Letter from New Jersey: The Best-Laid Plans

with my mother, before she boarded the assisted living bus

with my mother, before she boarded the assisted living bus

This evening, I’m thankful my mother is back in her own room, after Clive and I spent an unexpected afternoon with her at the hospital.

Earlier this morning, I sent my son an email sharing plans for our next few days in New Jersey: take my mother and her boyfriend out to lunch tomorrow and Saturday, buy party decorations for her 91st birthday and spend time with her at various music and exercise programs at assisted living.

After this morning’s visit with Mom, we waved her and her boyfriend off on the facility’s shuttle bus as they happily went on a group lunch outing. We ran a few errands, ending up at the laundromat. With nine minutes to go on the washer, my cell phone rang. The assisted living nurse told me that after lunch, when getting back on the bus, my mother had hurt her leg, scraping the front of her right shin on one of the bus steps.

Thankfully Mom had one staff person in front of her and another one behind, so they were able to support her. But her skin is tissue-paper thin because of certain medications she’s on, so there was profuse bleeding. The staff immediately called an ambulance.

The nurse on the phone told me Mom seemed to be doing okay and the ambulance team had said it was a surface wound, though a significant one. I debated racing to the hospital, leaving Clive in the laundromat for what I knew would be at least a few hours – then made the decision to wait an excruciating nine minutes until we could unload the washer, shove the wet clothes into a plastic bag and go to the hospital together. If Mom had had a heart attack or similar, I’m afraid Clive and/or our clothes would have been left in the laundromat.

Without going into horrible detail, suffice it to say:

– the Emergency Room was a typical ER madhouse

– Mom’s leg wound was indeed very bloody, quite large and difficult to look at

– the ER doctors and nurses were wonderful

– the paperwork was endless

– my mother is incredibly brave, two days short of her 91st birthday

– and Clive deserves a son-in-law medal for holding Mom’s hand the entire time, keeping her amused and calm (mostly) while the medical team worked on her leg and at one point, getting a big smile when he said, ‘Close your eyes and think of England.’ Mom loves England.

My mother’s memory is virtually gone, so she asked us over and over and over again what had happened, where we were, what was happening next and where her boyfriend was.

As for me, my mind was swirling with thoughts of how glad I was that we were here in New Jersey when this happened, how much worse it could have been, how fragile and vulnerable my mother is both physically and mentally, how I don’t live nearby most of the time and will always feel guilty about that, how thankful I am that despite everything, she is happy with her life as it is now, and – when we eventually arrived back at assisted living – how lucky we are that she receives good care.

I grumble constantly about the increasing costs of this care, but on a day like today, when many different staffers helped her – aides assisting with wheelchair, activities staff welcoming her back, nurses going over the medical situation with her and me, another staffer getting her boyfriend so they could reconnect with each other – I feel less much grumbly about paying what seem to me the whopping costs of U.S. health care.

As for the best-laid plans, important phone calls still need to be made, birthday party shopping needs to be done and there will be no lunch outings as Mom needs to take it easy and not stress her leg too much for a while. I pray it heals well and quickly. We can still spend time together, thankfully, and we’re looking forward to celebrating her 91st birthday this weekend.

It’s been quite a day. Clive says, ‘That’s life with the wife … and the mother-in-law.’

Cheers and thanks for reading. Unless plans change again, next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

8 Responses

  1. Goodness Carol, what a challenging day for your mother. I’m so glad this accident didn’t force her to stay longer at the hospital, as it would have been so much more stressful. She looks great..please wish her a Happy Birthday from me.

  2. MarthaB, thank you! I will pass on your bday wishes.

    I too am thankful Mom didn’t have to remain in the hospital. By the time we were in the car she’d forgotten where we were or why we’d been there — such a terrible disease 😦 Mom has such a positive attitude and was/is a real trooper about this — I think her leg will be sore for some time but am praying it heals well.

  3. Hi Carolyn,

    Amidst all the angst you experienced I laughed out loud at Clives’s comment for your Mum to “shut her eyes and think of England!”.

    Thank goodness for everyone who cares.

    Happy Birthday to your Mum, and hope the party goes well.

    Best wishes,




  4. Hello Carolyn and Clive ,, Such a challenging day for your mum , she really did get great care not only at the hospital but with her care staffers ,they sound like amazing people. So lucky to have people like this to look after her and of course her boyfriend too. I hope her leg heals well and quickly too. Clive certainly deserves a son-in-law medal ,bless him ,, “Think of England ” made me laugh. Take care of yourself and have fun with your son and his girlfriend too , xo

  5. Oh Happy Birthday to your mum too x

  6. Ruth, you’re a sweetie! THanks for your comment and kind words — the ‘garden of England’ is a great thing to close one’s eyes and think about 🙂

    Anne, thank you too — the staffers are very good and we are lucky. It makes me smile that ‘close your eyes and think of England’ makes others smile!

  7. Hi Carolyn & Clivge,
    Get well soon, Ma’am! You have such loving family around you. You are truly blessed. Bravo to both Carolyn and Clive for being present. You are a very good man, Clive. A real gem. 🙂

  8. Barb you are a sweetie too! and I know you understand about being far away from our moms. I think both our hubbies are gems 🙂

    Hope to see you one of these days on your side of the Pond.

    Take care xx to you and Didier from C and C

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