Just when the last kid is off to college and you’re sinking into the reality of empty nesthood, you get the phone call that proves that once you’re a mom, you’re always on duty. While at a pumpkin festival in Half Moon Bay, Katie had taken a fall, misjudging the height of a ledge, basically snapping her ankle. Ouch. Her friend had taken her to the emergency room and she was in a splint, but the injury was bad, and the next steps were uncertain.
And so, even though my baby is 27 years old, I was on a plane to California the very next day. San Francisco is full of hills and her apartment is loaded with steps, and she was immobile. The ER doctor had referred her to an orthopedist, and the moment the clock hit 8:30 Monday morning, I was on the phone, arranging to get her in the very same day. She would need surgery. She would need hardware. She would be bride of Frankenstein, at least on that side of her leg.
When you’re a parent, it seems emergency rooms become a part of life. My mind flashed to all the emergency rooms I have ever known as part of suburban motherhood—not just because of broken bones but stitches, allergic reactions and such. It’s hard to see your child in pain, and I swear I would willingly take pain 10 times as bad just to remove the burden from my baby—this is a sentiment I’ve heard from my mom friends and I know I am not alone in this.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. We tried to look at the bright side of her injury—that we had to look at our time together as “found” time, and even though it was largely spent with Katie in bed on pain medications with her leg propped up, I got to be with her to comfort her and take care of her—everything from preparing her meals to scrubbing her house, doing her laundry, and walking her dog. It meant chauffeuring her to the doctor, including in the middle of the night back to the emergency room when she was thrashing in pain.
I made enough food to stash in the freezer so that during her long recovery, she wouldn’t have to cook. But we also went out together to get coffee, ramen, pastrami sandwiches, burritos, and all sorts of fun food. And on the night of the full harvest moon, Katie ventured out on crutches and together with her roommate, we went up to one of the highest points in San Francisco to watch the glorious full moon rise over Twin Peaks. We even played Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” on my iPhone and it was all completely breathtaking.
Knowing how much she needed me, I am grateful that I could go out to be with her and make her life better at a most difficult time. This thought gives me pause as I think about the horrible shooting that happened in Las Vegas on the very night I arrived in San Francisco.
What strikes me about the people killed—so many, too many—is how many of them were women—the majority, in fact—and of those women, how many of them were mothers- again, so many, too many.
Their faces are beautiful, radiant, so loved by their children, who now have to grow up without the women who love them most. Who will take care of them when they hurt themselves? Who will fly out across the country to be with them and take care of them? Who will make them their favorite meals? Who will kiss them good night?
I am struck by the randomness of the deaths— how an arbitrary calculus determined who lived, who died—who would wake up the next day to know their loved ones would be coming home, and who would wake up with the most terrible grief possible.
I am also struck by the stories of heroism on that awful night. How strangers ran straight into danger to pull someone to safety, or to load victims into trucks to drive them to the hospital. The innate goodness of people and the instinct to care for others that emerged during those dark hours prove that the desire to nurture is not limited just to mothers, but to kind, decent and brave human beings of both genders and all ages and backgrounds.
As Katie and I discussed her game plan for recovery and physical therapy, both of us couldn’t help but think about what it would be like trying to heal from a bullet wound or shrapnel or cuts from barbed wire—not to mention the emotional trauma of surviving a night of bullets and blood and death raining down in the middle of a concert.
It will be a long road for Katie, but her ankle will heal and the doctor says she will be as good as new, perhaps even better—those screws and bolts have to provide some kind of bionic power, don’t they?
In the midst of her adversity, Katie also recognized how lucky she is—to have access to world-class healthcare and insurance to cover it—a community of friends to rally around her—a job she loves and a boss who is supportive —and parents who literally would drop everything to make sure she’s okay. Injuries like this one are unfortunate but they can also force you to look at the bright side of things and see things in perspective.