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A need for speed no matter the age

There’s a quirkiness about being older that reaches out and grabs me occasionally. It’s the disconnect between being old and feeling old. Many of my friends agree. “I was 39 the other day, I blinked, and I got THIS?!” No fair.

Advanced years take your speed. I want my body to do what I say, when I say, not in these slow-as-molasses steps.

My mother was in her nineties when she arrived at this wobbly navigation stage. In her auto-less 20s, she hadn’t just walked – she dashed, she sped, she almost flew. Her quick mind propelled her fast feet through a solitary motherhood with two jobs, shopping, and homemaking. She was literally on the run.

As she aged, Mom’s need for speed never diminished. She’d hear the dryer buzzer, quickly turn to head to the laundry, and ka-boom! Flat on the floor. She never took the time to turn her feet slowly, and plant them before walking toward the dryer. Her mind’s command center was still age 20, but her body parts were 95. Sorta like entering the Indy 500 with a rusty Ford Pinto. Her machine simply wasn’t up to the job.

Early in Alberta’s falling era, she would press her LifeLine call button. Once the operator determined she had fallen, could speak, and didn’t require EMTs, I received the call. The first few times, I broke the land/speed record to her house, typically finding her sitting on the kitchen floor, back to the refrigerator.

The problem was my mother was not a small woman.

She topped off at 5-foot-11 in her heyday, supported by size 12 feet. I couldn’t lift her even with the help of a male neighbor. Without enough upper body strength to help us, she remained on the floor. The next step involved calling 911 and telling them that she wasn’t injured, we just need help getting her up.

The first few times the ambulance came, with lights and sirens blaring. She was mortified.

“No, I’m not hurt and I won’t go to the hospital. I just want to sit in my recliner and have a cup of tea.” And bless the paramedics, they checked her vitals anyway, and walked her to the recliner. She then offered them tea and cookies. Always incredibly polite, they declined and headed back to the fire station.

After this scene played out a few times, she decided to skip a few steps. She stopped ringing her Lifeline and I stopped receiving their calls. Silly me. I actually thought she had slowed down. I had done the lecturing daughter routine a few times, hoping to make her understand. “Mom, the speed in your head is different than the speed in your feet.” I desperately didn’t want her to crash again, especially after the fall that had put a dozen stitches in her head and bruises that lasted two months.

Within a year, the LifeLine calls almost ceased, I thought, aha, she must have listened. Fuggedaboudit. She just didn’t want me to know. She simply out-foxed me.

Mom concluded that if she fell, she could scooch on the floor to a phone, and call the fire department directly. “Hello, dears. It’s just me, Alberta, on the floor again. I’m not hurt so no lights and sirens, okay? The front door is unlocked.”

Those great guys got her to her feet, gathered her information, shared a few laughs with her, and headed out. Five minutes tops. And it all worked smoothly until I dropped in one afternoon. There’s nothing quite like driving by your nonagenarian mother’s house with an ambulance in the driveway to get your attention. I could tell this wasn’t their first rodeo just by the chummy banter.

I took the EMT driver to the garage and got the lowdown. “Yeah, we’re here about every other month. The day after, she brings a batch of warm cookies to the fire house.”

“Cookies? She bakes you cookies?”

“My favorites are oatmeal raisin,” he replied,” but most of the guys like her chocolate chips.”

She didn’t have to listen to my safety nagging, she just had to bake cookies.

Eventually, she transitioned to a walker, then moved to assisted living within a year.

She soon was driving an electric motorized scooter, hell bent for leather, through the corridors.

She pooh-poohed my comments that she might hurt someone with the joystick in full open drive. But she got her speed back.

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In the 10 years since Mom’s crafty relationship, the fire department staff is spread even thinner offering basic life support and emergency services. Assists for falls should pass through 911, or even better, Home Alert, the replacement for LifeLine, available through the hospital.

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Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their bi-polar Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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