When Life is Like Drinking from a Firehose



The phone rings at 2:30 am.  Never a good sign. My smartphone lights up the space next to my bed, both the sound and the light bouncing off the window sill where it rests. Unknown caller. The only unknown caller I know too well. It’s my mother, who on this April 6th morning is stoically on the brink of her 89th birthday just four days away.

“I am in agony.” She says.

“Your hip?” I ask.

I hear her halted breath, “Yes…You need to get here.”

My mind races. Mikelle sleeps soundly in the next room and leaving her here alone is not an option. Mom needs to get to the hospital. Time slows down as I race through the possibilities thinking even Wonder Woman can’t be in two places at once.

“Mom, call 911.” I know at the minimum, it will be nearly an hour before I can get there.

Struggling to speak, “Okay.”

“Mom, I’ll meet you at the hospital.” Little did I know she then had to crawl down six stairs to let the paramedics into her home, the home my father built.  A point of discussion for later—there is a technology solution here.

Immediately, I call my son, Kasey. It goes straight to voicemail. I call his wife and I hear, “Please leave a message.” And, I do.

Taylor is next on my list. She answers the phone.  “I’m leaving now.”

Then, Kasey calls back. “Be there in ten minutes.”

Kasey arrives first. “Tell Grandma to hang in there.” I grab the keys and run down the steps.

The darkness of the morning settles my beating heart. The air is refreshing and helps clear my mind. I take a deep breath knowing everything has changed–at least for the short term.

Remain calm I whisper to myself.

The rental car starts with no effort. While new, it is a poor replacement for Mikelle’s van which sits at the collision repair shop stranding Mikelle from most of her usual activities. We had an unfortunate meeting on a peaceful Sunday evening with another car who failed to acknowledge a stop sign.

The streets are empty at this hour. I reach for my phone and call my sister, a forest ranger who lives two hours away in Laramie, Wyoming. I get her voicemail. Within minutes, she calls back. I can hear her packing in the background and know she will arrive as quickly as physically possible.

The hospital is twenty minutes away. Arriving, I assume the main entrance is open. It is not. We have been here before, after all, Mom has had both hips replaced. The emergency room is on the other side of this large facility. I contemplate whether to walk or drive realizing the fastest route is to get in the car. I reach our mutual destination before she does. The ER is empty except for the receptionist.  Taking my place in the waiting room, I pace, then sit and worry.

It is bad. The X-rays are brutal, her new implant has split the femur. There is no choice, and she has a bone fracture and needs surgery. Two major operations within two weeks, I’m concerned.

Like many of you reading this blog, I am a woman caught in the middle of multiple priorities.

Daily drives to the hospital and rehabilitation center, Mikelle’s dental surgery, taxes, and juggling rental cars and car repairs. The first rental was the last one on the lot and not suitable for Mikelle. The next had a flat tire and finally, we settle on an SUV but getting Mikelle in and out of a Subaru Forester is a two-person job. Lots of conversations with the insurance company as they attempt to total a van with only 80,000 miles. It is non-stop action.

and my much-needed trip to Florida canceled. Trip was insured but more paperwork needed.

Mom comes home. She is on the mend but needs help with her beautiful gardens and our family home.  The insurance company decided not to total the van. But two weeks after we get it back, a person running across a busy street is hit by a car in front of Mikelle and Liz, her support person. Traffic is tight. There is no place to go even though they try. Another frantic call.

I arrive on the scene with two firetrucks blocking traffic. The newly repaired van sits motionless in the middle of the street, a puddle of steaming liquid drips from the engine. Mikelle’s face is illuminated in blue and red flashing lights as she sits on a nearby sidewalk. My son, Kasey, is on-scene admirably stepping in for me as I rush from Mom’s from across town. Liz calmly switches attention between Mikelle and the police officers writing their report.

“Mom, how do we get Mikelle home?” Kasey asks.

“Have the police officers call Access-a-Ride.”  Within minutes we are all there. The tow truck driver hooks the van to wench it, dragging the lifeless vehicle on to his rig. I think, Two weeks and back in the shop. I call the insurance company, knowing we will have many further discussions about fixing it.

Gratefully, everyone is safe and calm.

From these experiences, here are a few takeaways which you might find helpful during those times when you feel like you are drinking from a firehose and everything is coming at you —all at once.

  • Let go of what you can’t control.
  • Let others step in where they can.
  • Delegate what you can.
  • Clear the calendar of additional obligations.
  • Learn how to say no.
  • Remember, sleep is essential—this is not the area to sacrifice.
  • Call on your friends for support.
  • Enjoy the small moments.
  • Turn off the news.
  • Take time to smell the flowers, sip your tea, and focus on what is relevant now.

Celebrating all of you Wonder Women this month of May!  BTW, I did make it to Florida. My sister came down to stay with Mom and all I did was read and sleep and eat grouper sandwiches on the beach.  We must squeeze in breaks where we can.