I didn't want to go. I wanted to read the T Jefferson Parker police procedural I downloaded from the library's website. I wanted to swim, or go to the gym, or even watch professional football. I just didn't want to go over to the pod castle. I'm still raw from thinking about what used to be and what is now.
But I was also hungry for soft serve ice cream and the pod castle was concerned about a swelling on G'ma's jaw so I bundled my nerves in swaddling clothes and drove over to see my mom. Going over to the grandparents on Sunday afternoon is an old routine. Perhaps I was channeling the angst that came from sitting in the backseat, listening to G'ma's "Two hands on the wheel!!" as Daddooooo sang along to opera and pointed out the varieties of airplanes flying overhead.
I had two miles not twenty to drive, and only one old woman to see. It was totally different. There would be no one to play canasta with me, no one to make me a hamburger, no stacks of Reader's Digests to delve through. I wouldn't be sitting at a banker's desk, pretending I was a business man (sexist, perhaps, but very 1950's) . In the three traffic lights between her house and mine, I reorganized my vision of the mommy in the front seat of the Mercury to the reality of the frail woman stuck in her recliner.
The afternoons are worse than the mornings. In the morning's it's "Hi, Suz!" and the television is turned off. In the afternoon, drowsy and fiddling her teeth in her face, she's confused and then agreeable when I offer a drive to Dairy Queen. Though the footrest is up on the electric chair she is undaunted. I watch in horror as she squeezes her shin between the armrest and the ankle pillows and shimmies herself forward.
"Mom, wait a minute. Let me put this down for you."
Her flummoxed look chilled me. She had no idea that there was something amiss. She assumed she was old and fragile and the issues were hers... not the chair's. If she kept going forward, her feet were sure to hit the ground. That's why there is an alarm on the seat of the chair... an alarm that is supposed to chime and announce its location when her bottom moves.
There was no chiming or announcing as she scooted forward, as she stood up, as she walked down the hallway. By the time we encountered a caregiver, I was livid. The thing which is designed to keep my mother safe was broken. For how long, I did not know. The caregiver was oblivious to my distress, nor did she have any idea that the alarm was mal-functioning.
"Can you look at it, please, and see if you can get it working?"
"Ma'am, I'm a care giver, not a mechanic."
I thought I had stopped shaking by the time we got through the rec room and out to the back patio. I thought I was in control, that my rage was bottled up neatly, that I was focused on my mom and not on the sassy wench who had dismissed my issue and with it any confidence I might have had that my mother was safe in that environment. Visions of shopping for a new home, of moving her, of what to do that night, of hiring a private duty nurse to watch over her, of screaming at the heavens, all of that was in my head as I helped G'ma and her walker down over the curb and into my car.
She used to be able to take a shuffle step forward while the walker was on the pavement and she was on the sidewalk. Not so much any more, I came to find out. I put the walker down, I cued her to move forward, and there she was, tumbling down off the curb, sliding down the front of my car, landing on her side. She was on my right side, my damaged side, the side to which I cannot shift quickly. All I could do was watch.
And scream. I got down faster than I have in three years, saw that her eyes were open and there was no obvious broken bones or blood, and I screamed. Help came. Her vitals were checked, her wounded nose and elbow were cleaned and covered, Arnica was rubbed onto her bruised knuckles, and she kept wondering why I was crying. Mom didn't remember that she had fallen. She didn't seem to notice that she was in the parking lot.... on the parking lot... that she was bleeding or that I had let her fall or that I had failed to keep her safe. She was hungry for dinner.
It was time to move on. The med tech reconfigured the alarm system and there was chiming and announcing galore. Everyone was fine, except for me. I saw that fall all night long. Going to sleep was torturous.
I was at the pod castle at first light. She was fine. The alarms worked. The aides who love her were on duty and the owner listened to my tale of woe with real concern. I have no doubt that she will take action. I have no doubt that I will, too. I need to leave my anger at the door. I need to concentrate on the here and now and I need to remember that my mother needs more than a cursory glance when she's outside. I need to focus on the good parts of the day, the fact that she was fine, that she doesn't know that it happened, that the repairs were quick and painless.
I need to stop seeing her fall.