Cascade Observations: Feeling Neighborly

The holidays are over, and the last of the gifted cookies only a memory, but I’m feeling the support of neighbors, family and friends in ways no Christmas carol can begin to correctly express.

It wasn’t Santa’s red sleigh that arrived at my house three days after Christmas; it was a red ambulance.

Just after 2 a.m., I woke up. I’d been ill, but was feeling a bit hungry and decided to get a snack. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my foot twisted at a very odd angle. I had fainted and, in the fall, broken my ankle. My husband attempted to get me up, with no luck. Finally, we decided to call for assistance. In a few minutes, the paramedics were at the base of our driveway.

We had told the dispatcher that it wasn’t an emergency, and that no sirens were necessary — we didn’t want to wake up our neighbors. Alas, the flashing red lights on the ambulance made sleep futile.

By the time Jason Wilkins and his team from the Hood River fire station toted me in a stretcher to the waiting gurney, the neighbors were out on the sidewalk, standing in the cold in nothing more than their pajamas. They asked questions and offered assistance to my husband, and we were off to the hospital emergency room. Hours later, we returned home, my ankle wrapped in a temporary cast, and surgery scheduled for a few days later.

Since then, we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers and that of our closest neighbors, friends and family.

A neighbor family who just moved in a month ago brought us delicious soup. Another stranger gave my husband a huge hug and pledged her assistance. Text messages came in from the family across the street and from our closest neighbor, who couldn’t get out of her house because she has a broken ankle, which she suffered in a fall in October! Who knew living on Cascade Avenue could be so treacherous.

Every day, another kindness is gifted to us — flowers, food, an encouraging phone call. My brother, his wife and my husband tag-teamed when I had to get out of the house the day of my surgery. They literally risked their backs to get me to the hospital, for which I am forever grateful.

Books have arrived, a welcome respite from staring out the window, counting the weeks (at least six of them) until I can stand up and walk on my healing leg.

My friend knows I love to read, and knows my reading tastes lean toward narrative non-fiction. However, she thought I might just need something less dense, and brought me a novel. “The Walnut Tree,” by Charles Todd, is the story of an aristocrat who, in 1914, finds herself working as a nurse dealing with war casualties. There’s lots of romance and adventure, enough to help me make a mental escape from my new life as an invalid.

The orders from my doctor, “absolutely no weight bearing” on my right side, means I must learn to navigate using crutches. Ironically, one of the characters in “The Walnut Tree” has similar issues.

“Bruce was in a part of the house that had once been the billiard room. It had been partitioned in half, and a young Sister was trying to help him through the difficulties of handling crutches. He couldn’t get the hang of it, his balance out of kilter. As I stood in the doorway watching, he swore and flung the offending crutch across the room, nearly toppling himself to the floor in the process. It was the patient Sister who caught him, scolded him for his language, and guided him to a chair.”

I’m trying my best to keep my language clean and my attitude positive. I’ve yet to fling a crutch, although it’s awfully tempting.

What book is up next on the pile? “The Good Neighbor,” a biography of Fred Rogers, the creator of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” Rogers taught the young and the old how to live with kindness, generosity and empathy. My wonderful neighbors, family and friends are doing the same for me.

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