The Beginning of the End

The beginning of the end was the day she fell. “I did not fall,” she said. “I sat down.” It’s customary when you see an 86-year-old woman lying by the side of the road that you call the paramedics, which the passersby did. “If it hadn’t been for the paramedics, I would have been fine.” She was on her daily walk through the neighborhood hills, up to her favorite high point where on a clear day you can see the open expanse of Orange County before you, the broad peak of Mt. San Gorgonio behind. The paramedics put her on a stretcher. “They strapped me down and wouldn’t let me up.” They checked her vitals, “You should see the bruises on my thighs where they buckled the strap,” and prepared to take her to the hospital for tests. “Whatever you do, don’t call the paramedics. You’re better off without them.” Soon the firemen arrived, “I prefer firemen,” to find her arguing with the paramedics. “Take me home.” The firemen said if she wants to go home, take her home. The neighbor lady was out front when the ambulance pulled up, and she helped her inside. The paramedics told the neighbor to make sure she was seen by a doctor, “What good is a doctor going to do me?” and suggested in the meantime she walk no farther than the cul-de-sac out front. “For heaven’s sake, I was on house arrest.” After that she lost her confidence. First she walked around the cul-de-sac, as the paramedics had prescribed, and then around the front yard, and then around the living room, and then from her bed to the living room, and then from her bed to the bathroom, and then from her bed, with a caregiver’s help, to the wheelchair, and then she didn’t get up to walk again.

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