Sunday, April 20, 2008

The First Abu Dhabi Good-Bye

Last Thursday afternoon, in equal parts disbelief and denial, I sat in a metal chair beside the nurse's desk at Khalifa Urgent Care Clinic in Abu Dhabi.

"What brings you here?" an unsmiling nurse asked me.

"I was riding. I fell off a horse," I said, showing her the swollen middle finger on my left hand.

"Your first time?" she asked.

I began to feel as if I were in the confessional.

"No, I've ridden for a while," I said. "I broke my right arm in February - also falling off a horse."

"Not a very good rider," she said.

"You could say that," I said, nodding my head. I'd earned that one: my left middle finger turned out to be broken.

I had broken my right arm two months ago, in February. When I got the cast off after six long weeks, I told myself I wouldn't ride again. The healing process had been more difficult than I'd anticipated.

But over subsequent days, even as I decided to quit riding forever, the demands on my time/energy were mounting. Our eldest needed advice on which college he should attend. The mail needed sorting, the house needed de-cluttering, and the younger boys needed to organize play-dates. The height of the laundry began to rival the Hajar Mountains.

My inner self yearned for something just for me.

I got the okay from my doctor for riding, and I set up a private lesson. Sitting on the slowest horse in the stables, I was exuberant to be back in the saddle.

"I haven't that much fun in a long time," I told M that evening, smiling for the first time in weeks.

Last Thursday, my horse made an abrupt stop while cantering. I went over his head and onto the ground. I didn't do anything wrong, my teacher said. But accidents happen. My finger was killing me. I didn't yet know it was broken, but I knew I had to quit this sport.

I looked at my riding instructor. I felt very sad as I began my first Abu Dhabi good-bye.

I wished this gentle man much happiness and success in life, with his job, with his wife and his new baby. He wasn't a personal friend, but I liked him very much. His workday began at 6 a.m. every day except Friday. He grew up in Morocco, where his father had been a showjumping trainer. He was endlessly patient and an excellent rider himself. He spoke Arabic, French and English - sometimes all three in one lesson.

Over the time I knew him, I'd enjoyed hearing about his baby: it was the one area where I felt I could return the favor and offer him advice. I was leaving Abu Dhabi this summer. I knew I'd never see him again.

I mumbled good-bye and left, saving my tears for the car ride home.


Eppler Family said...

Frances - I can hardly believe this! It seems you get trapped between horseback riding, falling and getting to the emergency room. I can only hope that horses back home stop less abruptly. Try to forget about the injuries and enjoy the remaining weeks in Abu Dhabi. Greetings from Paris - Dieter

Frances Gunnison said...

If you think you can't believe it, you should have seen the look on my face when the doctor said my finger was fractured!
I've decided to learn as much as I can via books and become a truly educated spectator. It's "Hallas," "fini" or whatever you want to say for riding and me.
I will definitely do my best to make the most of our remaining time here.

Kristin said...

I'm so sorry to hear you got hurt again riding! Good for you, though, to find another way to enjoy and participate in the sport you love. Hope your finger heals quickly.

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Michele said...

Hi Francis,

Several weeks ago I wrote to say that I was contemplating moving to Abu Dhabi and how much I enjoyed reading your blog.

Since then, I have been to visit the UAE and have decided it is simply too far away for me (I would be away from my 2 children who are 7 & 10 for 2 months at a time for the first yr before they could come to school there) I am a bit sad because there seems to be something intriguing about this part of the world. Another time perhaps.

I just read your latest post and do hope that you will be back in the saddle, as it were, once you've healed and are back in America (Inshallah!) Riding seems to give you great joy and you should never abandon such a source.

Enjoy the remainder of your stay in AD,

Michele Murphy (Montreal, Canada)

Frances Gunnison said...

Thanks for the good wishes. I can tell you this much: fingers heal faster than arms - it's looking better already.
Cam Dig,
Thank you too. Wish I could read your blog but it's in Spanish (I believe).
It's too bad you have to delay your move to AD, but still I think you made the right decision. It would be very difficult for you to concentrate on your job with your children so far away. Maybe if you apply now for next year, you can get them into the same school and the school you prefer.
I can't ride anymore - people already look at me like I'm a bit of a wingnut for having gone back after the big break (of the arm)! Maybe God is telling me to go in another direction - ballet or yoga, perhaps....
All Good Wishes,

Anonymous said...

Francoise ~

I hope you are not being too hard on yourself with the riding events. As you know, I was always around horses growing up, but somehow I was intimidated by their strength to continue with lessons. I applaud your courage for getting back up in the saddle, but perhaps this is a message to take a break for now . . . and try yoga! ENJOY YOUR TIME IN ABU DHABI, and thank you for your wonderful sharing in this blog! Love, Eileen, xox

Frances Gunnison said...

Thanks Eileen. Your dear dad was the first person to put me on a horse - I remember it well!
We're tying up lose ends and trying to do as much as we can in the last few weeks here. I refuse to think about the last day now - why be sad sooner than I have to?

Emma said...

Hi, I just wanted to thank you, I have read your blog and it has filled me with admiration and reasurance that I am not making the wrong decision in moving to Abu Dhabi in January. I too love horses and was brought up with them, but sadly in England I do not have the finances to ride any more so I intend to start again as soon as I arrive. I am looking forward to leaving everything behind, I am not materialistic and don't enjoy the pressures that belongings bring, I believe that people, animals and experiences are what are important. Anyway I'm rambling, I only wanted to thank you, your blog made me smile