“Sudie, we had a wreck.”
My heart caught in my throat when I read Mama’s text.
I had spoken to her just a few hours before. She had called — she usually calls in the morning, regardless of whether I’m working or not — and told me they were going to the store that morning.
“Be safe,” I had said.
I didn’t think too much about it. They were going to the store, in the town I had grown up in and they had lived in for their whole lives.
I worried, sure. They are older and my uncle hasn’t had the best of health lately.
But it was nothing like when they had to go to the VA in Atlanta. Those were the days I was knotted with fear and anxiety, thinking about my mother and uncle having to navigate multi-lane roads filled with heavy traffic.
They were just going to the grocery store to get a few things and somehow had a wreck.
I had missed the text when it came through, only seeing it an hour later when I happened to check my phone to see if she had texted me to say they were home.
I felt that sick feeling of panic and fear wash over me.
“Mama, where are y’all? Are you OK?” I asked when she answered her cell.
“We’re at the hospital,” she said. She sounded so weak, so fragile.
“Are y’all OK?” I asked again.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Normally, my mama was the one to say things were fine and for me to not worry. This time was different.
I let work know I was taking the rest of the day off and hurriedly changed out of my work leggings and into real clothes.
“I’m going with you,” Cole said. “I don’t want you going alone and I want to see if Nennie and Uncle Bobby are OK.”
Two and a half hours. It takes two and a half hours one way for me to get to my Mama’s. She texted when we were about an hour away and said they were released and home.
When I finally got there, my heart sank further. My mother was still bloodied and had a broken sternum; my uncle had a broken wrist.
Suddenly, they seemed so old. So feeble. And I felt so lost, not knowing what all I needed to do to help them.
I took care of what needed to be done immediately and promised I’d be back that weekend. I’ve been back several times, and probably will be back even more.
It’s been a month this week, and they are still recovering, and I’m still trying to get things resolved and some help put in place for them.
It has been a disheartening lesson on many levels.
One, is that my grandmother was kind of right in some ways.
“They don’t care about old people,” she’d say. I didn’t understand what she meant when I was younger, but am seeing it slightly now. Trying to get support in place has been a hard, trying experience and the things that were supposed to be helpful either can’t or have waiting lists a year out.
I’ve hit just about every imaginable brick wall and found that many people just seem to not care or refuse to do anything beyond the bare minimum of their job description.
Ninety-nine percent of the people I had dealt with had been apathetic, uncompassionate, and downright lazy.
One medical transport even left my uncle stranded at his follow up appointment. I hit the roof. My uncle is 74 and has cancer and congestive heart failure, and they left him.
I was, to put it mildly, livid.
“Mama, you and Bobby have always been good to people. Always — without fail. I’ve been good to people too. When I was an investigator, I treated felons — people charged with serious offenses — with more respect than some of these people that are paid by your insurance companies are giving you and Bobby. It’s benign indifference and it’s egregious.”
Mama agreed, the most she could. She was in pain. She was tired. She wanted to be able to get up and do laundry and help Bobby take care of his cats, but she didn’t know if she could. She just wanted to feel like she had before the wreck.
I sighed. A soul weary sigh.
Being a caregiver faraway made me feel like I had not done enough and didn’t know what would be a good next step.
I also learned something I had been aware of, but this drove this lesson home: we’re not promised tomorrow, nor do we know when something could happen that would change our lives.
Even if that change is hopefully temporary, things can happen in a blink of an eye.
From one text, I went from my regular worries and anxiety about having aging family members to being thrown into a true abyss of worry and fear.
One text. One accident.
It made so many things clearer in my field of perception, especially the things that matter the most.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.