Broken ankle, heal so I can wear heels

Whenever I heard the phrase “broken ankle,” I assumed the subsequent events: cast, crutches, cast off, bit of limp, back to normal. I never considered the possibility that the ankle supports the full weight of the body. In short, the anklebone is not only connected, it had better be well-connected.

Eight weeks after “the incident” that had two dogs in the doghouse around my house, I celebrated the day of “boot removal.” My husband treated me to a romantic dinner and a bottle of Cabernet. The highlight of the auspicious occasion? I snuggled under the sheets barefooted.

“I will never take for granted the feel of naked toes,” I vowed. Weeks after cast removal, I still almost cry when my happy foot crawls into bed at night.

But getting it out in the morning? Having poo-pooed the necessity for formal physical therapy, I’d opted for “at home” exercises, which, of course, I just didn’t seem to be working into my day. Now, with my daughter’s wedding only weeks away, I had second thoughts. Perhaps I should drop in at the prescribed facility just to be sure I was “on track.”

After meeting, greeting and completing forms, I was asked by my lovely young therapist, Bess: “Are we getting you ready for a sport?” Complimented, I decided that I must look like someone sporty, when in reality the most active I am is pushing the vacuum cleaner.

I presented Bess with a new shoe box containing high heels.

Bess accepted one of my dressy heels, gingerly turned it, and then eased it onto my foot as if it were Cinderella’s slipper and this, the crystal-clear-as-glass moment of truth. My foot simply would not cooperatively slope to the necessary angle to accommodate a 2-inch heel.

Bess manipulated, massaged and machine-worked until we were on the brink of the big day. She taped, iced and elevated. She sent me home with fat rubber resistance bands to wrap around both ankles and use to duck-walk across the room, teeter-totters to swivel on and daily markers to achieve -- all to be topped off with ice (not all of it in the drink) and an afternoon nap. Our last hope was to begin practice on the stilts themselves.

“Ten minutes a day,” she advocated. “Wear them while you are doing the dishes,” she proposed. Safe and sane.

I ratcheted it up a notch. Why not vacuum while wearing them? My husband rather enjoyed the picture of his wife dressed in shorts and black patent leather heels running the vacuum; he didn’t seem to notice I was limping alarmingly.

On the day, I surrendered to sensible wedges -- both in shoe and wedding cake.

A few days before, a familiar Albertsons box boy had asked how my ankle was faring. I told him that my answer to the therapist’s question about my sport had been: “Life.”

“Yeah,” he nodded while hoisting the heavy, handled bags. “It can be a marathon.”

Clary Miller is the author of 200 essays and stories that have appeared in The Times, Newsweek, Orange County Register, Missoula Living and elsewhere. She lives in Huson, Mont.