The thing is, there are lots of things to love about Georgia, but it’s really far away from our families, which is kind of a drag. I mean, it’s not as bad as when I lived in California—we’re all in the same time zone, at least—but it still means that visiting is kind of A Production, and there are times when that’s difficult.
So when we first moved down here, we said hey, we’ll come back for Christmas every year. The first year we had a good trip, though I did end up getting an ear infection and calling my doctor back in Georgia to beg for meds and sending Otto out looking for an open pharmacy on Christmas Eve. (Deck the Halls with Zithromaxes, fa la la la laaaaa….)
The second year, well, Nearly Nickless shared his stomach bug with me, and we spent Christmas Eve in the ER.
After all of that big fun, the third year we decided to just stay home. We promised to alternate years, and return the next year.
Last year—year four—we canceled our trip because everyone got the flu, and it was a crummy Christmas, indeed.
But THIS year (year five!), I sat down with my family in early December. “It’s December!” I started, because I like to belabor the obvious. “It’s December and that means we are going home for Christmas in a few weeks, and NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO GET SICK. Is that clear?” The children snickered and giggled through their “Yes, ma’am”s but I was NOT KIDDING. We hadn’t been up here in years and I was NOT going to have another ruined trip.
December crept by, and all was well. No one got terribly sick. (We shared a cold, but no biggie.)
My ex came down and fetched the kids. Otto and Licorice and I drove up. The kids had a nice week with their dad and Otto and Licorice and I had a good time visiting my folks and visiting Otto’s family. We were reunited and had a very merry Christmas and Otto and I may have high-fived at one point, full of the hubris of the Not Ruined Christmas.
Last night we picked up my mother-in-law—just our little family, after days of extended family gatherings—and took her out to dinner. Because we’re the only non-local kids and we haven’t been here for years, it was obviously a treat for her get to spend some time with Chickadee and Monkey. We went to one of those chain restaurants, and the food was surprisingly not-horrible. Monkey chattered happily. Chickadee put about a stick of butter on her broccoli. We talked and ate and had a wonderful time.
Chickadee grabbed the dessert menu as things were winding down, and both Otto and I made Meaningful Eyebrows at her as we quietly told her we wouldn’t be having dessert. (Otto’s mom is diabetic but has an unquenchable sweet tooth; it’s best just to skip any possibility of her eating something she shouldn’t.)
Finally it was time to go, and we gathered our coats and thing and wound our way outside, where it had begun raining lightly, and I pulled Monkey back from my mother-in-law so that Otto could walk next to her, and as we approached the end of the sidewalk I called out for Otto to make sure he held her arm, because she can be a little unsteady. Otto dutifully took her arm, warned her of the step down, and stepped off the sidewalk with her.
It’s one of those things, you know, it seems to happen in slow motion. You see it unfolding in agonizing frame-by-frame stop-motion but somehow there’s just not enough time to do anything about it.
Otto had her left arm, but it was her right foot that somehow rolled, which meant she went down, falling away from him in such a way that he couldn’t catch her.
We managed to get her back up to sitting on the curb, but it quickly became apparent that she was either too badly hurt or too freaked out for us to be able to get her into the car, so we had to call 911 and have an ambulance come for her. By this time, the rain had picked up, my poor mother-in-law was sitting on the curb shivering, we were trying to keep her dry, an off-duty fireman had come by to help, the restaurant manager was nervously hovering (I finally got so annoyed with her I strategically maneuvered myself between her and my mother-in-law and said, “You can go inside. We’re not going to sue the restaurant.” She laughed, nervously, and said that “for liability reasons” she needed to stay there), Monkey was starting to melt down (“Is Grammie okay??”), and Otto was getting That Look.
This is a guy thing, right? That Look? Otto is fantastic in a crisis. Unflappable. He was being The Guy In Charge, totally capable, comforting his mom, relaying information to the paramedics, etc. But underneath that look I knew he was thinking “This is all my fault.”
(Please note that no one thinks it’s his fault. My mother-in-law, unfortunately, has enough health issues going on that it’s not uncommon for her to fall. There’s no blaming happening here. But my darling husband likes to take the weight of the world on his shoulders.)
Eventually they were ready to transport her to the hospital, and I took the kids back to the house while Otto rode with his mom.
Many hours and countless text messages amongst the siblings and sibling-in-laws later, the verdict was delivered: Broken hip. They would be transferring my mother-in-law to the hospital in Boston where she’d had her transplant surgery “just to be safe” for the necessary surgery.
I texted Otto: “Please tell your mother that if she’d wanted dessert that badly, she couldn’t just ASKED. Sheesh.”
He replied: “I already told her that.”
A sense of humor is necessary in these situations, you know. Especially, it seems, if you are our family at Christmastime.