guest post by Linda Olson, aka the No-Legs Grandma
For several days now, I’ve been looking at the welcome picture on Cristen and Jim’s Outside Is the Best Side homepage. I suspect those feet are getting a well-deserved rest after hiking, climbing, or biking into a breath-taking expanse of solitude and wilderness.
I’ve seen similar soul-stirring views in my lifetime but from a unique perspective. Since I lost both of my legs thirty-eight years ago, it’s been my husband’s feet that have carried the two of us up mountains, along alpine creeks, through fields of June wildflowers, across bridges swinging high above rushing rivers, and beside crashing ocean waves. His footprints sink deep into the dusty trails, punctuated on either side with his pointy, trekking-pole tips. Occasionally, our frisky black lab’s paw prints can be seen sprinkled around Dave’s boot-prints.
Hikers trekking toward us always do a double take as they try to make sense of the two-headed person coming toward them. You see, I’m snugged up tight on Dave’s back seated on the little shelf of a hunter’s pack-frame, my face next to his. Oncoming hikers see two legs, two arms carrying trekking poles, a torso, and then those two heads. I add to their confusion with my chirpy, “Hi, how ya doin’? Aren’t you jealous?”
At this point their jaws drop, and they stop dead in their tracks. It’s hard to ignore this two-headed curiosity. My big grin grabs them, forcing a response. We chat for a bit: How far is it to the lake? How’s the trail? Anything but, Why are you riding on his back?
We know sure as shootin’ that they will stop again in a few feet, turn around, and take one last look at us before they shake their heads and move on. We giggle as I whisper sweet nothings in Dave’s ears and blow on the back of his neck to dry his sweat as he carries on.
Dave’s not very big. He’s about five feet ten inches tall and weighs 155 pounds. Many men have looked at him and figured that if he can carry me so can they. Many have generously volunteered to help him out, and some beg to carry me. If he can’t talk them out of it, he places the pack on their back and snugs the straps tightly over their shoulders and waist. Then he hoists me onto the pack and steadies them as they feel the reality of my ninety pounds pull on their back.
They lean forward, jiggle a little to get their balance, and take the first few steps. Usually they stop, bounce a little more, gingerly taking a few more small steps. Their pride may carry them a few hundred yards but usually no more. As they walk slower and slower, Dave moves up next to them, suggests that he’s rested now and can take over again. I feel their sigh of relief as he helps them lean over onto a rock, and I scoot backwards off the pack.
Now their looks say, How in the world does he do it?
Dave and I smile at each other as I grab the frame, pull myself back on, and slip my shoulders through the padded straps that hold me in place. I kiss the back of his neck and whisper, “I love you. You are the best ever.”
And that’s it. Love—the answer to why he can do things others can’t do. The reason his feet can carry us both to beautiful, breathtaking expanses of solitude and wilderness.
At age twenty-nine, Linda Olson lost both her legs above the knee and her right arm in a train vs. car accident in Germany. “I didn’t marry your arms and your legs … if you can do it, I can do it,” was the first thing her husband, Dave Hodgens, said to her after the accident. In those first few days, they chose to focus on what they could do, not what they couldn’t do. For more about Linda and Dave, visit http://lindakolson.com/, and subscribe to the "No-Legs" Grandma Blog.
Outside Is the Best Side