the night I fell down the stairs

I was at my parent’s house, wearing (as I now know) the slipperiest socks on the planet, and because I was hurrying, I slid on the top step fell as hard as I possibly could. Landing, of course, on my ass. (If you know me you know this is not a first.)

It wasn’t really funny for that split second it was happening, you know that moment when your life flashes before your eyes and you’re sure you’re going to die? In this case when it was the ceiling flashing before my eyes, and the certainty that I was going to break something. Or yes quite possibly die. Or both. Obviously I’m writing this so I wasn’t actually dead. Once the shock passed and I knew I was still alive, well, then it was funny.

One minute I was walking and the next I was sitting on a step with my butt on fire and the breath knocked out of me. I heard my mother freaking out. She was in the next room on the phone with one of my brothers, and probably freaked him out too. I think they both thought I was dead. You know, since lack of oxygen = no talking = must be dead. I couldn’t talk so I started laughing hysterically.

Unlike my mother, my dear husband and darling son, who know I am the klutziest person on the planet, didn’t show the slightest bit of surprise.

I reassured my mom I was fine and just needed to sit there for a moment. That moment came and went, and the fire in my butt became an inferno and I couldn’t sit any longer. I couldn’t stand so crawled up the freaking stairs, creeped like a snake into the living room, and lay down on the floor. Laughing. Hysterically. Because really sometimes you have to laugh at yourself. Or you’ll cry.

I begged my husband togo get me an ice pack, and stick it in the back pocket of my jeans. That right pocket was exactly where I had landed. Two inches more towards the butt crack and I would have been in the hospital with a broken tailbone that night, probably in the room next to my father.

Let me tell you right now, I have never had a bruise as big as that one was. Two inches tall and about 8 inches across. It was a perfect painting of the edge of edge of that step, in vivid purple and yellow. Oh, and the lump? Was like a double butt. One that I couldn’t sit on for almost a week.

This was on Saturday night, two days after Thanksgiving.

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You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t write about Thanksgiving this year. I didn’t because, well, we didn’t really have one, and frankly, I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful. In fact, every time I saw a cheerful blog post, or holidayish tweet, or sappy Facebook message, or really anything remotely happy, I just wanted to smash something. I did all of my holiday shopping, what little there was, online so I wouldn’t have to talk to chipper freaking salespeople.

We found out in October that my father’s lymphoma had spread to his bone marrow and his lungs. He spent most of the Fall trying a different chemo in hopes that it would knock it back, again. It was a last resort and although we weren’t sure yet, it didn’t seem to be working. Talking about it, much less writing about it, or anything, was the last thing I wanted to do.

I’d been trying for weeks to get to Maine to see him, but my kid and I had both been sick since before Halloween with one cold after another. Visiting someone with a compromised immune system when you have a sniffle, cough, or anything other sign of illness is out of the question. We made do with lots of phone calls, until finally we were well and able to go on the day after Thanksgiving to spend the weekend.

We drove up on that snowy Friday morning, to find that Pop was at the hospital for the day having yet more blood transfusions and platelets. Since my mother was heading back after lunch there I grabbed my crocheting and went with her. I sat and chatted with him for hours, hours I’d hoped to have with him at home, but that was not to be.

Later that afternoon he had a bad reaction to the transfusions, just minutes after we had gotten him back to the house. We didn’t know it, but his lungs were filling with fluid.

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I spent most of the next day at the hospital again. In the morning I sat in his room, chatting with my mother, and with Pop when he was awake. He dozed some but was talking more than I expected, and we even had a few chuckles over some joke about ice cream. I can’t even remember what it was, I was just happy to have a laugh with him. All too soon he needed a real rest so while he slept I quietly wandered the deserted halls of the hospital. If you’ve ever been in a hospital on a  holiday weekend you know that few but the sickest are there.

In the early afternoon, one of my sisters arrived and we stayed in the waiting room together, both of our crochet hooks flashing. When it was clear he would sleep the rest of the day, I went back to my parent’s house. I was tired, the kind of tired that gets into your brain and shuts you down. Mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted; and yet not as exhausted as he was, not even close.

That was the last day I had a conversation with my father. It was the last time I heard him laugh, and the last time he looked at me. But I didn’t know it then. How do you know something is the last until it’s already over?

That was the night I fell down the stairs.

Comments

3 Responses to “the night I fell down the stairs”

  1. magpie on January 5th, 2011 2:27 pm

    You will never forget falling down those stairs. Ever.

    ((hugs))

  2. Amira on January 6th, 2011 12:18 am

    This was endearing to read. Sending you many virtual hugs.

  3. Fran on January 6th, 2011 8:11 am

    Beautiful, this essay ought to be in print. Thank you, sending love & hugs your way.

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