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Oldie, 12/24/08: Sore and wondering

Yesterday I mis-stepped on some stairs while at work and messed up my ankle. Not broken, probably not even technically sprained, but painful as hell. Though quite a few people warned me that it would hurt "a lot more the second and third day," I'm doing fine and hope to be walking normally again a week from now. The timing on the holiday is good, giving me a 4-day weekend to do little or nothing while it heals.

That's the "sore" part. What I'm wondering about is my mother.

In 1973, while in the midst of yet another beer-soaked battle, my father grabbed my mother by the ankles and pulled her off the bed and onto a bare floor. Her right hip didn't fracture initially, I don't think, because she walked on it for 2 or 3 more days. My grandfather died the day after this happened, so instead of seeking medical help, she traveled a few hundred miles and back to the funeral, self-medicated with whiskey on the way home, then sat down on the sofa and could not get back up again until the paramedics carried her out some 24 hours later.

I remember the wail of despair she let out when the doctor told her her hip was broken. She had steadfastly denied the possibility all that long day while she sat on the sofa. She suffered for years with that hip. Despite having pins put in to restore function, exercises and various types of medication, it never healed right and eventually, about 5 years later, she had surgery to correct the mistakes made the first time. The worst part, I think, was that she never regained the regal posture she'd always prided herself on. And the hostility between her and Dad never went away, even when she was getting around on a walker and then a cane. This terrible lifestyle change for my mother came at the age of 53.

Moreover, I can only imagine the financial hit we must have taken from this. Two weeks or so in the hospital, doctor visits...then a re-do on the first fracture. Dad made only $15K a year, max, and while Blue Cross is one of the top insurance companies, there's no way they would have covered all of this 100%. How my father managed to hold onto a house and pay bills when he was the sole earner is a mystery I will never know the answer to. I do know that we never received charity. If we had, it would have been the subject of the rantings and ravings that went on in our home every weekend.

What astonishes me now, as I deal with this relatively minor injury, making my way carefully from room to room at home, planning every movement and reviewing ways to prevent something like this from ever happening again, is the fact that after that first hip fracture, my mother went on to break her ankle a year and a half later and then her other hip a year and a half after that. The second hip fracture was just before I started college. Three major fractures in less than three years! Certainly, the first one was perpetrated by my father (though I doubt he really understood what the result would be of his mindless action -- actors in such plays rarely do), the ankle and second hip fracture came about when my mother was entirely alone in a room and my father was either out of the house or asleep. Both of those times, she was intoxicated. Mom claimed that the ankle fracture was the result of "a wet leaf on the bottom of her shoe," but still, she was drinking. And the other hip was broken when she attempted to get out of bed and her feet became tangled in the sheets. "It could happen to anyone," she later said, but when you've had so much to drink that you can't feel where the sheets end and your feet begin, how surprising is it to land on a hard floor when all you wanted to do was walk 20 feet to the bathroom?

I am not accident- or injury-prone. That's why, for me, this ankle injury is a revelation. I don't like it, not one little bit, and you can bet that I will never again carry an object with two hands down a flight of stairs, no matter how short. I will be even more careful walking than before, looking down, checking for obstacles, measuring curb heights, etc. I am hugely grateful that the accident took place while I was on the clock, even though the items I was carrying down the steps were intended for a holiday luncheon. So far as I am aware right now, this is worker's comp, so it's not going to drain me financially. And yes, you know the first order of business at the clinic was a drug screen for Volly. I'm immensely grateful that the screen will reveal nary a questionable substance of any kind, for I had not taken so much as an aspirin in the previous three days.

I will also think twice about consuming alcohol. Since Carl doesn't drive, I'm usually the one behind the wheel so I'm designated driver by default and that doesn't leave much room for imbibing. But even if I'm "just walking somewhere," I'm now much more aware of how easy it is to screw up while under the influence. This accident yesterday did not involve alcohol -- I think of how much more serious it could have been otherwise.

And so, my thoughts return once again to my mother. Three fractures in three years, and still she kept on drinking. I shake my head in disbelief that someone could be so cavalier, knowing what a bad fracture could mean, and then to carelessly let it happen twice more.

I've learned a lot from my accident. I'm still trying to figure out what, if anything, my mother learned from all of hers?


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