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Our holiday celebration was paltry that year, thanks to the excessive furnace repair. Mike finally got over his flu, and winter slipped into a welcome spring with its emerging flowers and longer days.

On doctor-appointment trips, we’d stop to check on my mother. Once a month I’d balance her checking account, noticing that her arithmetic skills were failing—like adding, rather than subtracting monies spent. I’d try to explain it to her, but she’d just smile and offer fresh coffee. So I’d smile back. "Wish it worked that way, Mom." I began then to show a balance in her checkbook that was a couple of hundred dollars less than true, hoping it would keep her from writing a bad check.

I gathered up her financial records as well, and we took her to the CPA in Edmonds to get her taxes done. We’d stop for a quick lunch, then take her home. Saying goodbye was not an easy task. She’d smile and pretend everything was fine, then think up item after item to tell, to keep us from leaving. Oftentimes she’d walk along with our vehicle as we backed out of the driveway.

With bittersweet emotions, I’d drive away, leaving her standing at the door of our old family home, watching and waving. She looked so small, so fragile, so terribly lonesome. I held my tears.

But chores were waiting for me at home—cooking, cleaning, shopping, doing laundry, assisting Mike when needed, and fulfilling book orders. Beyond that were doctor appointments—blood pressure checks, blood tests, mammograms and dental visits for me. Internist, surgeon, prosthetist and eye doctor visits for Mike.

When an older couple approached us about buying two of our eight lots, we jumped at the chance. After a survey to establish the correct property lines, we closed the deal—a boon to our dwindling finances. The buyers had a double-wide manufactured home installed, and soon their place was neatly landscaped and fenced.

That sale, in essence, brought our purchase price down to our original target amount, and helped with medical expenses. It also afforded repairs to the old motorhome—new muffler, new brakes, valve work and front end suspension. It wasn’t cheap, but visiting with our Rving friends eased our stress levels and became the highlight of our existence.

That, and the continued growth of the sales of my newsletter book. With our bank account becoming healthier, we decided it was time to trade in the repair-burdened Jidosha on something newer, with an automatic transmission. We chose a blue, "previously owned", 1986 Ford Tempo four-door sedan. Though loading the wheelchair into the trunk caused more back pain for me, that was offset by the ease of driving back and forth through stop-and-go traffic to medical appointments without all the manual shifting.

Mike turned 55 that June of 1990, and eleven days later, I marked 50. No celebration. No cake. No gifts, but we each received a birthday card or two in the mail that made us smile.

In July we discovered a small sore on the bottom of Mike’s left foot. Immediately I called the surgeon in north Seattle and made an appointment. He took a look, showed me how to clean and bandage the wound—twice daily—and gave Mike a prescription for antibiotics. We left with an appointment for the following week, a scenario that would repeat itself again and again.

With the doctor’s cautious approval, we took nine days off in mid-August to attend an RV rally in Kennewick, then on to visit Mount Saint Helens, then family friends in Randle (where we spent three days getting the alternator on the motorhome replaced), then to another rally at Castle Rock, then home.

Chasing doctor appointments became our focus, with trips to Seattle at least twice a week—a 140 mile round-trip to the surgeon, to the internist, to the prosthetist, stopping to check on my mother at the family home in Edmonds.

I’ll not forget the time we drove into her driveway after a long day of doctor visits. Instinctively I knew that something was wrong. I grabbed my purse, pulled out the key for Mom’s house, and when she didn’t answer the door bell, let myself in.

"Mom?" I called.

No answer.

I smelled smoke, and went to the kitchen to find a pot of potatoes sitting on a red hot burner, about to burst into flame. I pulled them aside and turned off the burner.

"Mom? You here?"

No answer.

The kitchen faucet was running full bore. Hot water. I stepped over to turn it off, and discovered water all over the floor, so I grabbed a couple of kitchen towels and threw them down to start absorbing. Next I rounded a corner into the breakfast nook, and saw the back door into the garage was open and the garage lights were on. I hurried out. "Mom? Mom?"

No answer.

I rushed back into the laundry room, as lights were on there, too.

No mother.

I turned off the lights on my way back into the kitchen. Shut the back door, and then saw my mother in the dining room, looking up at Mike.

"Are you here too?" she asked him, quietly. Her little pink nightie was bloody. My heart jumped with fear.

"Ahh … yep," he answered, then turned to me, a bewildered look in his eyes.

I approached my mother. "What happened, Mom?"

She smiled at me, but didn’t respond. She looked dazed. I wasn’t convinced that she knew who I was. Thoughts of a break-in, of someone beating her and God knows what else, raced into my mind.

"Keep her in sight, Mike," I said. "I’m going to call Norm."

I hurried to the phone in the breakfast nook and dialed my younger brother’s number, praying that he’d be home.

"Hello…"

"Hi. Norm. I’m at Mom’s. There’s trouble here … I need your help." I quickly explained about the water, the burnt spuds, blood on Mom. "Can you come right away?"

"Uhhhhh. Let me make a phone call, and I’ll be right there."

"Okay. Thanks." I hung up and headed again for Mom.

"Let’s get you cleaned up." I gently took her arm and guided her to the bathroom. I wrung out a washcloth and began cleaning the blood off her arm and hand. I saw only minor scrapes, and deduced that she’d taken a fall when getting out of bed too fast—something my Dad had mentioned happened from time to time. They suspected her blood pressure medicine.

After I’d dried her off, I led her to her bedroom to find some clothes. She balked at any suggestion from me. Then she picked up a pink, quilted pull-on top and sat on the bed to put it on—feet-first into the sleeves. She stood up and tried to pull it up, like a pair of pants. I couldn’t stop myself, I giggled out loud—she looked like some cartoon character out of Mad Magazine!

"Mom. This is not a pair of pants." I tugged lightly on a sleeve. "It’s a top. Let’s take it off, and put it on over your head."

She looked confused—agitated almost—but eventually let me remove it and help her put it on where it belonged. Poignant, that moment, when I realized this was more than a morning fall—something must have gone wrong in her brain. I knew she needed more help than I could give. She needed a hospital, and I would take her there as soon as I could get her dressed.


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