Sharon Randall: A not so bad fall

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2022

One of my all-time favorite reads is “Growing Up” by Russell Baker, a Pulitzer-Prize winning autobiography in which Baker writes beautifully and often hilariously about life—his and mine and yours.

   I read it almost 40 years ago and have never forgotten it, especially its opening sentence:

   “At the age of eighty my mother had her last bad fall, and after that her mind wandered free through time.”

   I first read that line in a bookstore/coffee shop and laughed so hard I snorted coffee out my nose. Falls are no laughing matter. But it made me think of my grandmother, a woman I adored, who ranked her falls in order from “not bad” to “pretty bad” to “hell’s bells.”

   At the time, I was too young to appreciate the fear of falling that often comes with age.

   I’ve since had a few falls of my own, even a couple that might rank as “hell’s bells.” But they weren’t caused by age. I wasn’t old. I was just clumsy. Always have been. Always will be.

   Recently, my 3-year-old grandson, Jonah, took me on a walk in a field riddled with gopher holes. I was trying to dodge the holes when Jonah reached up to take my hand and said, “Here, Nana, I help you.”

   That wasn’t a sign of my age. It was an act of Jonah’s love.

   In my worst fall five years ago, I slipped on a wet floor, broke my ankle and injured my back. The ankle healed. The back still hurts. The indignity lingers on.

   All of that is to tell you this.

   Last week, for the first time in years, I was reminded of that first sentence in “Growing Up.”

   I’d spent the morning running errands, stopped for lunch at a restaurant and was hurrying out the door to do more errands when something caught my eye.

   A little girl, age 3 or 4, almost as cute as Jonah, was going in the restaurant with her mother. As we passed, I waved and she waved back with a big smile.

   I wish you could’ve seen her.

   I kept walking, looking back over my shoulder at her. And that is when it happened.

   I didn’t see the crack in the sidewalk. It caught the toe of my boot and sent me sprawling face first onto the pavement.

   Talk about embarrassing.

   The little girl’s mother rushed over to ask, “Are you all right?”

   I lay there a moment thinking. Finally I said, “I’m not sure.”

   The little girl stared wide-eyed as if watching her first ever horror movie. I managed to give her a sideways fake smile.

   Suddenly two tall men showed up out of nowhere like angels in blue jeans and puffy jackets, offered their assistance and picked me up off the pavement.

   I tested my limbs. They seemed to work. My knees were skinned, but no broken bones.

   So I thanked everyone for their kindness: The little girl, her mother, the two tall men and God and all his angels. Then we all went our separate ways.

   I skipped the errands and drove home to lie down for a bit and let my mind wander free. Was this my last bad fall? Were there bigger falls ahead? Would my sister loan me her walker?

   Funny, isn’t it? One minute we’re running errands. Then we’re lying on the pavement needing help from strangers. Or an ambulance. Or a hearse.

   Most days, I pray (unless I forget) for happiness, health and safety for my loved ones, myself and the world. I try to pay attention (usually) and stay out of trouble (if I can.) That’s about all I can do. The rest isn’t up to me. If it were, we might all be in “hell’s bells” trouble.

   Life lets us choose, day by day, how we want to live: Will we fill our minds with fear of things that may never happen? Or will we fill our hearts with gratitude for what we know to be true?

   I took a fall, but survived it, thanks in part to the kindness of strangers. And I lived to be thankful, yes, another day.

   It was a good day. Somewhere  my grandmother was smiling.

Contact Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or