Injured Ankles, Pain, and Restoration

fatherhood pain restoration

I grew up playing sports. If there was a ball to  throw or hit or kick – count me in. I wasn’t a fan of basketball, but if that’s what was being  played at recess or after school, you would likely find me in the middle of it. In eighth grade, my siblings and I attended a small rural school. Behind the classroom buildings was an asphalt slab which served as the basketball courts. One lunch recess, I was out on the court mixing it up with the other junior high age boys. 

All these years later, one moment is still vivid in my mind’s eye. I went up for a rebound of a missed shot and landed sideways on my right ankle. My opponent’s foot came down  perpendicular on the top of the inside of that ankle. Everyone on the court heard the “pop”. The pain was excruciating! I have no memory of what happened over the next several minutes.  But I do remember the very tall, broad-shouldered science teacher/vice principal lifting me over  his shoulders like a sack-of-something and carrying me into the nurse’s office. 

Mom picked me up and we drove into town to the doctor’s office. After a series of painful manipulations and x-rays of my massively swollen ankle, it was determined I would need surgery to sew three major ligaments back in place. I was hospitalized for 24 hours then spent the next six weeks navigating life with a plaster cast and crutches. Subsequently the cast was sawn off, the crutches migrated to the back of a closet, and I returned to the normal life of an 8th grader. 

Almost one year later I was playing basketball again, inside a gym on a wood floor. This time my right ankle rolled as I tried to make a cut and stepped on someone else’s foot. The ligaments held up, but the bone fractured. My cast was upgraded to fiberglass, which was significantly lighter. But my high school was two floors with no elevators. It was a very long six weeks. Same process – the cast sawn off and the crutches returned to the back of the closet. 

I made a decision in that moment to stay away from the basketball court. In fact over the next 18 months I made a transition from sports that utilized a ball to sports that included long distance running. In the remaining two and half years of high school, I transformed from a husky, average football player into a competitive long distance runner. I enjoyed the accolades of what I achieved, developed some leadership skills on my cross country and track teams, and  appreciated the physical benefits of regular running. Long distance running became a lifestyle sport for me which I carried into my adult years. 

In my late 30’s I began experiencing severe pain in both ankles. It didn’t seem to be directly related to injury, yet the pain was debilitating. Back to the orthopedic specialist who diagnosed me with injury arthritis. The padding between my leg bones and ankle bones had deteriorated due to the injuries of my youth, and that padding was no longer as substantial as it was designed to be.

Unfortunately the loss of that padding is degenerative. It doesn’t recover what was lost. The Doc said it was likely due to not receiving rehabilitation after those injuries. He prescribed a couple months of physical therapy appointments and said I needed to give up sports that included heavy pounding on my ankles.  Through that physical therapy, the pain dissipated and I have generally been pain free ever since. Twice my ankle was repaired and given a few weeks to heal. But there was never time and  intention given to a season of rehabilitation and restoration. 

I am now a Dad to three adult children. As I look back with curiosity over the years of fathering my children, did I allow for seasons of restoration of conflicts and challenges, or did I just work to “fix the problem” and allow a  limited of time for the wounds to heal? As an American male, I confess I’ve been bent toward  problem solving. But our sons and daughters are not problems to be solved, especially in moments of conflict and pain. And as I’ve been pondering the question of How do I father my adult children in this season of life?, I’ve looked back to their childhood to see the major traumas of parenting which I may need to go back and offer a season of relational repair and restoration. 

How about you? If you are a father with children at home, are you seeking restoration after the  repair of a conflict or pain? Or are you inclined to work to fix the problem then move on? If  you have children who are out of the house, would you be open to take a courageous step of  looking back at your parenting experiences with the intention of offering a season of repair and restoration as needed? 

The nature of God is to redeem and restore all of His creation. Join Him in that journey for  your heart and the hearts of your children.


Patrick O'Bryan
Restoration Project Chief of Grove Development