FALLING, ONCE MORE
by Ross Sharp
My father, 86, had a fall last week and spent three days in hospital. “Shit”, I say when I am finally told of this. He had fallen out of bed. I find myself wondering if “falling down” is a common cause of death among the elderly. Falling down and catching colds.
Last time he had a fall, a couple years ago, I wrote this, and in lieu of anything further to say about the current state of public affairs which wouldn’t be a repetition of myself, here it is again …
I have now reached that certain age in life, neither that of pink-cheeked youth nor that of cackling decrepitude, but an age in life where the implications of “the fall” have begun to loom darkly within these, my withering lobes; “the fall” being that penultimate finality prior to death, as in, “so-and-so had a fall and died in hospital several days later after complications set in.”
As in –
fallingad a fall and wound up in hospital with a blood clot on her brain.
As in –
William Holden tripped over a throw rug, and fell onto “the sharp edge of a bedside table causing a deep cut on his right forehead followed by profuse haemorrhage”.
As you would.
I have imagined myself falling over the escalator at the local shopping centre, for example, plummeting fifteen metres onto the Sauvignon Blanc racks of the B.W.S. below, my shattered body studded with slivers of broken glass, a glittering crystalline hedgehog oozing an alcoholic raspberry-coloured brulee, some very strange fruit indeed.
My father had a fall during Christmas.
Eighty-four, and with emphysema, he took it upon himself to do a spot of decorating, to hang a bauble or two outside in the spirit of the season, a season which, for him, in an instant, turned quite silly.
A hammer in one hand, a nail in the other, he perched himself on the top of two steps, lost his balance, and promptly slid off them, banging his head on a concrete footpath, scratching up his arm and leg breaking the fall, and then crawling back up the steps onto the verandah and then into the house where he was found, shortly thereafter, leaning against the wall in the hallway by my mother.
“What the bloody hell happened to you?!”, she asked.
“I fell”, he said.
“I’m getting the ambulance!”, she says.
“I’ll be fine. I’m alright”, he protests, in the manner of all such men the world over.
“BUT YOU’RE COVERED IN BLOOD, YOU STUPID BASTARD!”, she says, in the manner of all such women the world over whose unenviable task it is to make men of such manner the world over wake up to their fucking selves and go see a fucking doctor.
And so, off he duly and dutifully went, six days in hospital, then out and back home, and back to normal, just as if nothing had ever happened, and here I am wondering how the blazes, by what streak of pure good fortune it was, he didn’t wind up dead.
From “the fall”.
For, truth be told, I imagine no such fine fortune for myself.
I see my own fall, my fatal fall, as mundane of place and spectacular in execution, a split-second exercise in post-modern balletic blood-letting, a Twyla Tharp inspired pas seul of sudden collapsing human.
It begins, in unexpected response to a sliver of soap in the shower, with a full turn on the ball of one foot, followed by a rapid whirling about of the whole body, then a surprisingly brief yet tantalising petit battement before a staggering jeté en avant grand propels me through the glass of the shower screen, a shard of which slices clean through both carotid arteries leaving my head hanging by a few shredded strings of ragged flesh, a neon arc of the brightest crimson spraying, Pollock-like (but with a little more attention to detail), across the dull white walls of the bathroom, and out across the carpet of the bedroom floor before, finally, my skull cracks against the vanity cabinet, a seepage of clotted lumps of black-red brain matter dotting the porcelain like an avant-garde garnish.
This was one jump that clearly wasn’t ending with a plié.
But it’s a good fall I believe, and it’s mine.
I’m thinking of rigging the bathroom with cameras just in case it happens and you miss it.
It might just start a trend.