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dock at sunset

Three and a half weeks after her mother fell and broke her neck, nose, and three other compression fractures in her back, as well as badly bruised her face, her mother continues in therapy and in the care of staff in a nursing home. Jan spent twelve nights in all with her mother, attempting to work out the challenges of pain-relief and sleeping medications, staff responses, and keeping her neck brace in position without her mother removing it. Finally, a tentative stability achieved, Jan returned to her own life and got some rest.

One night her mother had spent several hours preparing for her first grade class of school children, identifying their individual needs, and strategizing how to meet those needs. Of course she retired nearly twenty-five years ago, but she had taught for more years than that, and it is easy for her mind to return to those years, even as she also slips back into the early years of motherhood, or childhood with her own mother. Jan could easily identify with each stage of her mother’s concerns.

Jan was nearly caught up with her rest, as we travelled to Lincoln, Nebraska, for an enjoyable day with Granddaughter Willow, a trip that we had postponed because of Mother’s needs. On the way back, we stopped at one of Missouri’s remaining rest areas. Gary took the Nguy family beagle, Odette, into the pet walking area. Odette had stayed with Willow for six weeks but worn out her welcome with her persistent demand to be outside when Willow needed to study. We volunteered to take Odette back to O’Fallon. Jan sat in the car, finishing a phone conversation.

When Jan got out to walk to the rest station, her toe caught on a parking barrier, and she fell face-first onto a concrete curb. Her face was bloodied, scraped, and bruised, but her glasses somehow escaped with just a bend in an earpiece. Gary came running when he saw Jan lying flat, put Odette in the car, and checked Jan out. She was bleeding profusely, but the two small facial cuts were closing quickly with pressure. Her nose was pouring, so we used Jan’s tried and true method of a small compress under her upper lip, and it began to slow, and finally stopped after five minutes.

A rest area worker came quickly when she saw us on the ground. She was so focused on Jan’s visible injuries that she stepped on the glasses, but she was so eager to be helpful that we could not fault her. A pediatrician and his wife were next to help. The doctor admitted that Jan was older than his usual patients, but the injuries looked familiar. He checked her over, said that one stitch or a butterfly bandage might be useful, made sure that she was not feeling pain anywhere else that might indicate a break, and discussed what to watch for in concussion symptoms, which were not appearing—no headache, vision or dilation effects, or confusion. The rest area worker helped Jan into the restroom to get cleaned up.

We made stops at Walgreens and CVS forty minutes later to get bandages, antibiotic cream, and antiseptics. We passed four hospital signs during the rest of the trip, checking with each other about the advisability of stopping, but we arrived at O’Fallon six hours later.

Jan had copied her mother’s accident, in facial injuries, but not in broken bones, fortunately. She had two seriously black eyes and a nasty abrasion on her forehead to alarm and impress Alicia, Au, and Symphony. Alicia had fallen down her stairway a few years ago and seriously damaged her knee. Jan could easily identify with her mother and her daughter in an even more intimate respect.

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