Thursday, June 15, 2017


One moment I was at the top of the stairs and the next moment I was lying on the landing. My husband was the first to reach me. He helped me back up and the first thing I did was give my frightened grandson a hug of reassurance. Then I collapsed into my husband’s easy chair.  It was Friday afternoon, close to candle lighting, and once I’d lit my candles I spent most of that Shabbat in the easy chair. By the time we’d had Havdalah I was convinced I needed an X-ray of my ribs.

I’d done my share of falling the previous month. There were explanations for some of the falls like when I slipped on a wet floor and was bruised. Or when I ran too fast down the hill to catch the bus and broke a finger. Other times I wasn’t sure what had caused me to slip and I was concerned.

A phone call to my family doctor, who also happens to be my neighbor, confirmed that it would be a good idea to go to our health plan’s emergency room. She told me it could wait until the morning, though. And then I asked her the question that had really me worried.  

“My son said they might think I’m a battered wife. Do you think they will?”

“They might.”

“Oy, can you write me a note that’s my husband’s not an abuser.”

“If you have a problem,” I could hear the calming smile in her voice, “Call me.”

Reassured I hung up but then I wondered how anyone could say that any husband wasn’t cruel. Who knows what goes on inside someone else’s home when the doors are closed and the shades are down? With time, though, I’ve learned that medical professionals are trained to look for all kinds of signs.

Is the explanation for the injury rather unbelievable? Was anyone witness to the accident? What’s the woman’s body language? Does she seem nervous or frightened?

Recently I was at the osteoporosis specialist proudly recounting the various falls I’d had without breaking anything.  His antennas were up. 

“Why do you fall so much?” His eyes bore into mine. “Are you a battered wife?”

I burst out laughing and told him I was a klutz, Yiddish for clumsy. He accepted my adjective. However, I was certain that had I blushed, stuttered, or begun crying   he would have pressed the point further.

I’m grateful that now there’s an awareness of the battered woman’s plight. Not that long ago Americans thought it funny when Ricky Ricardo spanked Lucy on the television show I Love Lucy. In the movie theatres John Wayne and other leading men did the same to Maureen O’Hara and other leading ladies.  Thankfully, today most no longer find that behavior amusing.

The doctor in the emergency room didn’t question my explanation for my fall and none of my ribs were broken. I was sent for various tests to discover why I was tripping so much. Finally I was diagnosed with vertigo. Physical therapy helped me somewhat and I fall less than I did. Happily no one suspects my husband and I know I’m not an abused wife.

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