Mistress of the Mix: The Pedestrian Never Wins

I feel bad about it, but I honestly wasn’t paying attention. When Hurricane Harvey was blowing down houses, killing families and turning entire towns into lakes, I didn’t even know. When the Helena fire ripped through Trinity county and people were literally jumping from cliffs to escape the flames that devoured almost 80 houses in a matter of hours, I had no idea. People kept asking me if I’d heard about what happened in North Korea, and my response was “Huh?”

A crap ton of other catastrophes happened the last week of August and on into the first week of September as well, and none of it was on my radar. Our trainwreck of a President made two racist announcements: that he’d pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and next on his agenda was shutting down the Dream Act (and all this right after he signed a directive to ban transgender military troops). And then Hurricane Irma came knocking.

Trying to catch up on the news for just one week has left me feeling completely ignorant, but I think I have a pretty good excuse. The entire world pretty much stopped turning for me and my entire family the day my mom entered battle with a Honda Accord.

It was a matchup like Mayweather vs. MacGregor. In this case the Honda was Mayweather, my mom, Gigi, was MacGregor. Car vs. Pedestrian. And she never saw it coming. TKO. But mom says she’ll always remember the horrific feeling of being slammed into unexpectedly, that jolt she experienced just before she lost consciousness. She was crossing Pearl Street a few Wednesdays ago, in Eugene to volunteer planning a fundraising gala for Ophelia’s Place, a non-profit that supports and empowers young teenage women. Then she woke up on the pavement with broken bones. Everything was bruised, she was bleeding from the head with holes in her clothes, her bra was cut off (and it was a really nice bra), and  her ruby red toenail polish was scraped off. But when a pedestrian enters the ring with a car, the pedestrian never wins.

It was a teenager that hit her. A sixteen-year old driving his mom’s Honda in the left lane of a one-way street with a speed limit of 25 mph. We’re guessing he might have been going about that fast when he hit my mom, who had almost reached the other side of the street when the lights went out. We don’t know yet what the real circumstances were. Did he not see her because she, just like the street, was covered in black material? Did he see her and just think she’d get out of the way because – duh – he’s bigger? Was he distracted by Snapchat, a Facebook post, or a text from a friend? We have no idea. What we do know is that my eighty two year old mom is lucky to be alive, and lucky that doctors were able to repair her fractured tibia just below the knee where his bumper connected with her leg, and her broken humerus just beneath the left shoulder. She has a total of seventeen deck screws holding those parts of her body together. To quote my husband, “We always knew your mom was tough as nails. Now we have the X-rays to prove it.”

Our family has been relying on humor to get us through this devastating course of events. Turns out that making someone laugh is a really good way to get things going when one has a bedpan underneath them. Another fun fact: turns out my mom has a really dirty sense of humor. I put a request out there on Facebook asking my friends for a few good jokes to share with mom as I sat by her hospital bedside for 3 days, and her favorite was: Why does the Easter Bunny hide his eggs? Cause he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s been doin’ the chickens.

Since the accident, my sister and I have been taking turns staying by our mother’s side. She took the first 3 days, when mom was flying on morphine and undergoing surgeries, talking with doctors and getting the facts about how long they thought it would be before mom could walk again (a year). I took the next 3, driving 5 hours north and spending hours on the phone with eight insurance companies, trying to figure out how to advocate for my mom and figure out how to start planning for the long year ahead of her.

I won’t go into all of the dirty details involved with advocating for someone’s care right now, but what I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that it’s exhausting to love someone as much as they need to be loved during a catastrophic illness or injury, but it’s the most important thing you can do for someone you love. And it is not a thankless job. Every day my mother tells us how much she appreciates her daughters and everyone who has visited or sent a card or care package.

The family has been rallying around her, and the nurses say my mom has the liveliest room in the place since she transferred from the hospital in Eugene to a skilled nursing facility in Ashland. We all showed up for a big pizza party and football game last weekend because if Gigi can’t go to the party, the party goes to Gigi. We ended up shutting the door and setting up a big fan in the corner to help circulate all the hot air that had gathered in one room and cheered the Ducks to victory. It’s probably a good thing my mom doesn’t have a roommate right now.

Mom will stay at the rehab place until she’s well enough to continue the healing in her own home, hopefully within a few months and after a few modifications to the house. My mom will survive. Gigi’s got things to do, places to go, and charitable fundraisers to organize. She wants to be independently mobile again in the worst way possible, and is operating at 120% of her brain capacity. That’s why we call her Tenacious G.

Mom’s favorite CNA, John, teaching her how to transfer from bed to wheelchair.

So that’s why I wasn’t really paying attention when the rest of the world burned up, flooded out and fell apart, but I had some important stuff going on. But I’ve fund that trying to catch up on all the news that happened during that time is a little overwhelming. Good thing I’ve got a playlist full of wind, rain, firestorms, broken limbs and speeding cars. And there’s even a few filled with North Korean political intrigue, I hope you’ll check out the Spotify playlist below. Maybe you’ve got your own songs about all the crazy events going on in the world these days, and I’ll be happy to entertain them in the comments section below. And if you’ve got a good joke to share, Gigi would still like to hear it, although she has graduated to a bedside commode now with the help of something called a transfer pole. But I like to tell people that my mother is learning how pole dance.

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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