Fear of Falling

   

IMG_0003

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.

Monday, Monday

Easter Monday is always like the day after Christmas. The party is over. The leftover lamb is sitting forlorn on the counter top; it was not put away last night. The children’s plastic eggs lie empty and raided on the floor. The sun comes in the window a little harsh. That great victory over death…

The Cock Crows

At the heart of the “Greatest Story Ever Told” is a betrayal. No one would call their child Judas. The name is slimed with centuries of condemnation: the lily-livered turncoat who betrayed an innocent man for thirty pieces of silver. We might understand how the crowd could turn on Jesus, but how could someone from…

It Tolls for Thee

Rarely am I so moved. The funeral for my mother-in-law ended. I lined up with five other pallbearers and walked the white coffin to the hearse. We got in our car and waited for the procession to begin. Pam began quietly to weep. There is something startling about the hearse and the coffin, the physicality…

The Power of Simple Touch

He lay there with only his diaper on, my grandson Dashiell. It was seven o’clock, time for his bedtime rituals. My wife, who adores this eight week-old child, is ready to give Dash his massage. She dips her hands in coconut oil and begins to stroke his stomach. She rubs his legs and presses her…