Cast Away Vacation

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Wooden chairs
10 Jul 2008
Arts & Media

My plans were ready. This year, as opposed to all previous years, I was going to get the most out of those two tantalizing summer months we wait for all year long. I knew just what I was going to do and when.

Swimming two mornings a week to keep in shape. Swimming for fun one afternoon a week with the granddaughters. Finish closet and basement cleaning and sorting before the new year begins. Return to my first musical love and practice the piano at least one hour a day. Play the recorder half an hour a day. And who knows… maybe I’d even get around to taking an art course. I always felt that I could do as well as Picasso if only I gave it a try.

My husband nodded his approval. My busy schedule would allow him to close himself happily up in his study without feeling guilty or unsociable. I began my well planned summer with an invitation to my daughter and her children to come over for an evening of pizza.

Use paper plates, everyone said. No use making more work than necessary for pizza ( we all know it doesn’t count as real food anyway). So I stepped onto a very strong, stable, dependable chair to reach the shelf where the paper plates were stored (we don’t use them except on special pizza occasions), and on my way down, I stepped off and went crashing to the floor. It’s not very far from the chair to the floor but it’s far enough to turn a perfectly fine, straight wrist into an “S” shaped pretzel. As the grandchildren watched, horrified, I controlled an uncontrollable desire to scream, asking only for piles of ice for my poor, disfigured arm. My poor, disfigured, beautifully broken right arm, the only arm I know how to use with any semblance of control.

Before I had a chance to catch my breath, some hysterical soul had called Magen David who automatically alerted the neighborhood ambulance system and within five minutes, before I even picked myself up, not one but two ambulances, two drivers, three young Zakah volunteers from the neighborhood plus four Magen David volunteers were crowded into my kitchen looking for ways to help me. I suggested they all help themselves instead to pieces of pizza and yellow paper plates, scattered across the kitchen floor.

I kissed the grandchildren goodbye (in order to convince them that I was still alive, although barely functioning) and twenty awful minutes later I was in the hospital emergency room. I shall spare you the lurid details of how one straightens out a wrist bone in the twenty-first century. Suffice it to say that it is reminiscent of a medieval torture system. Three days, three doctors and three casts later I progressed to the point where I was able to suffer in relative silence with a mere groan here and there. After another week passed, I had been in and out of a grand total of seven different casts in seven different styles. Whole casts, half casts; open and closed casts; plaster casts, elastic casts and a homemade flat cast made from a book. The orthopedists thought that all things considered, it was a pretty professional job.

Meanwhile my vacation plans were cast out and away, together with my unsupportable casts. Swimming? I’d sink under the weight of the plaster on my arm. Closet cleaning? It was all I could do to brush my teeth. Piano? Recorder? Paint? With my left hand ???? I can’t even scribble a legible English or Hebrew letter and the computer become my only left-handed hope – one finger at a time.

However, as the kids said, it could have chas v’chalila been worse.

This too was a challenge and, with G-d’s help, we did our best to meet it. I was sure that six weeks of plastery incapacitation would be a kappara for some of our sins and would gain us “points” on the cosmic scale of things. Surely, we would be richer in mutual help, patience and sufferance. And we’d try hard to infuse our coping with a modicum of good cheer.

I say “we” because I suffered not alone. My poor spouse was doomed to suffer along with me. The ezer k’negdo(helpmate) in our house had been temporarily replaced by the ezer k’negda as my summer plans and my husband’s hoped-for peace and quiet evaporated in the crash of one very stable chair and a shower of yellow paper plates.

My advice to you? Serve your pizza on china dishes if need be and don’t stand on chairs. Even strong, stable, seemingly dependable ones. Oh – I almost forgot. One good thing did emerge from my summer experience. I wrote a poem. I didn’t send it to the doctors, but I should have. Maybe they would have thought it was pretty professional too. Have a lovely summer vacation.

Ode to a Wrist all Broken and Bent
Seven casts to mend

Seven casts to fix, unbend

Seven casts to hold, to mold,

to suffer, ache and hurt.


One on the Sabbath,

A second when it left.

Half a third to start the week,

A full fourth to greet the full moon,

A fifth to open and close,

A sixth to firmly hold,

the shattered wrist until

A seventh brings relief and stills.


The cycle ends.

Only a band remains, contains

the hand

embracing, protecting, soothing

the dulled pain.

The first was worst but all were bad.


The moral to be had?

Stand firmly on the ground.

Ascend, if you must,

via ladders or stairs,

and avoid all temptation


climb upon chairs.

© 2008 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.