Lynne Champlin

Lynne Champlin was a stewardess in the 1960s.  She married a Napa attorney in 1966. Her husband is a retired Napa Superior Court Judge. Her column "Coffee, Tea and Me" has appeared in Napa Valley Register for 3 years.

My husband invited me to go turkey hunting in honor of our 50th wedding anniversary this month. I turned down his very thoughtful invitation. But it did give me a title for my Thanksgiving column.

I enjoy reading the Crankshaft cartoon in the Napa Valley Register. The name of this comic strip caught my attention years ago as I have a similar name in my Scottish background.

My great-grandfather Metcalf dictated this family history to my mother in 1932. “Years before the Revolutionary War, a little Scottish family sailed across the big wide ocean seeking the promised land in America. They settled early in Georgia, one of the 13 colonies. There were know as the Krokshanks.” This name has slowly become Cruickshank in America today.

In the cartoon, we saw the Grandfather Ed Crankshaft climbing a metal ladder during a thunder and lightning storm to clean the over flowing gutters. The neighbors were busy taking photos for the fire department or to report him to his children. Aside from the fact that he was an elderly gentlemen, it was raining cats and dogs, thunder and lightning were filling the dark skies and he could have easily fallen.

So instead of my writing the usual Thanksgiving Day story, I decided to say, “Don’t be a turkey” during this holiday season like Mr. Crankshaft or my husband. Be safe during our rainy turkey season and hire a professional to clean those gutters.

The classes on how to prevent falling offered to seniors at the Senior Center last month were a real gift. We all think we are young. “Sure, we can change that light bulb and next I will clean the gutters.” “Don’t hire the boy next door. I can string those front porch holiday lights for you.” How many times do you hear these words from your spouse?

Then you start to worry as they climb up the ladder. One problem I always have is whether to hold onto my husband or to hold the ladder. And shall I stand in the front to buffer his fall? It always reminds me of high school gym classes when we would spot our friends on those balance beams. Better me to fall than him but I am not sure I want him falling on top of me. Even though I am so much younger and in better shape than he is, I don’t think I could catch him. These little decisions often lead to major discussions. “Where should I stand and what do I touch?”

Walking could be another issue for us senior citizens. My husband is constantly telling me to watch where I step so I will not trip and fall down. I usually do not pay attention to his warning and just “la,la,la” my way down the street. A childhood accident taught him to always watch his steps. And you know old Boy Scouts are always prepared with their flashlights and walking sticks. He actually looks down at the ground most of the time.

Speaking of flashlights, he has flashlights in every nook and cranny of our home, in every car, in his pocket and he even carries them in his man purse. I hardly use them. I still can wander our home in the dark and know where every step should be taken, except when I step on the dogs. They are gradually learning to get out of my way at night, but not always. But I know my day is coming; all of our days are coming, if the truth be known.

Well, two of my days of falling have already happened. And I am not counting the day our garbage can fell on top of me. I already told you about that terrible experience on our sidewalk. My two falling incidents took place while on vacations.

An exotic fall is a better story than just a plain fall. Go big if you happen to fall. It is a much more interesting story to share at cocktail time or dinner parties.

Sometime ago, we were walking around London on a nice sunny day. It was time for lunch. We saw a crowded restaurant, walked in and found a table. After lunch, we followed some Brits out the front door. Maybe that was my problem: so many people ahead of me and I couldn’t see the entire door.

As usual, I did not follow my husband’s good advice; I did not look down where I was putting my feet. As I stepped out the door and put my foot down, there was no “there” there. There was no step, just a sharp drop to the sidewalk.

I became airborne and flew into the arms of an attractive British gentleman who was walking by on the sidewalk. He caught me in his arms, saving me from a nasty fall. What a save. He must have been an athlete. Of course, all those around us saw me flying out the door and being rescued from maybe a bad injury. Clapping was heard all over the room from the appreciative customers. I tried to thank him but he just said something British like “jolly good” or “cheerio” and kept on going.

It was embarrassing but no harm done. I patted myself down, rearranged my jacket, hat and purse. I tried to walk away with my head held high. I was casual like nothing had happened. Outside the door, my dear husband started his usual lecture about watching where I put my feet. He added I was very lucky not to have ruined our trip. I don’t remember my response but it was probably something like, “right-oh” with a fake British clip to it.

My next incident was at the Alamo in San Antonio. We often visit in Texas and Oklahoma as the area is filled with Champlin relatives. So when in Texas, this is a must-visit.

I remember standing at a corner to cross the street. When the light changed, I stepped off the curb, only there wasn’t a curb. I stepped into a handicapped opening in the sidewalk and rolled my foot, fracturing my ankle. Once again, I was not paying attention. I was probably looking up at the entrance to the Alamo. Or maybe I was talking to another tourist next to me.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a handsome cowboy to catch me. How in the world does one fall at a handicap corner? Well, I did. Philip hardly said a word this time. I guess he hoped I might learn from the experience.

My Napa doctor, Dr. Edmund Schumacher, who has the hands of an angel, fitted me with a heavy black boot to help it heal when we got home. To this day it still bothers me when there is a chill in the air.

So I guess the lesson for many of us is to be careful as we approach the holiday season. Don’t do risky things like changing light bulbs, cleaning gutters, stringing lights, or even decorating trees without taking precautions. Watch where you are walking and carry flashlights when it is dark. Good advice. Now if I can just remember it.

We need to grow old gracefully and even learn now to fall the right way. You could save a few bones or even your head with some training. Perhaps we should all sign up for these classes next time they are offered.

How many lucky Napa women are going to find an attractive man standing there waiting for us to fall into his arms? Probably only in our dreams.

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