Editor’s note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
I knew as soon as the phone rang that it wasn’t going to be good.
It was my mother, a woman who communicates almost solely via text — except in the case of emergencies. I hit the “Accept” button on my phone with trepidation.
“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.
“I slipped on some ice and took a hard fall,” she said with obvious strain. “I think I broke something. My neighbor is taking me to the emergency room.”
Adrenaline kicked in, and before I knew it, I was racing through automatic doors to get to my injured mother. When I found her, she was bundled in a gurney. I was relieved to see that she was, in fact, in one piece. And then I looked down at her arm.
I don’t consider myself to be too particularly weak in the stomach. As a mother, my daily life presents me with scrapes, bruises, bumps, rashes and various other maladies. But as I gazed down at her bruised arm, I had the momentary queasiness that always seems funny in the movies.
Deciding it would be poor form to pass out, I instead switched my gaze to my mom’s pale face.
“I know,” she said. “It looks bad doesn’t it?”
I shook my head unconvincingly and then gratefully turned to the doctor entering the room.
“Let’s get you some X-rays,” he announced cheerfully.
And off went my mother for confirmation of a diagnosis.
One hour later, we got the final word.
“Arm is definitely broken,” the doctor announced. “And, you have a fractured knee.”
Mother and daughter stared agape at the doctor. This was not good.
“You will need to see the orthopedic doctor tomorrow for final treatment,” the physician continued as he began a makeshift cast. “But this will keep everything stable in the meantime.”
We looked at each other with seemingly the same thought: the bones might be stable, but her life certainly would not be — not for several weeks. Knowing she needed optimism wherever she could get it, I smiled and winked. She smiled weakly in return, tugging my heartstrings.
“Let’s see what the doctor says tomorrow,” I told her.
She nodded, but something told us both the news wouldn’t be all that tremendous.
We were right.
“That arm needs surgery,” he said. “Let’s schedule it for tomorrow. The knee will require rest to heal.”
My mother just sat there looking dejected and uncertain. The recovery wouldn’t be short, and she was next to helpless with her combination of injuries. She would need as much of my help as she could get.
It was in that moment that I realized my mom and I had somehow reversed our accepted roles. I would now need to be the caretaker, and she was temporarily the dependent. Sure, she would recover and regain her independence in a few weeks.
But it suddenly hit me that she may not be independent forever. There may come a day when she would need me in this capacity on a regular basis. And that realization brought about some kind of foreign sadness.
Instinctively, I reached over and grasped her good hand. She smiled at me as if she knew my thoughts, but no words were needed. We would get through this together, just as we had so many other things over the years.
The next day, I took my mom in for her surgery. I wiped her nervous tear away from her eye as the nurse wheeled her down the hallway, and waited impatiently until the doctor announced a good outcome.
After recovery, the staff helped gently load her into the car. When she was settled, she had one thing on her mind.
“Pancakes,” she said. “I’m starving.”
I laughed, and off I went for pancakes. When we arrived at her house, I tucked her in bed, cut up her food and doled out her medicine. When bedtime arrived, I curled up next to her.
“You’re staying?” she asked me.
“Of course,” I replied. “Where else would I be?”
She smiled, and I pretended not to notice that her eyes filled.
She barely slept that night. The pain of surgery and broken bones couldn’t be dulled enough to allow her comfort. But she lay quietly, and I could feel her gratitude for my presence.
All she cared about was that I was there — just as I had felt so many nights throughout my life when I had needed her, and she had lain beside me.
This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. Jill Adams blogs at http://lifewithoutbumperpads.blogspot.com.