Thursday, October 20, 2016

When Brad Broke His Hip


“When life gives you lemons…” Well, you, Dear Reader, know how to fill in the rest of this little cliché. After this past crazy month, we’ve come to dislike this particular cliché with a great vengeance. So, why would two writers, devoted to the English language in particular and words in general, have such a passionate response to a common American expression? Read on, please. This is a tale of two perspectives since after all, you’ve got two writers. It’s a tale of a life-disrupting event, a really lousy birthday, and a marriage that is ever-changing and ever strong.

Exactly two weeks ago, Brad took a terrible stumble down our back stairs and landed on the kitchen floor. Deb was out running errands at the time and came home to find Brad upstairs cuddled in our bed in terrible pain. If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ll recognize what happened next. It was about five hours of negotiation concerning what we should do. While I (Deb) struggled to help him to the bathroom, Brad insisted he’d be better in the morning. That seemed increasingly unlikely, so by 9:00 pm, he lost the debate, and we set out for the hospital. Actually, Brad asked me how I would get him down the stairs, and I replied, “Oh, that’s easy. I’ll call 911.” When the ambulance arrived from down the street, we met a young EMT who used to work at the custard stand with our daughter, when both girls were in high school. It is a dear little town. The crew carefully loaded him into the ambulance, and I followed in the car.

Five hours in the crowded ER hallway passed before we got a cubby and the attention of a doctor. It took very little time to learn that Brad had broken his hip. The doctor cheerily said, “If you’ve got to break a hip, yours is the best break you could hope for!” Okay, Doc, thanks. To move this long story along, we met the surgeon that night, and he put our guy back together with three pins in his hip. This, as it happens, was Brad’s birthday, marked down in the family history as the Worst Birthday Ever. But, with Brad nestled comfortably in his post-op bed, I set out for home, a shower, food, and sleep. It had been a very long 36 hours.

So what makes a strong, healthy, fit man fall down the stairs? Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised. Brad has had a devotion to a crummy pair of slippers that he’s worn far too long and far too hard. I’ve been fulfilling my wifely responsibility of nagging (I mean gently suggesting) that he was going to kill himself on our stairs with those dumb slippers. “Drive over the mountain and for the love of all that is holy, buy a new pair of slippers,” resonates in my memory. So, he met his match and those crummy old slippers did him in. I take no joy in having been right.

Three days in the hospital and then off to the “rehabilitation center,” which is what they call a nursing home when they’re trying so send someone young and injured to a facility that will help him. Brad found himself wandering the halls in the middle of the night surrounded by busy staff and insomniac patients who could easily have been any one of our parents. He found the hubbub of the center reassuring. “Most of the aides, nurses, and therapists really do care about you,” he observed almost right after being admitted. His “roommate” is 85 years old and full of a lifetime of stories that Brad hasn’t heard yet. They’re getting along swimmingly. “Take care of yourselves, keep saving, and think about what you’ll do when you need some help with things in life you’ve always done for yourself,” Brad said. That’s his takeaway.

As for me, I’ve spent more time living all alone these last few weeks than I ever have in my entire life. It’s been okay, easier than I would have thought.  I’ve learned that Brad does a lot more stuff around the house than I’ve been giving him credit for. I’ve also learned that, although I’ve spoiled him pretty well, he is stronger and more resilient than either one of us would have guessed. And so am I. I have the support of our grown kids, and the companionship of our daughter who lives down the street. She actually came over that first dreadful night simply, because she suspected I might need a hug. She was right.

So what about those lemons and that goofy cliché? I have an edited version. “When life gives you lemons, count your blessings!” The doctor was right about the nature of the break. If Brad had broken his hip differently, the recovery would have been twice as long! We live in place where neighbors take care of each other, and some even drive the ambulance. We have a devoted family, and a relationship that has stood the test of time, and gravity. Brad has learned that he’s not as invincible as he once thought, a good lesson in the long run. He’s learned that it’s okay to turn yourself over to strangers who are skilled in the care of those who are injured or infirm. Those are all pretty amazing lessons and a whole basket full of blessings, much better than a pitcher of lemonade, at least that how it looks from where we sit.