“A Not So Bad Fall,” April 19, 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 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.


  1. This article touched me. I am awaiting my surgery for a double mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis. I have been getting in my head about what could be discovered, what could go wrong, etc. so nervous about something that may not even happen.
    “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?” Thanks to this beautiful quote of yours, I am choosing to be grateful today. Your words are so powerful each week but this one could not have come at a better time. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

  2. Not just you Sharon, but just like week, my Wife & I walking our Suisun Waterfront (4 mi. every other day, this morning soon too), her toe must have found the slightly raised portion of the walk way, boom going down near face first, before I could react to catch her, lifting her up, she was fortunately OK, just a couple of minor scrapes. Lucky no broken bones, since she has Osteoporosis. She has been taking those twice yearly BONE shots, “Prolia,” so it must be working. Glad to read that you’re OK too 🙂

  3. Ken Peterson says

    Work colleague of mine — young, a runner, superbly fit — tumbled down two stairs heading to the sidewalk and fractured both kneecaps. A bit of hurry, a bit of inattention and — boom! Thanks for the reminder to slow down, remain present, and to recognize that for all our seeming strength we are still fragile beings subject to the pull of gravity.

  4. Kathleen Balke says

    You are so right about how quickly things change. I had forgotten about falls and remembered my mother’s many. Thank you for this.

  5. Mary E. Edmonds says

    Thank you for your words of wisdom. I have taken a few falls and just layer still right after for a few minutes, thanking God for protecting me. Thankful for you!

  6. Virginia K Davis says

    I had my 65th birthday last month and falls are now on my mind too. Thanks for the reminder we need to focus on what we can control. You have a wonderful way of taking ordinary events in your life and reminding all of us of their greater meaning.💕

  7. Kim Thirkell says

    I am a klutz!! Always falling and I’m getting to be an age that isn’t good for falling. Recently, I was walking across the living room, carrying our one year old great grandson and caught my toe on the play pen. Down I went – so thankful that it was my knee that still hurts and is turning a beautiful shade of black. And the cut on my wrist that would have been on his head if I hadn’t protected him the way I did.

  8. So happy it wasn’t more serious. You touch my heart so many times, especially when they hit home to me. In January I hope and pray I had my last bad fall when I broke my upper arm and boogered up my leg. Although I have learned so much more about patience, therapists who are so brilliant and caring, prayers galore from so many and friends who help in so many ways, I’m getting through, thank God!, I still hope and pray it’s my last bad one! Thanks for sharing yourself.

  9. Kay North says

    Oh I’m so glad you weren’t seriously injured! I can empathize completely! Growing up in Tornado Alley, I am no stranger to storm cellars. I think though, that from now on, I’ll take my chances in an above ground safe room or closet. I’ve figured out that the tornado is not going to get me……it’s my entrance into a cellar that will. The first time I didn’t actually fall until the rotation of the tornado slammed the cellar door onto my head, jamming my neck & knocking me onto the floor. The 2nd time I did actually fall down the steps, bruising me in places that I didn’t know could be bruised! I’ve fallen into our pool when the toe of my flip flop got caught in the skimmer basket & my flip flops are also what caused me to fall into the cellar. The last time I fell I felt like I was suspended in air…..Had the pool not been covered for the winter the upper half of me would have landed there!

  10. Pamela Dozier says

    Hi Sharon! An old friend here. I’ve taken a few scary falls in the past several years. I’ve had some big bruises, sore muscles and minor scabs. They were scary, but healed just fine. I’m so glad yours did too. But those falls really undermined my self-confidence. That’s the worst part of a fall. Your words comfort, and I need to be doubly careful these days. Who knew?

  11. Good reminder to choose joy & watch where you are going. I plan to read the book you mention. I appreciate your words of wisdom…always

  12. Awwww~~~I’m so glad it wasn’t worse, Sharon!!!!! 💚🙏💚

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