When the levee breaks

This was the other holiday – Thanksgiving. Life can come at you hard. Now if we can just make it through Christmas. (That's Pop, Lolly, Mother and Lisa laughing at something on Mother's camera.)

This was the other holiday – Thanksgiving.  Now if we can just make it through Christmas. (That’s Pop, Lolly, Mother and Lisa laughing at something on Mother’s camera.)

Every family goes through spells when the levee breaks and life – or death – comes rushing in way too fast. About a year ago, our levee was leaking hard. We couldn’t plug up the holes, our no-rain dances weren’t working, and sickness, disaster and death came crashing into our lives.

Today, fortunately, the levee held. Mother crashed hard against it, but so far, no serious leaks. But it’s scary how quickly things can happen.

She was double booked for parties today – a luncheon with her girlfriends (at a home she’d recently mentioned as having a dangerous staircase) and a small party for her church choir tonight at her house.

You never want to get a phone call that starts, “Laura, your mother’s fallen down these stairs and we’ve called an ambulance but she doesn’t want to go to the hospital.” But that’s what happened at 1:16 this afternoon. I talked to Mother briefly on the phone and we agreed that, yes, she did need to go get x-rayed.

I beat her there and was waiting when her friend of 55 years, Bettye Carithers, who’d called me with the news, came in to wait with me. What happened was this: Everyone was leaving the party, and Mother had her hands full of “the prettiest plate of leftover goodies,” as Mother described it, so another friend said she’d get the door for her.

Mother stepped backward to let the door open and disappeared. Her friend who opened the door began screaming. All the ladies were in a panic.

She’d stepped into thin air – into the aforementioned staircase to the basement – and tumbled to the first landing, where she crashed into the wall and hit her ribs on a large planter. She knocked the wind out of herself, as people used to say when kids fell hard and couldn’t breathe, and Bettye said Mother turned white as a sheet.

Bettye was still pretty shaken and white when she arrived at the hospital.

Miraculously, nothing is broken, but my poor mommy’s badly hurt – last Christmas it was her back, which had her bed- or wheelchair-ridden pre-surgery. She had a perfect recuperation, against all odds, and the rods in her back held today, despite her osteoporosis. She’s one tough old bird.

But she’s in so much pain and it’s just not fair. I’m grateful but worried. Her spirits have been so good but her health is always fragile – Betttye mentioned today how deceptive Mother’s appearance is. You can look like a million bucks and be almost overdrawn healthwise.

Mother walks a fine line.

Today, though, was a freak accident that had nothing to do with age or fragility. Could’ve happened to a sturdy 20-year-old who was visiting with friends.

Mother actually had us in stitches in the ER as she described the mess she made and how when the EMS guy mentioned her pants were dirty, she told him that was because she was sitting in a plate of pineapple and cream-cheese goodies. We were crying from laughing so hard, though her laughs were interspersed with “ows!”

OK, I was crying from laughing and being scared, um, witless. This is not acceptable.

Tonight’s party was canceled.

I’m worried as hell about her being alone with her little pup, but she sent me home.  She’s stubborn (I’ve been told I inherited that trait), and if she can beat the blues, she should be able to beat this bang-up, too. But we just talked on the phone; she’s in serious pain (and 78) and it’s hard not to go back over there.

The lesson of today is that all we can do is be ready for anything and reinforce our levees, because you never know when the tides will turn or the rains will come.

But I’m ready for a dry spell.


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