Past colliding

(unedited) I sat still listening. Here was the voice I heard for more than a year. The same but different. It was hard for my mind to reconcile and to collect itself. My heart ached. All I wanted to do was wrap my arms around her. She was a person I had all in one package loved, cherished, worshiped all while coveting and at times hating. I had never in my life seen anyone like her. When she sat on a horse it was as if time stood still. It was hard not to be completely and utterly transfixed. Her tall elegant frame always adorned in fine breeches. Always a magnificent animal beneath her. I watched from afar as her star ascended. I made sure those breeches were clean and that her boots were free of dust. I attended to whatever she needed as she went from horse to horse at the many shows. I walked back and forth draped in ribbons and coolers not of my earning all while wishing it were me. But I was not the rider she was, nor could I ever be. The refinement and beauty of her long torso and legs. The feel. The way she could brush away immense pressure and perform. Exacting the very utmost from horses that may have even been lacking in talent or ability. They blossomed beneath her. She gave them confidence. But beyond all that she could be silly and fun. Most people only saw the serious side of her. The competitor and an icy one at that. The bigger the stakes the more she put on her game face and took it to task. She won, and then won some more. It was no surprise she was headed to Europe and on to the Olympics. Our paths diverged there. I still remember our moments of silliness amongst all the long days and brutal work. She taught me so much. I might not have ever become a good rider in the sense of a dressage competitor but I learned what it felt like. What correct looked like and how much it took to get there. We went our ways and we moved north to the farm. I followed her career and read of her successes. But life seemed set to change for her. The Olympic dream of hers marred by a bizarre positive drug test. Though nobody had intentionally used the drug, or even heard of it got into the horse’s system. They were disqualified from a USA 5th place finish. Within a year her Olympic partner would be dead. Another potential superstar in her barn tragically injured herself and would also be lost. It was as if the fates had blown her well off course from that rapidly ascending star path she had been on. The fates were not done. We heard the news like everyone else. She had a fall from a young horse. A routine ride ended in anything but normal. The horse stumbled, getting his feet tangled a bit and she fell and struck her head. Helmet-less. The norm for all of us back then. She remained in a coma. Nobody was sure if she would make it. She did make it. If anyone was stubborn enough to survive it was her. It was the beginning of her journey back. I saw her today. I can’t remember if it is the first time since the accident. It may well be. She was sitting in a golf cart teacher her student through the wireless headset. My approach went unnoticed. I sat beside her and watched her unwavering gaze as she concentrated on communicating to her rider. In a moment she turned and the recognition flashed in her eyes. joy. My heart leap. That same intense look. The same lean frame. I sat with her silently while she taught. I said nothing. My mind played back over all the times I heard those words and phrases. They are engraved in my gray matter and I often use them when I teach as they are what I know. It was at once amazing and heart wrenching. I could tell when she wanted to communicate something instantly yet her mind would not allow the words to find her lips. Eventually they would get there. Those words in that voice. It has been a very long time since that part of me was touched so deeply. I realized in that moment just how much I had loved her and still do. She is an amazing person. I wish nothing but the best for her. I do however walk away from out encounter today shaken a bit. I think it will take time to sort out my feeling about it.

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