I haven’t posted recently because my mother fell.
My mother, ninety-two with little skin on her athletic bones, lay on the rug in her home for four days before she was found, sucking on a towel she dipped in the toilet for water. She survived, amazingly, at the age of ninety-two, with no broken bones, but many bruises. What did she think about, we asked, during this ordeal? Earthquake survivors, she said, all those people who managed to hold on.
She was found by her housekeeper who called 911.
I was out of town, in Rome, when I got the call. It was four days before we could return home, and I monitored the hospital progress, then the skilled nursing progress. My sister helped from LA.
My mother was and is an independent woman, who refused to wear her MedAlert and to take the daily check-up phone call offered. But she lived as she demanded to live. It was her choice.
So now I oversee her healing, checking daily on her needs, and arranging for an assisted living situation for her.
We returned from Rome and after checking on her and holding her and comforting her as best I could, I went to her apartment. I was overwhelmed. Here, I knew, is where she lay, her legs torn and bloody, waiting for help, and I was so far away. Was it my fault? I walked through the rooms, saw the blood on the carpet. Others had bundled the soiled linens they found wrapped about her, others had taken her on a stretcher in the ambulance. Her neighbor had watched her go, placing a hat over her eyes to shade her face. She was alert. I was not there.
I moved through the rooms, through the space that held furniture from my past, surrounded by the photos of my childhood, my father and mother’s early life, those black and white hopeful images. He wore his Navy uniform, just discharged, having served in World War II in the South Pacific. She wore a tailored blouse, her hair curled, her young face hopeful. They were married soon, and I was born two years later. They had met through friends in college, but courted through the vagary of wartime letters, and the wedding when he arrived on shore was hasty, my grandmother preparing them a special wedding breakfast. They wanted to marry, begin their life together, to forget war.
They did live their life together, a life of joy and suffering, of happiness and sorrow, of peace and turbulence. They moved through the perfect fifties into the tumultuous sixties and on into the liberating seventies. Families were torn apart in those days, but my parents managed to stay married until my father died in 1981 of ALS.
So my mother lived alone for thirty-one years. That’s a long time, I think, but she managed with style and verve. She liked her independence and she liked living alone, choosing her society, keeping life on her terms. But now, she says, she is ready to be cared for, ready to retreat a bit.
So I walked the rooms of her home and absorbed the voices from the walls, the memories of times spent with her here over the years, the conversations, the laughter, the photos of my sister and her growing family, the photos of my son and his growing family, the older photos of me with crooked teeth and a strange haircut in fifth grade.
London, Paris and Rome receded from my memory, but the glorious visions of God in the churches returned occasionally to comfort me. The angels were near, but I did not know it then. The angels since that day have guided me, hovering close, and they want me to tell you about it.
So, soon I will.