Counting on the Fall
Let me begin by saying Iâ€™m Jewish. This means that whenever the home phone rings, it is more than likely someone has died. Or worse.
Very early Tuesday morning, the phone rang. I knew it wasnâ€™t going to be good news. From the bedroom, I heard Mary answer on the 2nd ring as I pulled the covers over my head and closed my eyes. As soon as I heard Mary say â€śAnd what hospital is she inâ€”â€ś I knew it was my sister Robin and I knew, at that hour, she had to have had a bike accident. My eyes opened wide as I mentally sorted through my closet and picked the outfit I was going to wear to her funeral. For a split second before my warm feet hit the cold hardwood floor, I became worried that I wouldnâ€™t fit into that outfit. On the short walk down the hall corridor, I said a prayer of gratitude that I had her as long as I did and wondered out loud how it had taken 17 years for her to finally crash into a tree and kill herself.
Mary was still on the phone when I walked into the kitchen, a look of concern on her face. She made a motion for me to step into my office so we could talk away from my daughterâ€™s young ears.
Robin had indeed fallen during a long, early morning bike ride and had broken her clavicle, her pelvis, several ribs and sustained a concussion. All of her injuries would heal. Mary gave me the phone and although Robin was a bit incoherent, it was clear that she could still use her voice, her cell phone, her morphine button, and nobody’s opinion.
Nevertheless I sat and cried over my big sister falling off her bike for about 5 minutes. Hysterical, wet, snotty, loud, sobbing cries until my daughter came in and asked me what was wrong. “Oh, nothing, Sarah (snort). Eema just stubbed her big toe (sniff)”. Given my history, I was sure she would buy it. She didnâ€™t.
OK, sheâ€™s alive, I thought. Now Iâ€™m pissed. Why must she ride that bike for that long at that hour on that pair of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen twin tires? â€śMy sister! Jesus fucking Christ are we even related?â€ť I whispered loudly to Mary as I put that fabulous black cocktail dress back in the closet. Then I got online to find a flight to Boston. Oh, I wasnâ€™t going to be angry in Pacific Palisades. Not a chance. Have you seen my view? No, I was going to pay a small fortune and take a direct flight to bring my anger directly to Robin the very next day.
Did I tell you never to trust a ringing phone?
Now if flying to Boston to share your anger means being at your sisterâ€™s beckon call for three days and nights and doing 18 loads of laundry, then yes, I flew to Boston to share my anger. But I also shared three wonderful days with my older sister, Robin. I watched in awe and admiration, as only a little sister can, a constant stream of visitors, friends, family, neighbors, rabbis, fellow riders, fruit baskets, pies, apples, casseroles and various gadgets to make the next 6 to 8 weeks a little bit easier for Robin, pour down onto her house like a waterfall.
That’s the thing about never leaving the town in which you were born. Get hurt, and people you’ve known for 40 years show up to offer comfort, a laugh, a meal, or easy conversation. They heal you. My sister has lived in this community for 40 years so it was a familiar sight, watching her sit back and receive all of this love. She built this community. She maintains it. She passes it on to her sons every day. And if her neighbor fell, Robin would be right there, on hand and knee, picking up the sharpest pieces and working to put them back together. You can count on it.
I left home 16 years ago for Los Angeles and in many ways have lost that feeling of constantly being surrounded by familiarity. And perhaps that was why I left in the first place. More likely it’s why I fly back to Boston so often. But one thing was made clear to me last weekend that has never been clearer. In this life, you’re bound to fall off your bike. Somewhere around the corner, over that hill, beyond the next curve in the road, someone is going to run a red light and it’s not going to go well. In fact, you can count on it. And when you inevitably fall, there’s one thing that can make or break what happens afterwards: Community. Family members who, like firefighters, run right into the crisis and carry you down the stairs to safety. Friends who bake their best pies and offer their tastiest trays of ziti with broccoli. Miraculously present parents and siblings and children who make sure the dishwasher gets filled and then emptied (correctly, I might add) And to know that you have that in your life and can count on it, just like you can count on falling off your bike, is the greatest gift life can give you.
That, and an excellent personal injury attorney.