Friday, March 22, 2013

#Slice 2013: 22 of 31- The Gift of Living

During the month of March, I have been participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at I have started a new blog, inspired by the fact that I've been trying to do more creative writing This post is part of a series about gifts that I am working on, inspired by The Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed. My father had a serious accident eleven years ago and I have been trying to figure out a way to write about it ever since. I'm trying to through this series of memoirs about the gifts he has given me and my family members throughout our lives. My posts up until now have mostly been happy--memoirs of a great dad. This one is about his accident. It was hard to write.

For the first posts in the series, you would have to link up to 

The Gift of Living

My father fell almost eleven years ago. My mother called our house late in the afternoon. Nine months pregnant, I was sitting on a chair in the driveway watching my three girls play. My husband's parents were in the house, having just arrived for a visit. I had the phone by my chair.

"Something's happened to Dad," my mother said. Her words were choppy and she sounded like she was taking breaths in between them.

I know it's a cliche, but my heart really did freeze for a second before she continued. I had never heard her talk like that.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

She tried to explain but she couldn't talk well.

"I'll be right there. Wait for me," I said.

Joyce and Ron came out and knew something was wrong. They assured me that they would be fine with the girls. Ron wanted to drive me down to my parents' house but I wanted to drive myself.

"I'm okay," I said. But I wasn't. "It's only a mile."

I drove down to my parents' house where my brother and mother were waiting for me. A neighbor was going to drive us to the hospital since the helicopter had already left. Life Star would get my father to the operating room faster than an ambulance.

When I got there and touched my brother, he was raw and fell onto the grass, pulling some of it out. His pants and hands were bloody and I had no idea at that time what he had been through. "I couldn't catch him," he said. "I'm so sorry." He kept repeating that he couldn't catch him as he sat up and held his head in his hands.

Gradually, I pieced together what had happened. Charlie had come over to repair my parents' mailbox that someone had hit with a baseball bat the night before. Since my father had had his hip replaced a few weeks earlier, he was on crutches. Five days away from walking without them. Five days. Dad had wanted to check out what Charlie was doing in the basement. He couldn't stand not helping fix the dumb mailbox. He was a surgeon, a doctor at the top of his game, and he liked to be in charge. But as he stood at the top of his stairs, he forgot to put the crutches on the step first and not his foot. He led with his foot and dove down the stairs. Headfirst, he landed at the bottom of the stairs on the cement. His hands were scraped and his watch was cracked from where he must have tried to protect himself, but his head took the brunt of his fall.

Charlie, having just completed his medical training, had spent many hours in emergency rooms saving people and he screamed for my mom to call 911. My father was unconscious and his eyes turned instantly black, a condition that Charlie offered a name for but I don't remember. Not a good sign.

"Stay with me, Dad," Charlie kept saying. My mom told me about this later during the many hours that we sat in the waiting room of the neuro-ICU. Stay with me.

When the paramedics arrived, they tried to intubate my father and they couldn't. Finally, Charlie took the tube from them and he did it. One of the paramedics is my friend and he told me about how unbelievable Charlie had been on that afternoon in the basement. Truly, he had saved my father's life.

A helicopter landed in our neighbors' yard and Dad flew to the roof of Hartford Hospital where he stayed for several days until he was stable enough to transfer to a different hospital that specializes in rehabilitation of brain injuries.

Dad's gift to us that day was living. He lived. He is different now, and we are, too. But, living is an incredible gift.

Enjoy your gifts and please be careful on stairs. We are.


  1. Oh, Melanie. I have goosebumps reading this! Then tears. I am so, so sorry. And you have told the story so well. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been to write…

  2. Melanie, I read this with tears in my eyes. Thank you for giving me the answer to my question from yesterday. Thank you for this post.

  3. Melanie, you have told this story in a beautiful way. Each paragraph built upon the previous. I know this was a terrible time, but how wonderful that your brother had the skill to help your dad when the paramedics couldn't. These sentences were powerful,"Dad's gift to us that day was living. He lived. He is different now, and we are, too." Beautiful!

  4. Your Dad stayed with you...what an incredible story.

  5. I held my breath to the end. My heart is still pounding. I have elderly parents who still reside on their farm. I hear of mishaps or near-disaster experiences long after they happen. I keep worrying that a day like this... or worse... might come.

    Funny, but I wanted to blame the person who smashed the mailbox... if that hadn't happened... but then I think, "If that had not happened, maybe your brother would not have been there. Maybe the fall would have happened anyway. Maybe the mailbox is why he lived."

    My heart is with you. I will always remember your story.

  6. I was caught up in this story from the very beginning. I alternated between holding my breath and swallowing the lump in my throat. This is powerful writing. Thank you for sharing your story today. I'm sure it was difficult to write.

  7. Dad's gift to us that day was living. He lived. He is different now, and we are, too. But, living is an incredible gift.

    Enjoy your gifts and please be careful on stairs. We are.

    This says it all for me. Thank you for sharing this close-to-heart slice of your life.

  8. I am so impressed that you are able to write about this. It is so true that you got a gift that day when your father lived. I know it must be difficult to have him be different now but it is an incredible story. How awful for your brother to go through that traumatic experience...I hope he has been able to let go of the guilt he obviously felt that he hadn't been able to get to the stairs to catch your dad. Powerful story.