My parents did a very convenient thing: they were born four days apart from each other. Needless to say, when they hit those important milestone birthdays, it makes things easier on me and my siblings. One giant bang of a celebration, and we are good. That is exactly what we did this past weekend. I am still exhausted.
My dad welcomed his sixth decade on earth last week, and today it is my mom’s turn. But today is a little more than just a birthday; it is a celebration of second chances. As my dad tearfully admitted at their party, there were two times in his life when he didn’t think he would live to see 60: when he almost fell from a jerry-rigged rope bridge between two fly ash electrostatic precipitators (…um, no clue. That is total enginerd territory), and when he was being wheeled down a hospital corridor on his way to a quadruple bypass surgery. And there was one time, much more recently, when he was afraid my mom wouldn’t make it to 60, either (cue the tears from the entire room, the resulting red eyes ruining all good photo ops during the “Happy Birthday” song…thanks, Dad).
I have only mentioned my mom’s accident once in this blog, for a few reasons. I try to keep this space fairly light-hearted, mostly because I don’t like reading stuff from negative nancies, so why would I expect other people to be interested in reading about my woes? Second, facing things like the mortality of your parents is pretty heavy and emotional stuff and, well, I have a good dose of German blood running through my veins. We don’t always deal with that stuff very well. We like to bottle it up; and when we do let it out, it usually results in a rather uncontrollable “ugly cry” and virtually indecipherable words between sobs.
But let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version of everything that has happened the last five or so months: My mom had been having these spells where she would pass out, and the doctors were not sure what was causing them. Before they could figure it out, she unfortunately fainted and fell one morning, landing on her head. She fractured her neck and bruised her spinal cord, an injury that could have very well left her completely paralyzed or dead. There was quite a long time of uncertainty about how my mom’s body would heal. The doctors said she would regain feeling and mobility in her hands and feet, but they could not say how much or how quickly. And they still couldn’t figure out what was making her pass out, which put her in danger of the same thing happening again. After weeks in the hospital, dealings with blood clots, months at a rehab facility, and even more months in outpatient therapy, my mom has persevered and is able to walk on her own again. The cause of the fainting spells has been found to be seizures, and she is now on the appropriate medication to (hopefully) keep this from happening again. She is still not back to where she was pre-accident, and probably never will be. But considering the alternatives, I don’t think I would have it any other way.
So today, my mom has made 60 even more fabulous than it would have been. And to celebrate, I would like to share six things I have learned from my mom’s accident.
1. My mom can rock a pair of TED hose compression stockings like nobody’s business. She even pulled them off with formal wear at two weddings this summer. Who needs fish nets?
2. I am apparently of the age where doctors seem to feel I am the keeper of and the person whom should be consulted about my parents’ health history and concerns as well as the medications they are on. And I am absolutely not comfortable with that. When my mom was in the hospital, her neurosurgeon (who was quickly dubbed as being “my buddy”) would direct all conversation about my mom’s condition to ME…despite the fact that my father, the patient’s HUSBAND, who is of sound mind and body, was also in the room. Dude, my parents are just turning 60. They aren’t that old. I’m not committing them to the nursing home quite yet. I still refuse to believe I am old enough to be the mother of a seven-year-old, let alone keep track of the bazillion and one medications you are about to put my mother on. Give me a few more years to defer all important decisions to my parents. I’m not the matriarch yet. Geez.
3. No matter how young you are, everyone who uses a walker ends up looking like my Great Aunt Ginny, God rest her soul. Sorry, Mom. You were totally doing the Aunt Ginny shuffle.
4. The best motivation for not having to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life is to order your wheelchair from a company who never actually delivers said wheelchair. It’s a long and ridiculous story (as are most things health insurance related), but basically, my mom never got the wheelchair they ordered. So it’s a good thing she’s walking now.
5. When the going gets tough, you realize how amazing your friends and family are. My mom is lucky to have so many people who care about her. The outpouring of prayers and support was vast. Even better was the number of friends and family who were literally at my mom’s side; bringing dinners, driving her to therapy, keeping her company at home before she got the green light to be by herself, and taking her to the store or just out to lunch. That did wonders for my mom’s spirit. But it also put my dad at ease as he went back to work, enabled my sister and I to keep our own households running, and helped my brother deal with being in another city, knowing that mom was cared for. We are all so grateful for this band of generous souls.
6. My mom is pretty bad ass. If you would have asked me that day in the emergency room if I thought my mom would be where she is today, doing what she is doing less than six months from the accident, I probably would have said no. Not because I didn’t have any faith in my mom, but simply because everything was so unknown and, frankly, scary. But my mom did not let that get the better of her. And I know that she is doing as well as she is today not only because of the miraculous way the body can heal itself, but mostly because my mom decided on how she wanted things to be. And she made it so.
So Happy 60th Birthday, Mom! Welcome to the decade of second chances, you compression stocking fashionista, you. Love you.