Early in life I became a member of the Church of Devout Cowardice. Physical pain and I were not friends. This devotion was reinforced in my late twenties when a friend, who tried unsuccessfully to shame me into joining her group on a ski trip, actually broke her leg getting off the lift on her first trip up the mountain. This definitely confirmed for me that “Avoid all risks” should be the first commandment of all true believers of the Church of Devout Cowardice.
In my late fifties, a painful problem with my feet put me in a wheelchair. In spite of this challenge, I could not resist taking advantage of free air transportation to travel with my husband and the son working for an airline that flew to Europe.
Even though I could walk short distances, castles and palaces and forts were generally not handicapped accessible. My son suggested checking out catapults, but I demurred.
While we were on an innocuous Sound of Music day tour in Austria, the bus stopped to allow the foolhardy to ride down the side of a mountain on a sled with wheels in a long shallow metal track. My son, obviously having inherited none of my antipathy to pain genes, decided to try it out. I sat in my wheel chair on the loading dock as he got into a sled built for two.
Suddenly, a wild thought occurred to me. “I’m already in pain and a wheelchair, what have I got to lose?”
Before my Wus self could talk me out of it, I stood up and said, “Wait! I’m coming with you.” And clambered on as the worker started the sled down the metal track.
I was in front where the hand brake was and as we began to hurtle down the mountain, my instinct for survival kicked in and I tugged desperately on the brake handle causing it to slow. But, at this point, a nine or ten-year-old boy coming behind us began to tailgate and my son took charge of the brake. I scrunched my eyes tightly shut as we seemed to become airborne. As much as I wanted to scream in terror, I couldn’t risk it, since either my heart or my lunch was in my throat.
I offered God my first-born son (not the one with airline privileges), if He would save me from certain excruciating pain. When we came around the last curve and began slowing down, I peeked out with one eye. There was my husband looking as terror stricken as I felt. As he helped me out and into my wheelchair, he asked anxiously, “Are you all right? How was it?”
“Piece of cake,” I replied through gritted teeth. I never told him that I meant my dessert from lunch