An unexpected trip

by | January 15, 2013

The author got more than she bargained during Thanksgiving Day.


BY: Dorothy Wilhelm


I didn’t do any travelling this Christmas. I took my trip for Thanksgiving. I had planned a Norman Rockwell-type feast with my son and his family. The house was warm and inviting. I helped out by not making my signature stuffing, a step universally applauded. There were all the makings of a memorable holiday, so naturally I put my best foot forward. Then I caught the other foot and tripped. 

In a move that would be hard to replicate in a “Dancing With The Stars” TV competition, I managed to fall against the dining room table, bounce effortlessly off the computer stand, and land with my head more or less impaled on the decorative but sharp bottom rail of an accessory table. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor surrounded by anxious family members I couldn’t quite recognise. I didn’t know who they were, but I didn’t know who I was either, so it was fair. They kept insisting it was Thanksgiving Day, but I had no memory of arriving for the festive meal so I lay there trying to look nonchalant while dripping enough gore from a scalp wound to satisfy Alfred Hitchcock and both Cohen Brothers. I could hear a young relative calling 911. “An elderly lady has fallen,” he said. Well that’s a relief. He couldn’t be talking about me. I’m certainly not elderly. Or I wasn’t when I got there.

The ambulance arrived with lights and siren, which I’m sure the neighbourhood appreciated very much. That’s how I ended up spending Thanksgiving in the Emergency Room. They did not serve turkey but I felt like one. And now I have seven staples in my head. This does not enable me to get radio broadcasts as I had hoped. I suppose I must need an antenna of some sort. It does seem to have let in a little fresh air though.


A serious matter

Falls like mine have to be taken seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, US, says the death rates from falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade. When you’re past 75, as I suppose I must admit I am, you are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer after a fall. In other words, I was very, very lucky.

Ok, I’ll admit it scared me. I’m especially worried about the fact that many older people become so frightened after a fall that they severely limit their activity and soon are unable to be fully independent. We have to stay active to survive. 

Take Santa Claus for instance. We know the jolly old elf is, well, old, and on the heavy side – he obviously doesn’t eat right. Still, all that going up and down chimneys and jumping onto reindeer has apparently paid off. He goes everywhere he wants. Regular exercise is important and the Centers for Disease Control says that tai chi is especially good.

So I’m off to my tai chi class this morning, wearing a fetching scarf, which makes me look alarmingly like my grandmother. This wouldn’t be bad, except she’s been dead for 50 years. It may not be truly fashionable but it does cover the two-inch shaved spot on my scalp, which looks sort of like pre-execution preparations. The staples are due to come out on Friday.

I’m determined to put on a happy face and look on the bright side. I’ll be able to do it if I don’t run out of under-eye concealer.


An update

NOTE: At this writing, the staples are out and I’m doing well, but I do have a permanent trench across the back of my head to remind me of the need to be both active and careful. I have physical therapy twice a week and am concentrating on core strengthening activities.  

At the hospital on Thanksgiving, my son and I had a surprisingly good visit. We reminisced about other holidays and had just worked our way back to our years in Bangkok and Taiwan, where he dropped his brother in a “benjo ditch” (an Oriental solution for the toilet), when the word finally came that we could leave. “Good,” he said, “we’ve about wrung all the joy we can out of the evening anyway.”

So here’s to a happy year in 2013. May you wring all of the joy possible out of the months ahead but please don’t forget, you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you don’t take any unexpected trips. 


Dorothy Wilhelm, 79, is a professional humorist and national speaker in the US, as well as a mother of six. She is also the author of the teeny tiny book called “No Assembly Required” and last year released “No Assembly Required, Volume 2” (Laughing All The Way).





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