Caring for a parent, When the elderly fall

Midnight in the ER: Part 1

This is the hardest post I’ve written in the four years I’ve been blogging. I don’t know where to start, what to say, what I feel, what I know. I feel lost. I only know I have to write. It’s the writing that heals.

I haven’t been in my garden since Thursday evening, 8pm. That’s when the ambulance came to get Mama from where she fell on her face.

She wasn’t feeling well. After dinner I ask her if she wants to walk up the driveway, thinking that might improve both her physical distress and her spirits. She does. Halfway up the driveway I ask her if she wants to see my garden, which she hasn’t been in yet. She does. I open the gate and help her through, careful with her, careful of the uneven ground. I show her the squash plants in the first box, and the broccoli that may or may not amount to anything. The marigolds.

We are on our way to the beans in the second box, which are doing well, when I lose my footing. I don’t know what happened. She was holding onto me, maybe my balance was off, maybe she stepped on uneven ground and grasped me tighter and threw me off. Maybe I stepped in a hole and twisted my ankle. I don’t know. I pitch forward and, afraid I will take her with me, yell at her, “Let go of me!” Later my subconscious memory remembers her screaming, “Gretchen! Gretchen!” Maybe she held onto me, trying to keep me from falling. She would do that: when her reflexes kick in, it’s to help someone in trouble. But I just don’t know.

I desperately try to keep my feet under me as I hurtle toward the corner of the fence, finally falling into it; grabbing at the poles to keep from crashing through it head first, scraping my fingers on the chicken wire; and bruising my hip I discover two days later. I’m okay; but it takes me a few seconds to get up, glad for avoided catastrophe—like breaking my glasses, or worse. I had no idea. When I turn around, Mama is on the ground face down.

I kneel beside her and turn her over into my lap, and gasp. Her face is a mess: bloody, swollen, and bruised. Her glasses askew, clip-on sun glasses shattered. The neighbor across the driveway, cleaning up in the orchard, calls over, asking if I need him to call 911. Yes! Yes! He runs toward his house. With my left hand I desperately try to call my sister. Damn phone! Damn fingers! I can’t get it to work! I try over and over. Why don’t iphones have speed dial! My stupid phone did! Finally, she answers. I scream, “Get up here! Now!” I hear her running.

I can’t get the phone disconnected. I’m shaking, my fingers are huge on the tiny buttons. Thank God I didn’t have to call 911. I always thought I was calm and good in a crisis. Not when the crisis is my own apparently. Brad has brought me a wet washcloth and I dab at Mama’s face. It’s good I couldn’t disconnect. The phone is lying on the ground and Rebecca is able to hear what is happening. She keeps me company. Able to tell me a damn train came just as she got to the crossing. And that she thinks the ambulance got across. And that she’s turning around, going several blocks down to cross the tracks on the viaduct, then several blocks back to the road up the hill.

Mama is calling out through her trauma and across to mine, “Goodbye, Gretchen, goodbye! I love you!” I tell her I love her, and she’s going to be okay. But I don’t know. I think so. But I don’t know.

6 thoughts on “Midnight in the ER: Part 1”

    1. Dear Gretchen, I am so sorry and am sending every good wish and thought your way and keeping you both “in the Light”. I hope she will come thru this. She is tough. Be easy on yourself. You were doing what she loved.


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