Mom – a/k/a Energizer Bunny, part 2

Mom is superwoman. Well, almost.

Mom has lived in the home she & my Dad designed & built (in large part on their own) full time since 1980, and has improved her “cottage” in many ways. In 1983 or so, she had an expansive screened-in porch added, so that in nice weather, the living area nearly doubled. “Porch” is a bit of a misnomer. While it’s screened in, it has a soaring ceiling, skylights, ceiling fan & carpeting. It overlooks her dock and broad creek. One of her annual highlights is spring, when she “opens” the porch. She brings down the cushions for the furniture and porch lamps from the attic, removes the storm door installed during winter for insulation purposes, vacuums & spots the carpet, and generally spruces up the place. Last spring, she had the ceiling painted, and afterwards was disappointed in how dirty the non-paintable walls looked.

Mom & I spoke every Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. May 28, 2006, was no different. She called, and I asked my usual question: “How are you?” To my surprise, she responded, “Well, not so good.”

The previous Thursday, her red cell count was way low, necessitating one of her rare transfusions. She hated transfusions, because it required her to waste (her word) an entire day. But sometimes it was a medical necessity. So she had one on Friday, May 26. A side effect of transfusions was that she was transfused (literally) with enormous energy that her body had been lacking.

Thus, that Saturday my 88-year-old Mom could do all sorts of things she didn’t have the vigor to do just the day before. For example, to wash porch walls. From an 8 foot ladder, because of the high porch ceiling. The wall washing — went fine. The descending from the ladder — not so good. She missed a rung, fell backwards, and although she didn’t know it yet, broke her right humerus right near her shoulder. Surprise surprise, self treatment (laying on the sofa with Advil) didn’t work, and by afternoon she reluctantly imposed on her next door neighbor to take her to the emergency room 30 miles away. At ER, they told her of the fracture, strapped her up, and told her to call for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon the next week.

Her “not so good” of our Sunday night chat was the first I’d heard of her mishap over 24 hours earlier. She didn’t call me — or either of her other children — because (in her words) we “couldn’t do anything.” I asked my right-handed mother if she had any use of her right hand, and she admitted she didn’t. After the briefest of conversations with Don (basically trying to figure out which of us should make the 12+ hour journey), I called her back, chided her for not calling before and told her I’d be there the following evening. That was my first Summer of ’06 tour of duty in Virginia; my husband took the next week+ tour, and I returned for a 2nd week+ tour in July. In between our tours, a favorite niece came for 10 days, an old friend came for the same period, one of my siblings took her to her home for a few days, and my other sibling flew in for a few days. With family & friends, she wasn’t alone during her 8 week recovery.

Not even her incapacitation could keep this woman down. While recovering, she decided she wanted to re-do the dated living area of the house. She had the harvest gold paneling (remember, it was a 70s house) painted an off-white, tore up the harvest-gold carpeting, had hardwood floors laid throughout except for the bedrooms, changed all the ceiling fixtures, and rearranged all the furniture. Those of us who volunteered for duty didn’t know what we were getting into. And while Mom was frustrated that there were things she could not do one-handed (like tying shoes), she learned there was plenty more she could do (like emptying cupboards so furniture could be moved).

Despite her orthopedic surgeon’s warnings that she would likely not be again able to hang out clothes or use a curling iron on her hair because of the overhead reaching those tasks involved, she proved him wrong. She became a rehab zealot. For her August 2006 89th birthday, I gave her a small, 3-foot stepladder that has a grasp near the top of its 3 stairs, and elicited a promise that she would never, ever climb the other one again.

And May 26, 2006 was her last transfusion.

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