When I went into work Wednesday, I noticed that I’d only been scheduled for three days instead of five. I’d hope that wouldn’t happen, but I was also expecting it after chatting with my supervisor three days earlier. But I was determined to stick it out and hopefully have the opportunity to share what my background in education could bring to the caverns.
The day started out well – we were raking leaves on the slope leading to the cave entrance. It’s always been easier for me to rake on an incline since I don’t need to bend over as much. It felt great to be doing what the other tour guides were doing. And then came word that we were to pick up sticks blown down from trees by the strong winds of the last two days. I struggle with that and can only remain on task for 10 or 15 minutes, tops. Most of my thoracic spine is fused and braced with a long steel rod, surgery that attempted to halt scoliosis. As I’ve gotten older, the vertebrae above and below the fused area have become arthritic and developed bone spurs – results of taking the brunt of spinal movement. A car accident three years ago added to the mess – x-rays taken afterward showed a spinal column that resembled a twisted staircase. No wonder it hurt! I was out of work for seven months and for the last two years have only been able to handle part-time employment. I’ve found as long as I can switch positions frequently – and avoid standing or sitting for prolonged periods – that I do pretty well. Working on my friend’s cattle farm has been a blessing – I’ve gotten stronger and more flexible. But I still cannot pick up things very well.
That day at the caves, I could only pick up sticks for about 10 minutes. Then I apologized to the veteran tour guide there and told him I was heading over to pull grass from the mulch in the picnic area. I can do that! What I didn’t expect to get was a verbal reprimand. I mean, we’re colleagues, he’s not my supervisor. “How old are you?” he asked. “56,” I answered. “I’m only 54 and I can do all of this and I’ve had problems with my back. You have to work through the pain!” And then he mentioned something to the effect that if I put my mind to it, I’ll be able to overcome my limitations. I thanked him and headed over to the picnic area to pull grass.
When someone is of the opinion that he knows all about your physical condition without even asking for information (which is really none of his business anyway), trying to explain would be a complete waste of time. How do I explain to someone that close-minded that after the accident, I used to push small grocery carts around our local Goodwill store for my own version of physical therapy? The carts were small enough and light enough to handle, the inventory on the shelves changed daily, I found it fun to look at everything, and there were always sofas or chairs to sit in when I tired.
My back is SO much better, but it will never be the way it was before my car accident. And that’s okay. I’ve learned different ways of doing what I need to do. Last summer, I was delighted to be able to pull weeds and garden for the first time in two years. So while the veteran tour guide may not think much of my grass-pulling duties at the cavern, I know that’s a major achievement for me.
I decided to submit my letter of resignation at the caverns; they need their tour guides to haul boxes and do maintenance duties that, had I known about before I applied for the job, would effectively rule me out. That’s okay. I learned a lot at the caverns and met some wonderful people. And I hope they know I genuinely would enjoy helping to create some educational packets, materials, and games for their school tours. Now just isn’t the right time.
Yesterday morning, I was surprised to receive an inquiry regarding special needs tutoring. This may lead to something – or it may not. But I am convinced God led me to Seneca Rocks for a reason and I want to give something to this community. Somewhere out there, the right position is waiting. I learned long ago that when God closes a door, He really does open a window. And the view from my window is spectacular.