So my dad is a hale and hearty guy, the kind whose actions and energy defy his age. Then late last week, he breaks his foot. It was, in his words, a stupid accident. He was mowing the lawn down an uneven slope and his foot twisted into a cranny. He was in pain, but mostly he just knew. After “rice”-ing (rest, ice, compress, and elevate), he knew an emergency room visit was in order. When the doctor told him he had suffered a hairline fracture, he wasn’t surprised. Pissed, frustrated, disappointed, yes. Shocked, no. But here’s the extra rub: his lovely wife, my step-mother, was in a remote far-away village on a holiday with her daughter. My dad was alone, far from his three daughters, with no immediate source of help. As luck would have it, two of his daughters (myself included) were already scheduled to arrive at his place a mere two days later. But two days later … a timeline that couldn’t be shifted. And Dad would be alone.
So my dad convinces the doctor to postpone putting the cast on until we arrive so he can take care of his urgent needs with some independence, like driving home and WATERING THE PLANTS (caps are meant to indicate daughterly sarcasm). It took at least 6 separate phone conversations to finally convince him that he could NOT drive the one hour each way to pick up my sister and her kids from the train station. It took another several convos to convince him that his very dear friend would go out of his way to do the pick-up. Not only did my father want to carry on as if nothing had happened (let me remind you that if a fracture in the foot doesn’t heal properly, then he might have issues the rest of his life), the very thought of imposing on others was anathema. But even he saw the logic of accepting the helping hands being offered all around him.
On Monday, we made sure he was properly casted up and off his foot and forbidden from any but the most mundane SEATED tasks. He was forced to allow his daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren to wait on him hand and foot (ar, ar). And he was witness to everyone’s absolute joy in being able to pay back this most generous but independent of people.
The unhappy side of the story? Okay, he can’t walk on his foot for 6 weeks at least, is being delivered a new highly-anticipated car tomorrow and can’t drive at all, has a household that requires much care-taking, and was looking forward to frolicking in the pool with his grandkids (we did make sure his cast was water-proof, but it might be a sinking stone, right?). And thank GOD my step-mom was away—she is an unbelievably competent maven and would have been all over taking care of Dad to perfection, but certainly at the risk of her own health. Imagine this tiny 5’4” woman trying to push and pull my not-so-tiny 6’2” father on his wheelchair while casts dried and crutches were on order.
But it has been a watershed moment for my father: he learned the hard way that he is not immune to bodily malfunctions (to quote him, that he “is not a god after all” ;) ), he learned that sometimes taking is also giving, and he learned to sit back and accept heartfelt service. Frankly, it was a watershed moment for all of us. Nothing like watching your, yes, god-like father come down to earth for a brief sojourn to be reminded of these important life lessons.
As I said, a happy accident.
Deb: Just Beautiful, Barb; this moved me so much. I know all too well what it’s like to see your parents struggle with their independence. I am so glad that this was simply an accident and not an immobility life sentence. It kills me every day to watch Dad struggle more and more to be in charge of his life and to get out and live life. I watched Mum struggle for years after her stroke with it and then watched her slowly make her peace. Your Dad fought for his independence and that is fantastic. And it seems your Dad is enjoying his stroll among the mortals. This moment will stay with him as he ages, in a very good way I think.