He fell in the middle of the night. A hard crash that woke me up. At first I thought he fell out of bed. He has done that a couple of times onto the carpet. No ill effects. But this was a fall in the hall by the closets, either coming out or going into the bathroom. I didn’t even have to shout, “What happened?” It was obvious what had happened as he lay there face down, crumpled on the floor, bleeding from a cut above his eyebrow.
He hadn’t passed out. “I guess I slipped,” he said. He was wearing his socks; he’s always wearing his socks because he is cold in bed. His socks are slippery. I got a towel to try to stop the trickle of blood that was running down his face. The blood was already pooling internally around his eye. He would be getting a tremendous shiner.
“Let me help you up,” I said. But I couldn’t get him up. He tried to help, to turn over and push against the floor with his hands. “I can’t,” he said. “I can’t.” He was so very tired from the radiation and the chemo and from not eating much and from getting up five or six times a night to go to the bathroom.
I brought the walker to see if it would help. I brought the sturdy dining-room chair. I tried to pull, to tug, to boost him. No luck. He isn’t heavy. In fact, he’s lost a lot of weight, but I still couldn’t get him up. It was about one in the morning. What were we going to do? “You have got to get up,” I said as if insisting on it would make it happen. “I can’t, I can’t,” he said and rolled over on his back and closed his eyes.
“I better call 911. Do you want me to call 911?” I thought he would say no. He didn’t reply. And so I went to the phone and dialed. We were in our house in a small town in Connecticut, and in a minute the trooper was on the phone. He asked a battery of questions and said he was just a couple of roads away. He told me to put on the lights outside, and he would call EMS.
And in just a few minutes, the house was full of people: the trooper, members of the EMS team, even the town’s first selectwoman. All cheerful and concerned, checking him over, getting him first to sit up for a while and then moving him to bed.
They checked his pulse, his blood pressure, asked if he wanted to go to the hospital. And he perked up with the attention, apologizing for the trouble he was causing, assuring them that no, he didn’t need to go to the hospital. He would be all right in the morning. And was he really going to have a black eye? He had never had one before.
We came back to the city the next day. I wondered how many more country weekends we would be spending. It was safer to be in the city, in our apartment, where the doormen and the handymen are always around to help, and it was a short taxi ride to the hospital where his doctors were. “I can’t believe I couldn’t get up,” he kept saying as I drove us home. “I don’t know why I couldn’t get up,” he said.” He was very shaken by his fall. So was I.
— Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge, where this first appeared.