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Falling for Vacation

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Among the usual souvenirs of a week at the beach – suntans, shells, a few extra pounds around the middle – Dave brought home the most spectacular bruise I think we’ve ever seen.

No, no, he hadn’t been tippling. He did this himself.

We had a week in Holmes Beach, Florida, with the usual cast of characters: Jean and her boys, Mary and Rainer (Mary’s German consort), Dave and I, with Rainer’s son and his girlfriend for one night. A merry crew it was, someone always coming and going, big decisions to be made, like where to eat dinner tonight, in or out.

When “in,” Mary and Jean did most of the cooking, with an occasional dish from Rainer’s gastronomic repertoire. Somehow we navigated the challenges of Jean’s boys, now 8 and (almost) 11, who are hungry earlier than we are and glad to leave the table for the older contingents of the family to relax there.

I, the dowager grandma, count on getting waited on. Besides, I serve best by keeping out of the way. And it was possibly a lifesaving strategy.

The cottage we had rented for this crowd had either been built or renovated fairly recently and the resulting floor plan was... well, odd. It was as though a garage had been taken off, and the kitchen put in its space. The floor, where the suspected garage had been, dropped about 20 inches from the living room level, and was accessed by a set of three steps.

There was no rail along where the wall had been, no visual warning of any kind, just three steps about eight inches deep, 30 inches across, and six inches cut into the higher floor.

That doesn’t describe it well, and I don’t think I could draw it any better. Just trust me: this was an accident ready to happen.

The men seemed to have no problem, and my daughters managed all right, but the sheer sight of it proved an invisible obstacle for me. I think someone warned me the first time I came down, and I did all right, but thereafter it could have been an invisible electric fence. Only by holding a really strong arm could I take a chance with this.

Oh, that wasn’t enough. Instead of being painted white or striped red, this DIY installation was stained dark brown with no difference in the shade of the risers or the stair treads. She Who is Dizzy Most of the Time Anyhow went into full-blown vertigo at this challenge, and someone had to grab me every time I approached from either direction.

Eventually, of course, I fell into a kitchen chair on the “garage” floor, and it took two of them to get me up from there. It was wiser by far to let them set a place for me at a small round table on the living room floor. I missed the conversation at the family table, but whatever they were saying was certainly preferable to “Are you OK?” “Here, take my arm,” and “Did you hit your head?”

To which I usually chirped, “I’m OK. I’ve had a lot of practice at home. Just let me sit here for a moment.”

Still, I was almost unhinged when Dave took his second crash. Somehow I was at the bottom of the hazard and broke his fall, or so I like to think, but most of his weight was on his upper right arm where an amazing bruise appeared by next morning. It looked ironically like a large tattoo covering most of that arm and changing sunset shades every few hours. He was surprised to see it because he said it did not really hurt that much, but it sure got rave reviews from everyone who saw it.

In a week it was gone, and the only leftover symptom is an achy shoulder from a previous and unrelated injury. Talk about drama.

Well, this old fellow turned 83 in July and seems impervious to injuries. He just washed the three big panels of glass that form the back wall of our house, and I’ve heard no complaints. In fact, he carried out that assignment much more quickly than I expected him to. I usually pad him with several repetitions of my request before I start whining about it. This time, there was only about a half hour between my asking and his tackling the job, and now he’s done with his task and I’m not done with mine.

Oh yes, I am.


[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is]

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