(This is an annual re-publication of my holiday warning I issue to friends and strangers alike every year at this time. Please take heed. Stay off the roof!)
December 8th is an anniversary for me. This time it will mark twenty years since the day I fell off the roof of our house while putting up Christmas lights.
I only fell eight or ten feet and I managed my fall. Knowing that I couldn’t prevent it I intentionally jumped and hit the ground with a tuck and roll strategy to minimize the damage. I shattered nearly every bone in both heels and ankles. After five hours of reconstructive surgery I spent a week in a hospital. I was in a wheelchair for the next three months while receiving painful physical therapy three times a week. And now, nineteen years later, I still walk with a noticeable limp and am in constant pain. If I spend a full day on my feet for some special occasion — a family outing at Disneyland, for example — the pain can be so excruciating I can’t sleep. On my best days it’s just a constant, nagging reminder of one really bad decision I made a couple of decades ago.
And I’m the lucky one.
I could have easily broken my neck or back and been in that wheelchair for life, paralyzed from the waist down. I could have died. People do, even from a fall of just eight feet. The doctors at the ER told me ‘tis the season. They get many such cases every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And there is one thing all of us have in common: We’re all, every one of us, smarter than the fools who will take a tumble.
Absolutely none of us think we might fall off the roof when we go up there.
I know you. You don’t think so, either. You’ll be more careful than I was. “Thanks for the heads up!” you’re thinking. That was my attitude, too.
That morning, December 8, 1990, Carolann phoned me from a friend’s house to say she saw a sign in our neighborhood for a guy who would put up Christmas lights for $20 but I said, “Oh, no. It’s my job. I’m the dad!” It cost me thirty THOUSAND dollars and a lifetime of constant pain to put the lights up that year.
And there are the dreams.
You have occasional dreams of being able to fly? I have frequent dreams of being able to run again, to run like the wind in a baseball outfield as I did when I was young or just to chase after my grandsons at my current age. I can’t do that. I have to call after them and hope they run back to me.
All for the sake of Christmas lights.
I met my wife when we were teammates on a competition dance team. I haven’t been able to dance with her for nineteen years now. Oh, we can slow dance but we can’t do the show-off stuff, the fun spins and fancy twirls that brought us together in the first place.
Thanks to those damned Christmas lights.
Frankly, I get tired of telling this story so I’m not putting much effort into it.
Some of you have no plans to go on the roof so it doesn’t matter. The rest of you are going up on the roof no matter what I say.
Personally, I’m not going to fall off anything higher than a bed or a barstool from here on out. You all do what you like.
You've been warned.
Merry Christmas! (It's a lot more fun without oxycodone.)