I was shaking uncontrollably when my mother arrived, holding loosely over her head a long camo coat in dual shades of green from our resident rainwear supply.
"Charlie's coming," she said. My mother, 80, looked so little as she hovered above me. She had lost weight since my Dad's death this spring and weighed a mere 117 pounds—I knew because she'd recently recovered from a bad case of bronchitis and a double ear infection that required I take her to the health clinic in town. I had cared for her, helping her sort out the meds since she kept thinking she should take the antibiotic four times a day and the cough syrup only once, instead of vice versa. Now she said, "What can I do to help you?"
I was shaking so profoundly I had trouble getting her to understand my words. "Take my c-c-c-cell phone inside and d-d-dry it off. I'll need it." She took the phone and covered me with the raincoat she'd been wearing. "And be careful—it's so slick out here." I pulled the raincoat over my head—it covered most of me—to wait until help arrived.
After another minute or two I heard a man's voice. "Kathy, it's Charlie." I moved the raincoat aside so it shielded me from the rain, but allowed me to peek out. "I've called 9-1-1, but it will be a while till they can get here. What happened?" I gave him the shaky, Reader's Digest version. Pat, his wife, arrived too. Both stood over me in hooded raincoats. My mom arrived with an umbrella and several more jackets, which she used to cover my legs. Now, only the twisted foot remained uncovered.
"I wish I had a tarp or something, " Charlie said. He might not have had one, but we did—we had several on the shelves in the garage. I told him where to locate them. What I didn't factor in: like any 76-year-old Charlie needed light to see, we have no electricity in the garage, and the hurricane sky offered little light. He came back with our hot pink, fully inflated float. "This is all I could find," he said. "Here." He laid the lightweight float over the broken ankle.
Distracting me with chitchat was the best medicine available just then, and Pat and Charlie are masters of the form. Yet even they could find a limited number of things to talk about in such a situation. "I wish there was more I could do," my mother said during an awkward lull. My number one complaint at that point was the wet and the cold—my foot was screwed and I knew there was nothing to be done about that. It was then I remembered the rice socks.
I host writing retreats for women at the camp at the beginning and end of the summer season, when nights can be chilly in our unheated camp. So I keep tube socks filled with rice on top of the fridge—3 minutes in the microwave to heat them, slip them beneath the covers, and your bed will be toasty when you climb in. I asked my mother to heat me one. When she passed it under the raincoat to me a puddle of collected water spilled onto my face, but I took the sock and held it to my chest. When the heat dissipated some, I stuck it right beneath my shirt. I couldn't stop shivering—I assumed at this point that might be from shock—but I did draw some comfort from the heat source.
Pat went into our camp and found paper and pencil and opened the window so I could shout up to her with Dave's phone number. She said she'd call him as soon as the ambulance left.
EMTs were in the firehouse in Hermon when Charlie's call came in, so they responded instead of the crew from nearby Edwards. I had shivered on the ground about a half hour when I heard the beeping of the ambulance backing up. Charlie went to greet them. He told me later that the EMT said, "Where is she? I told you not to move her." To which Charlie replied, "That's her—down there, under that heap of coats."
I've heard they're canceling All My Children so feel free to stop in here daily for your daily fix instead! Sorry, no sex scenes, but plenty of drama. More tomorrow...