I’m writing this while flying to Phoenix on a brand-new very spiffy Southwest airplane.
In Phoenix, I’ll meet up with my sister who is flying in from southern California. We’ll rent a car she snagged on Priceline last night for a good price. This is starting to sound like an infomercial, something about product placement. It’s not.
Practicing the art of sisterhood and selfies on mom’s couch!
From the airport we’ll drive directly to Abrazo Hospital (a strange name for a hospital. Not St. Joseph’s or Good Samaritan. Abrazo. Meaning hug in Spanish).
This is the first time since I was 21 (and had just returned from a six month back-packed-solo-hitch-hiking adventure in Europe) that I have bought a one way ticket home. I don’t know when I’ll be heading back to San Francisco.
Mom is 96. Will be 97 on May 4, but no need to rush the age thing. 96 is plenty impressive. She’s lived a good life and has had a stellar run as a “senior” even after losing my dad 8 years ago. She’s nothing if not a trooper. I always think the theme song for her life should be Smile. You know the lyrics? Smile, though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking. When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by… if you smile… etc…” This is her way.
She recovered almost fully from a brain aneurysm at age 59, but was left with a small residual impairment — a less-than-perfect sense of balance. This has worsened in the last few years. Mostly she uses a walker, but sometimes in her apartment she walks short distances alone. It’s scary to watch, but until Sunday, she never fell. Then her luck ran out.
Reaching for something in her utility closest, she fell back and landed on her butt on the floor. She wasn’t in much pain, but couldn’t walk. The paramedics were called. Wanted to take her to the ER but she refused. Called my brother who also offered to take her to urgent care or the hospital. Refused that too.
My phone was off the whole afternoon. When I turned it on at 6:30, a text from my sister said to call her as soon as I got the message. Uh-oh. That’s when I found out what happened. I called Mom. She said one of her helpers had gotten her into bed, that she couldn’t walk, but was ok. I said Mom!!!! We need to get you to the hospital for an evaluation. She said, Do you think so? Because I’m a nurse, she generally takes my advice. And I have to say, perhaps immodestly, but truthfully, I’m usually right. At SF General I was a triage nurse for years, triaging people in person and on the phone. That kind of experience adds up.
So she said, Fine, I’ll call your brother to take me to the Emergency Room.
When I checked in with him a short time later he was furious. According to him, I had meddled, I had played to her anxiety. I had mixed in when they had things under control. She was fine! He would have to spend hours at the hospital for nothing. Man, was he angry!
Once at the hospital they discovered a fracture of her inferior Ramos pubic bone. By then she was in pain. They hospitalized her, started her on morphine and heparin (these fractures tend to throw clots).
My sister and I spent yesterday getting our lives organized enough that we could fly to Phoenix today. So many of my friends have already gone through one scenario or another of this. It’s sobering. This aging thing. This vulnerability thing. Kindness and compassion toward self and others is really paramount. Because everything else is uncertain. Life is always uncertain, but often we do our best to believe that we know… something. Often we don’t.
Mom, Tuesday 2.7.17. at the hospital. Fractured but smiling.
Fractured pelvis. Fractured family relations. Gonna need all kinds of healing.
About to land. Gotta go.