That could have been me! I found myself thinking a few hours after an incident occurred in our neighborhood. I wonder if someone will be around to help me when I need it?
In much of modern community life today, especially now when so many of us are quarantined, sequestered, homebound, locked down (or whatever your term for the situation is), we are inside, oblivious to what is happening around us. Under such isolation, how can anyone know when another person needs help?
The other day, my wife was preparing our lunch, and I was checking e-mail before heading for the table. My wife suddenly asked no one in particular, just thinking aloud, “I wonder if he’s okay?”
“Huh?” I asked, only half expecting her to reply.
“________’s dad,” she answered, “he’s just sitting there.”
I got up from the recliner and, still carrying my laptop, looked out the sliding glass door toward the neighbor’s backyard. The neighbor’s 92-year-old father was sitting on the sloping hillside on the grass under a shade tree, his legs outstretched and his torso propped up on his arms.
“Hmm,” I expressed my curiosity and puzzlement. I thought he must have been resting in the cool shade. But it wasn’t warm out, and at his age, would he have difficulty getting up off that grassy slope? I stepped onto the deck and called out to him.
“Are you okay?”
He replied something, but I couldn’t hear him clearly because of the noise of a passing car. He waved his hand over his head as though gesturing a friendly hello.
I walked over toward him and repeated my question.
“I just fell,” he replied calmly. “I must have tripped over something.” Then he added, “I think my hip’s out of joint.” That’s when I saw his left foot turned at a rakish angle.
“Are you in any pain?” I asked. I had no idea what I should do if he said, “Yes.” My mind raced to remember the first-aid training I’d had too many years ago.
About that time, his son, who has been staying with him during the daytime, came from the house and hurried down to us, explaining as he came that his father had been weeding (he pointed to the garden hoe tossed aside on the ground just beyond his father’s right foot, the hoe’s sharp edge facing menacingly skyward) and had fallen.
The son-in-law, forced to work from home, was following close behind.
“I had just turned my back to get his water for him,” the son explained, pointing to a stainless steel insulated cup on the bottom step nearby. “When I turned back around, he was on the ground.”
“I think my hip’s out of joint,” the father repeated, again in a calm, even voice. He didn’t show any signs of pain, but his face was paler than I’d ever seen it before.
My wife, who by then was with us, noticed a trickle of blood running down the father’s right forearm. Retrieving some sterile gauze and tape from the first-aid kit, she soon had that problem solved. The son-in-law had called his wife, who is a nurse, at work, and she headed home. When she arrived, she removed her father’s sock, felt his pulse, and declared matter-of-factly, “You broke your hip.” She immediately called for an ambulance.
When the paramedics arrived, they loaded the patient onto a board, then onto a gurney, and finally into the ambulance and took him to the hospital, where he had surgery on the broken hip and is now in rehab. I suspect that he must have been thinking of the hospital’s Covid-19 restrictions on visitors and whether he’d see his family members again for a while.
This incident made me think. What might have happened if his son-in-law had not been working at home that day because of the stay-at-home order? What if my wife had not noticed him sitting alone in the grass, or if she had not been curious about his being there? What if? What if?
What if I had been the one who had fallen? Hey, I’m getting to an age when such accidents are a possibility, and I often think about it whenever I slip a little in the shower. With so many neighbors inside their insulated, sound-dulling homes nowadays, and with so many people who don’t want to get involved, even if they do see or hear something, what if?
A mowing accident. A snake bite. A dehydration-induced dizziness. An encounter with a really large colony of fire ants. A roving rogue pit bull. All are possibilities. How long would I have to wait for help? My mind raced with the possibilities of “what if?”
I guess the morals of this incident are that we should take a more active role in knowing what’s going on in our immediate neighborhoods. That we should pay closer attention to the well-being of our neighbors, especially the elderly among us. That we should look out for one another.
Be a good neighbor. Look out for one another.
One day, we might be the ones needing help, and we’ll hope that those who live near us are, indeed, paying attention and are good neighbors.