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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 2/24/23 – The New Street Radish Miracle of February 1990

This is a gratitude Friday post reflecting on my greatest physical feat. It occurred 33 years ago this month. I originally posted it in 2021, but it is a favorite, so I decided to rework and repost it. It was a fully unintended event that could easily have ended in my early demise. For those who know me, I am not now nor have been ever known for great acts of athletic achievement or prowess. I don’t even really follow sports. I think there was a big game recently. Who won? The Bruins? Maybe the Mets? I just don’t know.

To set the scene, I was in my fifth year of recovery and Julie and I had been dating for about six months. We were both in our mid-twenties. It was our first weekend away together, and a friend let us stay at her older brother’s vacation home on the Jersey Shore. It was a great trip. Here is a picture of us from that very weekend. We thought we were adults. Hah. This was the first of many winter trips to the shore for us, but it was almost the last.

There was an ice storm with sleet and freezing rain, and it took us a long time to get back into the Lehigh Valley. We drove to her apartment on New Street in Bethlehem in the dicey car (safer than my 1979 Fire Engine Red Chrysler Cordoba with fine, Corinthian leather) I had borrowed from my dad. When we finally got back to Julie’s second floor apartment, she noticed her garbage had been festering all weekend. Trying to be a gentleman, I offered to take it out. She added some additional vegetables from the refrigerator that were over, and I commenced to remove the offensive bag of refuse from the apartment.

The entrance way we used to get into her apartment was a metal fire escape. I carried the bag of garbage out onto the icy landing. When I went to place my foot down onto the very first tread, I lost my balance and started to tip backwards, while falling forwards down the icy staircase.

I was entirely certain I was about to die.

My hand, which was also holding the bag clutched the icy railing in a death grip. I started to fall down the staircase. The plastic of the bag was in between my hand and the icy railing. In hindsight the bag further reduced the friction between my hand and the railing. I prepared to meet my end or at the very least be seriously injured. Time slowed.

I continued to fall down the icy stairs. About halfway down the staircase, I realized I had somehow managed to balance the forces of falling forward and leaning backwards with my hand on that icy railing. I sort of relaxed into it as each tread passed by, my feet making a deafening booming sound as they hit each of the metal treads. I flew down with ever increasing speed.

I became amused at my situation.

I stated to plan for the bottom and the concrete landing rapidly coming at me. When I hit the bottom, I managed a slide across the slab, which dissipated as I hit the snow-covered grass. I felt like a gymnast doing a perfect dismount. I judged it a ten. It was amazing. I even managed to hold on to the bag of garbage in my hand as well.

I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the great feat that I had just managed. Nothing stirred in the cold, dark night. After placing the bag of garbage in the bin, I gingerly made my way back up and into the apartment. Julie asked me what all the noise was. I told her what had happened. I am pretty sure she did not fully comprehend what a harrowing and amazing thing that had just transpired.

The next morning, as we were leaving the apartment, we went down the fire escape. Julie noticed that towards the bottom of the stairs, there were individual radishes perfectly wrapped in bits of garbage bag where the railing supports joined the staircase. One on each railing support. We were both amazed. She coined it the “New Street Radish Miracle.”

There is a recovery analogy here. Five years earlier I found my way to recovery, albeit in a much less graceful or amusing way than how I averted death that icy evening in February 1990. The ability to relax into a fall and focus on the next move has served me well in life. The truth of the matter is you are already falling, you might as well focus on what is coming at you rather than focus on what has already happened. Stay in the moment and do what can be done to land on your feet instead of landing on your face at the bottom. It is the only option that works.

This gratitude Friday, I am grateful I relaxed into the fall and managed to pull off a gymnast landing that night. My landings in life have rarely been so graceful, but I am grateful for any dismount I am able to pull myself off the mat of life and get back on my feet. I survived that fateful evening. It was the start of an amazing relationship and live another day in recovery.

What are you grateful for today?

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