Fear of Falling



My father was afraid to fall. With good reason: he is 96 years old. Almost a year ago his blood pressure was so low he got dizzy and collapsed. Luckily he wasn’t injured, but he got it in his head—The most important thing is: Do Not Fall.

Dad got a walker and wheelchair. He didn’t have much strength, so he didn’t leave the house. He used that walker, even though he didn’t need it to walk, because he was afraid he might get dizzy and need something to hold onto.

The weeks and months went by and Dad’s new blood pressure medication started to work. He had good readings now, and his strength was coming back. Still, he stayed in the house. He stuck with his walker. After all—The most important thing is: Do Not Fall.

By the time I came to visit Dad the week after Easter, he was in good shape. He came out to breakfast the first morning and my sister—whom he lives with—took his blood pressure, as she does every morning, and recorded it in a log. It was fine.

After breakfast Dad asked me if I would go after the dandelions in the back yard. Until a year ago Dad was the yard honcho; he managed the mowing and weeding and trimming as well as the garden. Not now. I happily took on the task, and then Dad said, “I wonder if I could go down there with you. I haven’t been out there in so long.” The house has a walk-out basement, so the back yard is down a good ways. He got his walker and I accompanied him out the front door, and down the sloping side of the house to the greening lawn dotted with yellow heads. He sat in a lawn chair in the shade so he could watch me work.

After a while I went back into the house to get some gloves. When I came back, Dad had picked up my knife and bucket and was bent over a clump of dandelions, not a walker in sight. I was surprised—not because he could do it (I knew he could), but because he had the courage to try. He weeded a while, then sat and rested. “I can’t believe I’m out here,” he said surveying his lawn. When it was time to go inside, Dad pushed his walker up the hill on the side of the house like it was a wheelbarrow. He was fine.

The next morning he went to physical therapy. I was taking him. We walked to the garage door and Dad got his walker. “What are getting that for?” I asked. He stopped and thought for a moment. “Dad,” I said, “you were out working the yard yesterday, walking on uneven turf. You were fine. I am going to drive you to the PT place, and you’ll have to walk 30 feet over a perfect asphalt driveway to the door. You don’t need that walker.” He parked it and got in the car.

The next day we got the lawn tractor running and Dad mowed the yard, front and back. Then he got the blower and cleaned the grass clippings off the sidewalks. It was a triumph.

Which got me to wondering which walker I could park by the door and walk out into the world.

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