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Our Bodies: Do We Rent, or Do We Own?

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My Dad once told me that we are all TABs: Temporarily Able-Bodied. Being young and invincible, I dismissed his statement as a middle-aged mope.

Years later, I finally see what he means.

In February of 2007, my sister’s husband complained of numbness in the hands and feet. He got on to WebMD and self-diagnosed before he went to his doctor. The doctor said surely he didn’t have Guillain-Barre Syndrome — it was much too rare. Gino whipped out the WebMD printout and the doctor disappeared for a few moments. When he came back, he ordered Gino to get to the hospital — now.

Over the next two weeks, Gino lost function of everything south of his eyeballs. In went a trache tube. In went a feeding tube. In went a catheter. In went two central lines. Lost was the ability to move, to speak, to swallow, to breathe. His immune system had attacked his nervous system, quite effectively.

The advance of the syndrome finally stopped, and Gino was able to move from intensive care to a rehab facility. He spent six more months getting reacquainted with his body. As his nervous system reconnected, he experienced both great pain and small gains.

Hospital staff loved visiting Gino’s room to see his latest abilities. You see, Gino was in a rehab hospital dedicated to spinal and brain injuries. Most of the people there were NOT getting better — they were merely learning how to live in their new normal.

People at that hospital were proof that we are all TABs. An ATV accident changed everything for the man with a 3 year old. A stroke from birth-control pills turned a 32 year-old woman’s life — and that of her partner — 180 degrees. The trucker who didn’t wear his seat belt was not able to hold his wife’s hand when she gave birth to their first child.

Gino was lucky. He once again became Temporarily Able-Bodied.

This summer, I was reminded again about my dad’s TAB concept, when my husband ended up in the hospital for 11 days due to a go kart accident. Just last week he went back in for surgery, and the healing has started all over again. Fortunately, he should return to full health and function in just a few months. He experienced first-hand the temporary nature of able-bodiedness.

I am so grateful that I can walk hand-in-hand with Roger. That I can scratch my nose. That I can take in a deep, delicious breath of Colorado air. That I can hold my children and swing them around.

I am not owed my body, I do not own my body. Taking good care of it doesn’t guarantee continued use of it. Made from the stuff of stars and inspiration of the Divine, my body is on loan from the Universe. I am thankful for the small and large things I can do.

I am temporarily able-bodied and I get that fact — as much as a TAB can.

Lori Holden
Author: Lori Holden

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  • comment avatar Kagey August 27, 2009

    Wow. How true this is. Even if your life is free from unexpected disaster, we all start out unable to care for ourselves, and these days the majority of us will end our days needing at least some help.

    My grandfather had part of a leg amputated near the end of his life, due to complications from diabetes, and not only was it a tough transition, but it was the beginning of the end for him — the man who had cared for his family, a man who farmed and depended up his physical strength to be who he was had a very difficult time depending on others for help in nearly everything. Maybe if he had thought about this TAB idea, he could have accepted that help more gracefully.

  • comment avatar JoAnn August 27, 2009

    Lori, this is a great post! Things can change in an instant…for all of us. Or they might not. That’s where the unknowing and seemingly random things can lull us into a place of “none of this will happen to me.” As important as it is to take care of those around us, it’s just as important to let go and let ourselves be taken care of, if (or when) the time comes. As with the most important things in this life, that’s easier said than done.

  • comment avatar MiaHysteria August 27, 2009

    I’ve heard Gino’s story before….he and his wife are such amazingly brave people (of course assuming I’m speaking of the same Gino). I think I would agree with you. Our bodies are on temporary loan from the universe. We don’t know what secrets are locked in side. Some that will surface, some won’t. Either way, we should enjoy what we can do with them, when we can do it!

  • comment avatar Melitsa August 27, 2009

    Enjoyed your post Lori. Things can change so suddenly and unexpected. You’re right we are TAB. I just want to give a shout out also to another group of people with diagnoses that can be progressive, always lurking in the background; it appears then retreats only to reappear again or perhaps looms not quite there but threatening. The tease is hard to live with day in and day out.

  • comment avatar Barb August 27, 2009

    I loved this post Lori. As a mom of a kiddo who uses a wheelchair full time I am uber aware of how quickly our abilities can change. Colorado is one of the most disabled friendly states and I am grateful to be living here.

  • comment avatar ESL School August 27, 2009

    Great post! And I agree 100%

  • comment avatar Melissa Taylor August 27, 2009

    So true, Lori. It’s easy to forget and yet, who wants to live remembering. Somewhere in between is the balance and I hope I live with gratitude for whatever happens.

    My friend Trish Downing ( is a motivational speaker on this topic – she was riding her bike when mowed down by a car. Now, as a paraplegic, she inspires me to be my best because she is. She didn’t let her accident get in the way of living her life and being herself. She is the only female wheelchair athlete to finish the Ironman triathalon. I feel proud to know her. She rocks! (And she’s for hire if you know anyone who would like to have her speak!)

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver August 28, 2009

    Thanks to each of you for chiming in. I love my body and all that it can do. Of course, often I don’t TELL it those exact sentiments (ahem) and focus instead on what it CAN’T do.

    Thanks for the link to Trish, Melissa. I clicked over and am blown away. How inspiring her story is!

  • comment avatar Mama Bird August 28, 2009

    Wow, Lori. The more I read about your Dad, the more impressed I am with all the wisdom he passed on to you.

    It’s funny to me how conversation w/friends now will likely include talk of aches & pains, ailments & diseases. The same people I used to talk about parties and boys with! Turning 40 really does put the concept of being TABs into perspective!

  • comment avatar Holly Bowne September 14, 2009

    Wow, how true. Your essay here really reminds us all how grateful we should be when we are TAB! It’s easy to take the simple movements we do every day–give a kiss, hug a child, type on a computer–for granted. Thanks for the reminder.