Hip, knee, and other areas of dissolution
November 16, 2010
My dear old grandma is having a spate of falls–or rather, she’s panicking that she’s about to fall just two or three steps away from the sofa or bed, so she’s lowering herself to the ground, where she lies quietly until help arrives. She has around-the-clock in-home caregivers, but these are women who daren’t heft a frail and possibly injured old woman; they may, in fact, be contractually prevented from doing so.
So twice in the past two days the rescue squad has been summoned. First they lifted her and transported her to the hospital, where she was deemed intact and released. In the middle of that subsequent night, mere hours later, en route from bathroom to bed, she controlled her fall and lay close enough to the bed to pull the blankets down over herself. Where she waited for Betty to wake. And when Betty awoke, at my grandmother’s bidding they waited until a more civilized hour (5 a.m.) to call my aunt.
Forty miles away, my aunt said, you must call the rescue squad again. I will come, but what if I can’t lift her, either? And the rescue squad came and palpated her bones, and deeming her again intact, simply put her back in bed this time, so my grandmother is not convinced this is an untenable situation. Though her bones are chalk and she broke her back a few years back trying to shovel the driveway.
My other grandmother, now passed, my dear Mama Ruth who was given a final blood tranfusion so that I might drive down from Michigan and watch her die, fell down, too, and had breathing troubles stemming from her 1940s-era tuberculosis-scarred lungs that only began seriously malfunctioning in her eighties. Her congestive heart didn’t help, I’m sure. The closest rescue source was the fire station, so these strapping young firemen would come to fetch her, and she would joke and flirt with them, saying, I just wanted a ride in the fire truck.
My other aunt, who lives on the west coast, came to visit recently, and when she does she brings my grandmother over, for they feel they must see my gorgeous boys cavorting on their own turf. It’s an outing increasingly hard-won and precious, and I don’t know that it can happen again: my front porch is soft and rickety pinewood planks; a high heel would sink into it–not that she’s wearing high heels. Not that any of us are. Even my time for high heels seems to have passed.
This last visit I walked her to the bathroom and lingered outside the door. My toilet is not raised and I feared it would be difficult for her. It was, in fact, impossible, and she finally tapped for help with her cane. I hoisted her up and she clung to me for a moment and said I was her favorite grandbaby.
My Mama Ruth knew and adored Scott long before we married, and she was pissed at me when we had a brief falling out and broke up; she entirely took his side. She didn’t pressure me to marry; she didn’t have time for all that planning and ritual. She wanted a baby, by whatever means necessary. “I can’t wait much longer,” she warned me.
But I needed to finish my novel before I could get on with the business of life, and though I brought my nearly finished draft in a binder to the hospital to show her, I was too late, and she would not have given a good goddamn about a binder full of words even if she were fully conscious. She wanted a baby, my baby, to dandle and love, and she was tired of waiting around while her heart and lungs slowly drowned, and it was the slow pushing in and out of her final breaths that gave my novel its end.
This grandmother, Ozella, Oze, the Big O as she was called in secret by her children and openly, affectionately by the next generation, has read and reread my novel, and she grabs my hand at least once each visit and exhorts me, “June. You must keep writing.” She also wanted me to have children, but having lived to see them come into the world, she is satisfied I have met that obligation.
The weather is changing, and so are my joints and ligaments. Yesterday my left hip complained; today the grievance has traveled down to my knee, where it pops and clicks. My lower back is just waiting for the next looming deadline to go into spasm. Sometimes my wrists radiate pain up to my elbow, a harbinger of rain. These are gentle previews, little warning shots.