It happened so fast. He turned his wheel (like he had done a thousand times before), but this time his bike bucked him off to the left. The sidewalk (when did cement get so hard?…it wasn’t that hard when I was a kid) came swiftly up to meet his face. I was straddling my own bike. I had been ready to take a post dinner ride to the park, so Chris got to him first. He scooped him up and tucked his little head into that quiet cave that is Dad’s chest. It is not found on a map, but lies somewhere between collar-bone and sternum. By the time I got off my bike Chris had removed Sam’s helmet, inspected the damage, and was looking up at me with a deep and almost angry, mournful look in his eyes. When I reached them, Sam was very pale and quiet. As soon as I saw his chin, I knew we would be visiting our first E.R. since moving north. We have no family nearby, so we all piled into the van and headed to the hospital in San Jose. Twenty minutes later, Sam was gently triaged and seen by no less than three nurses, two doctors, and a nurse practitioner. Three hours later, Sam was the proud owner of eight, tiny, blue sutures. He was also in the back of the van, gently sucking on a late-night vanilla shake from In and Out. We were home by midnight, but I lay awake with my mind and heart racing and skipping like a scratched LP on a turntable set to the wrong speed. It was as though all the calm that had cloaked me for the last four hours just slipped away, and I was both wound up and exhausted, sad and relieved. I had been such a smooth operator from the moment I saw what that sidewalk had done to my least-un’s chin, but now I felt jagged and wired.
My boys range in age from six to eleven, and this is our first time getting stitches. I should be grateful that we made it this long. By the time I was Sam’s age, I think I had already been stitched up at least three or four times. I led with my face in almost everything. I am sure the combination of intense curiosity and ambling klutziness did not help to limit those ER trips. How did my folks do it? How do any of us do it? We spend the first few years trying to shelter and protect these little bald, featherless birdies that huddle in the nest with us. We wrap our wings around them to quell their shivers, and feed them most of our meals to banish their hunger. At some point we give them a swift, firm hip-check to get them to the edge of the nest. Then, we watch with horror and pride as they wriggle to that edge, dangle their scrawny little bird legs over the drop zone, and then slip briefly from our view. Finally, we wait with held breath, as they flop, flap, tumble, and bounce down along that free-fall path to the quasi-independence of childhood. This is the challenge, then. It won’t be whether we can dig deep, and find the funds for the third kid’s orthodontia, or be able to afford more than mopeds for them when they begin driving. The biggest challenge we face as parents is having the courage to let them out from under that wing at all. Then we must keep steadily breathing as they shimmy to the edge. Finally, we have to have faith that when they are flying solo, their memory of home will be so strong and good that they can and will follow the path back to us now and then.
love to all,