieved to see me he gladly turned over the responsibility of my daughter. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled and was off. It was quite some time later that I understood the reason for his apology. As my daughter had rounded the curve of our mountain top road for the thirteenth time without training wheels he came by. Water gun in hand he tried to spray her. Trying to avoid getting wet she managed to jerk the bike so it went flying, along with her, over the side of the hill. She and the bike landed on rocks and both were injured.
Her cast was just to the elbow but it was her right hand that was broken, the hand she used to write, eat, brush her hair and teeth, and countless other things. At such a young age she was already very dependent on her parents and older siblings. With the broken arm she just became more so. I would like to think that my experience with a cast made me a more sympathetic mother. Perhaps that was the reason I had broken arm in the first place. After all, HaShem has His plans for everything.