My mom fell a couple days ago and broke her femur, up near the socket into the hip. Yesterday she had surgery to fix the bone up, something ornate involving pins. I was thankful it didn’t need to be a full hip replacement, but I’m very worried about how recovery will go. I live thousands of miles away, and there’s very little I can do except show up for a few days and give my brother Mark — he lives close by and will be Mom’s primary caregiver during recovery — a brief break. It’ll be little more than a symbolic gesture.
A friend of mine was telling me about her dad’s heart issues which came up earlier this week – something about his heart rate dropping too low while he was driving so he passed out and got in a one-car accident. No one was hurt except him.
Another friend’s mom has some respiratory and cardiac issues, and she was so very sick last week that there were some distant question marks.
My step-dad had a stroke last year, and Mom broke her hip (the other one).
My in-laws have had a hip replacement, a shattered shoulder, shoulder surgeries.
I could go on and on with the anecdotes. Body parts don’t hold up as well when you get older, even in the face of a very healthy life.
At fifty, my peers and I are facing the ending days of our surviving parents lives (and never mind that some of our parents have died already). It’s just one thing after another as we bring it in to the finish line. And as my mother gets older, I find that my reaction to her suffering has moved away from a child’s fears — will mommy live? — toward more parental feelings.
After Mom fell earlier this week, it was hours before Mark learned what had happened and called 911. It ripped my heart apart to think of her suffering like that, her femur broken to pieces right at the pelvis. I wanted to be there to comfort her, hold her hands in mine, cradle her head in my arms as she suffered, say sweet nothings to ease her fears. I want to be there when she comes home from the hospital to make her the right soups and healthful, restorative foods. I want to help her bathe and feel pretty. I want to dote on her and meet her every need. And I guess I just want to be with her a bit more, before she leaves me forever. Which I hope won’t be any time soon.
But here I am in Wisconsin with my own children to raise, and there she is in California, trying to get through her own sunset with dignity and grace. I know she wouldn’t want to replace her grandchildren in filling my time with neediness. I know she doesn’t want me to drop everything and run to her. So I’ll just sit here for a while doing nothing (except hassling Mark hourly to demand updates on how Mom’s feeling), and if all goes well, I’ll visit next month and help out a bit.
We all just do the best we can, and that’s the best we can do, eh?