When I was first taken to the ER, I called Mom on her cell phone. The conversation went like this:
"Hey Mom! It's me."
"What, I can't hear you?"
"I'm in the Emergency Room. My leg may be broken."
"It's so noisy here. We are at a lecture at the college."
"I'm in the ER. I fell and maybe broke my leg."
"Honey, I can't hear a word. I'm going to call you back when we get home in a few hours."
Mom felt pretty guilty about this conversation when she finally reached me. However, I think it was good for me. For several hours following my accident I was responsible for my own mental calm.
When Mom and Dad did learn about my accident, they immediately started packing and were in New York the following day by noon. They set up headquarters in my apartment. They brought snacks.
For the past 3 weeks, I've enjoyed a level of parental attention that I haven't experienced in many years. Mom and Dad sat with me in the recovery room following my surgery. They took care of my dog. They bought me a wheelchair and helped me get home from the hospital. Mom helped me get to the bathroom during the first week when I couldn't balance on one foot.
They also helped me with my business. This is prime selling season on eBay. When I tripped and fell over that fence, I had over 20 pending orders to process.
It isn't easy to explain how an upscale resale clothing shop works to two retirees who usually wear the same outfits for several days in a row.
"It's a pink cashmere turtleneck, and I put it in a plastic zip-lock bag in the basket of nicer sweaters.
"I don't see it. What color did you say it was?"
"I see a red sweater, but it looks like a turtleneck."
"Honey, this is red, not pink."
Dad has less patience. He looks through the racks for a total of 5 minutes, and then declares, "It's not here. You'll have to cancel the order."
Before the accident, it never took me long to locate inventory. I love my clothes and I remember them well. My organizational system is kept entirely in my head. "You should number everything," says Mom, and, of course, she is right.
My parents are generally right. Is it possible to be scarred by overly good parents? I'm 45 years old and I'm writing this in bed while my parents read the newspaper in the same room. They plan to stay until I can walk.
They are in their late seventies. They haven't seen their home in several weeks. They had to forward all their mail and pay someone to watch over their house while they are gone. Every morning Dad wakes up at 6 and walks my hyperactive dog. Mom forces me to eat All-Bran. They deserve some kind of award for doing this.
Mom says, "I'm just glad we're still able to take care of you."
My friend Gillian's mom has dementia. Gillian spends a lot of time making sure she gets the best care possible. it isn't easy. She has to navigate endless paperwork, handle physical tasks that are frankly a little gross, and deal with endless financial worry. Her mom asks her the same questions over and over. She gets confused and cries. She doesn't realize how much her daughter is doing for her. Gillian spends a lot of time with her mom, but her mom isn't really present - she's a living ghost.
When I get back on my feet, I'm going to relish certain everyday freedoms. For a few days, I will get a weird kick out of making making my own toast, or standing upright in the shower. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad will be so happy to get back to their little town. They will go back to their lectures, their bridge club and their everyday chores. I will call them on the phone and complain about how busy and exhausted I am.
Until then, we are in this cocoon.