I guess now it’s Christmas

By Mir
December 28, 2011

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.


  1. Aimee

    Oh no! Poor Otto’s Mom! I hope she’s feeling better VERYVERY soon. And of course it wasn’t Otto’s fault. Of course not, but I do understand why he feels that way because I’d probably be doing the exact same thing.

    You’re right, though. There are easier ways to get dessert.

  2. Megan

    I feel for Otto – I tend to assume everything in the world is my fault too!

    What a horrid way to end a holiday – hope there’s a speedy recovery and not too much sugarless hospital jello.

  3. Kris

    I’m so very glad that Mrs. Otto’s Mom is going to be ok. We’ve had similar situations in our family. One year my dad didn’t know what to get my mom for her birthday (which is also St. Patty’s Day, btw). So he had a heart attack. She told him, “You know, instead of trying to get out of shopping, you could have just given me money in a card instead.” Most people didn’t understand that it was their way of dealing with the stressful situation. Dad was always the first to make jokes like that. Yeah, we’re a kinda weird and funny family, too. Give Otto a squeeze from a total stranger and let him know we’re pretty sure he’s still on the good kid list. :)

  4. Lynn in Mass

    Wow. First, I have to say in a slight way I am glad to hear that it is not just my hubby that gets sick while we are away.
    Second, What a way to end the holidays. I hope your mother in-law does well in surgery and recovers quickly.
    I hope you and your family have a safe trip back to GA.

  5. Beth R

    Oh, no! Gentle hugs to both Otto and Otto’s Mom and please let Otto know that we’re all dope smacking him for thinking it’s his fault (while understanding completely, of course).

  6. Brian

    How awful! We broke my mother-in-law one year, on Thanksgiving, no fun at all. Hope she is doing better soon.

  7. Lucinda

    Clearly it’s not Christmas without a crisis. I think your family needs a better motto. Hoping Otto’s mom is able to go home soon and her recovery goes smoothly.

  8. Mandy

    Remember a few weeks ago when Otto decided to celebrate his half-birthday in the springtime? Same deal for Christmas, I think. One of my colleagues has Christmas in July with her family. No snow, no crowded stores, and perhaps less illness? Unless you count hay fever.

  9. Kelly

    Oh no! We were just talking here about how the holidays almost always mean illness for family. This year all the men-folk were the sick ones for Christmas Eve and now its spreading to the girls… strep for everyone!

  10. Arnebya

    Christmas Crises. Sheesh indeed! Wishing Otto’s mom a successful surgery and speedy recovery. And wishing Otto some guilt-free thoughts.

  11. meghann

    Like I said last night, I’m hoping for no complications, and sending many speedy healing vibes from down here in Georgia.

    Now, Otto, pay attention, because I know sometimes you read these comments. I have two questions for you: A.) Are you psychic? or B.) Did you push her off the curb?

    No? Then guess what kiddo, it’s NOT your fault.

  12. bonuela

    merry christmas, enjoy your BRAND NEW hip!! when my dad got his new hip he got a fresh rose every day. (a n.e. baptist hospital tradition) i’ve never seen dad give mom flowers and all of a sudden she needs a new hip. coincidence? i think not. wonder if i got her a dozen roses she’d forgo the surgery?

  13. liz

    There’s a school of thought that says that many hip breaks happen before the fall, and are, in fact the CAUSE of the fall, instead of the result.

    I hope your Mother-in-Law heals quickly.

  14. RuthWells

    Oh Mir, I’m so sorry. I hope she heals quickly. My FIL broke his hip this fall, so I have a taste of what you all are facing now. : ( Sending good wishes.

  15. Mara

    Oh, no. I wish a speedy recovery for Otto’s mom!

  16. Lori

    Very weird, same thing happened to my grandmother at almost the exact time of the year. We went day-after-Christmas shopping, and my grandmother slipped in the rain on the curb at the mall. It did mean an extended visit, which was awesome. Hope your MIL heals quickly, and tell Otto I felt the same way…

  17. Tracy B

    Oh no..I’m so sorry! I hope she’s better in no time!

  18. Crista

    Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way. Praying also for a good recovery.
    Good thinking, Mir, in pulling Monkey back. I can’t even imagine how he would have reacted if he was near when she fell.
    Otto, I chime in with all the rest that is was not your fault. Sh*t happens. I’m just so very sorry it happened to your mother after all that she’s already been through.
    I hope today is a better day.

  19. Golden

    Oh no. :(
    So if she up here in Boston now? Tell me where she is and I will bring her some diabetic friendly cake. :)

  20. Angela

    Oh no, poor mama! So sorry for Mom and Otto, and he was even trying to prevent the fall! That just stinks.

  21. Therese

    I’m thinking maybe you guys should skip Christmas altogether. You seem to have some kind of holiday jinx or something. What did you do to piss off Santa and his elves???

  22. All Adither

    The hip: the achilles heel of the older person. Blergh. I hope your MIL feels better quickly.

  23. Jeanie

    What a sad ending to a happy evening. I hope your MIL isn’t in too much pain and gets well soon.

  24. gilly

    sending prayers for a quick recovery, for everybody. Also please tell your mom-in-law 2 things
    1. the exercises are key to good recovery
    2. to try get into a swimming pool program ( ask the hospital)
    I found that advice to be crucial and really helped my recovery

  25. addy

    Good thoughts for a speedy recovery for all. And the the sweets would have been cheaper ya know….

  26. Reb

    How awful. I hope she recovers really well.

  27. steff

    Wow..just as I made sure my own Grandma made it in to her cozy home Christmas night, the ambulance and fire truck showed up to take care of her best friend who fell and broke her hip too!

    Hoping for a speedy recovery!

  28. mamaspeak

    I’m glad everyone seems to be ok, and know your family is in our prayers. Otto’s Mom; Next time you want a new body part, ask everyone to put money in the kitty, in lieu of gifts. If you want an ambulance ride, I would bet money that Monkey can do a mean siren & there will be money left for (diabetic) sweets after.

  29. Lise

    Sending many good wishes for healing and pain relief to Otto’s mom. I totally understand the need for humor in such situations. When my teenaged daughter was hit by an SUV while crossing the street she earned the nicknames “Speedbump” and “Roadkill.”

  30. Heather

    Oh dear! I wish her a good recovery!

  31. Natasha

    I am so so sorry! I hope that she has a speedy recovery and that Otto knows he can’t fix everything, all of the time.

    Says the girl burying another family member today.

  32. Kendra

    As the sister-in-law, I must remind you (and Otto) that, unfortunately, the calamity ensues even when you’re not here. If you remember, year 3, when you stayed home, she was taken out on a stretcher right before Christmas dinner.
    So I’m with Lucinda–it’s time to get a new motto for Christmas…I would risk sounding way too “new agey” if I weighed in on what I thought the motto should be.

    Safe travels…the boys are going to miss their live in playmate/older cousin :)

  33. Katie K.

    I will send prayers her way. Otto could not have been standing on both sides of her. He may be good, but not that good! It is not his fault.

  34. Kate

    So sorry that happened. Hope she mends quickly

  35. Chris

    It is to bad that things will just work out this way even if you try to avoid them. I have seen the same thing happen for my family.

    When we head to grandmas house, somebody will get sick. Usually it is me!

  36. Kira

    When we were visiting my mil this summer, she fell twice. Once because she was dodging my two-year-old, who was racing around, being feral as usual. She was okay, thank God, with just a small foot fracture. But watching her fall was such a helpless, awful feeling. Everything is fine, and then a second later, there is all this possibility for life-changing damage. Such a helpless, and yes, guilty feeling.
    Otto and you have all my sympathy and love.

  37. Another Dawn

    Oh, yowch! Poor Otto’s mom! I hope she’s up and about soon.

    And poor Otto. It’s all bad enough with guilt beating you up, too.

  38. Katie in MA

    Yikes! I was wondering about the backstory when I heard what happened. Hope she is recovering well and no one has given in to the desperate lengths she’s gone to in order to secure dessert. :)

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