DRING … DRING DRING … DRING DRING …
I fumble for the phone in my pocket then peek at the screen and notice it is my wife calling. That’s usually not a good sign. “Hello?” I say. “J was playing a soccer game and hurt his arm. Come to the Middle School Health office. Quickly!” commanded my wife. I could hear the tension in her voice. I tucked my sling bag across my chest and started sprinting. My heart began beating faster – partly because of the running, but mostly because I was worried.
Five minutes later I turn the corner and step inside the health office. I see my son slumped over in a wheelchair, his left arm in a sling, and dry tear stains across his cheeks. He looks up at me without saying anything. His eyes reflecting all the worry and hurt he carries inside. I gently kiss his forehead then lightly move the sling to look at his arm. That’s when I see it … and at first I don’t understand … what am I looking at? I know it’s supposed to be an arm but it doesn’t look like an arm anymore. Instead of being straight it curves like a horseshoe. As I look back into my son’s eyes all I want to do is turn back time and make it all better. But reality sets in and I realize that the only way to make it all better is to make a plan and do something.
The wheels are set in motion. Our friend’s car pulls up, we hop in, and zoom across town to the Gleneagles Hospital emergency room. The nurse on ER duty ushers us in, takes a quick look at my son’s arm, then grimaces and says we are next. Sure enough five minutes later we are sitting with the ER doctor who orders x-rays and then whispers, “It will most likely have to be surgery.” The intervening hours of testing, prepping, and waiting for surgery are all a blur. And then just like that it’s time … I lean over the gurney to rest my face on J, kissing him gently. “I love you and will see you in a little bit ok?” I say casually. Then my son’s voice quivers, as he looks at me with his big blue teary eyes and whispers, “Promise me I am going to wake up?” My heart shatters into a million pieces. “I promise J.” As the gurney starts its journey to the operating theater, the one image that will be seared into my memory for the rest of eternity is my son dressed in green surgery robes, IV drip poking out of his arm, looking at me with forlorn eyes. His face a picture courage, uncertainty, and trepidation, waving weakly to me until he turns the corner and is gone.
That’s when I crumble into a little ball, hug my knees to my chest, and start sobbing. First happy memories of days gone by zoom through my head. I reminisce about J taking his first steps, snuggling together for an afternoon nap, and racing off to the first day of school on his balance bike. Next dark thoughts start clouding my head. I see them rolling in like ominous thunderclouds on the horizon. What if? … and what if? … and what if … I can’t take it anymore so I stand up and shuffle disconsolately to the waiting area. The surgeon said the surgery should last about two hours. I look at the clock on the wall and now it reads 19:25, September 20, 2018.
I lift my gaze to the clock. 19:27. The thunderclouds in my mind are getting closer. I check again. 19:47. I decide to pace back and forth in the waiting area, staring at the tile seams on the floor, trying not to think much about anything. Time seems to be standing still. 20:15, 20:50, 21:00. Finally! Only another half hour … Then 21:15. 21:25. 21:26. 21:27. Still nothing … The surgery should be over. The thunderclouds in my mind are right on top of me now … I start to replay every moment back … second guessing myself … Was the surgery necessary? Is this the right hospital? Does the surgeon know what he is doing? I feel impotent. Powerless. At the mercy of fate. Then I feel a light tap on my shoulder and the nurse says, “Come with me the surgery is finished.” I quickly follow in her footsteps to where the surgeon is waiting for me. He greets me kindly and explains “Everything went well. I added two titanium plates with screws and now the bones are perfectly aligned. He should make a full recovery in no time. Don’t worry. He is just resting now and should wake up in a few minutes.”
As I turn towards J his eyes start to flutter open, he smiles weakly and mumbles “Hi Papa.” The thunderclouds in my mind release, the floodgates open up, and rivers of tears stream down my cheeks. Except this time they are tears of joy and thankfulness. I quickly realize then and there
that accidents are just that. Accidents. They can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime and all that we can hope for is to be lucky enough to be able to tell the story … one that ends with “and then they all lived happily ever after.”
October 9, 2018 at 9:10 pm
Your slice perfectly captured the hardest part of seeing our kids in pain, in need. Glad that J’s story has a happy ending. Time is such a funny thing- the way it can stand still or rush by. Great slice- the vivid descriptions of your feelings and actions were spot on.
October 9, 2018 at 9:20 pm
I could feel your worry as you were watching the clock. A great strategy!
October 10, 2018 at 7:06 am
I just took my first breath! Beautifully crafted and heartfelt. So glad all is well. We do need to treasure every moment – things change in an instant!
October 10, 2018 at 8:17 am
The line that caught me most:
“Promise me I am going to wake up?”
And your wondering what if .. what if … such truth in this slice. The anguish is palpable on both counts. So is the courage. It’s the hardest thing on Earth, not being able to help your child, to endure…thankful the worst is over now for all of you and that mendings are underway. Tell him his arm is going to itch as it heals (mine did, long ago – and my dad was there with me, too).
October 10, 2018 at 11:05 am
Thanks for the well wishes Fran. Itch it does for sure, especially in such a hot and humid climate!