Tuesday, April 6, 2010
But I'll tell you this. Until you become a parent, you have no idea what pure, gut-wrenching terror really is.
From the moment the doctor yanks your goopy blue child screaming from your wife's hoo-hoo (or, if you're a woman, your very own personal hoo-hoo), all you can think about is, "How do I keep this wondrous creature safe until he graduates from high school?"
Personally, I was able to protect my son Ryan from harm up until the age of nine days, at which time I attempted to clip his fingernails. I carefully laid him down on the changing table, making sure his diaper was secured so he didn't pee in my ear again. I located the Black and Decker Infant Nail Clippers, tenderly placed his delicate little hand in mine and with the utmost caution proceeded to hack off his index finger. Blood spurted everywhere, like that scene in Jaws when Quint gets bitten in half. Ryan, meanwhile, was shrieking like a banshee, turning various shades of purple.
In retrospect, it probably wasn't quite that horrific, but that's how it will forever live in my memory.
Ryan is now almost eighteen and my daughter Lindsay is almost fifteen, and for the most part they've managed to avoid serious injury. This is a definite departure from the family traditions set forth by me and my brothers who, during our childhood years, suffered from broken bones, gaping head wounds, foot-long splinters embedded in thigh muscle, scratched corneas, severed fingertips, chipped teeth, an assortment of gashes and cuts, and one case of mangled face suffered by my brother Bobby when he attempted to ride his bike down the apparently-not-obviously-enough-named "Suicide Hill." This list, by the way, is not intended to be all-inclusive.
As I got up to go check on him, I overheard a mom say, "Ah, who cares, it's not MY kid." Before I could even turn around to tell this insensitive bitch to go screw herself, I heard my daughter Lindsay say, "Hey, lady, it's my brother so why don't you just shut up, okay?"
I've never been so proud.
I jogged to the outfield to check on Ry. I was not prepared for what I was about to see, specifically, my son's face completely covered in his own blood. It was the fingernail clipping incident all over again. My initial fear was that the ball had knocked out a few teeth or popped his eyeball out of his head or something. The gallon of spilled blood made it impossible to locate the actual wound, so I asked Ryan, "Hey buddy, where does it hurt?" I'll never forget his reply:
"Where it's bleeding from, duh."
The Team Mom had arrived with the first aid kid by this point, and managed to stop the bleeding which as it turned out was coming from a nasty gash above Ryan's left eye. I drove him to the hospital where they stitched him up. When I went in to see him in recovery he was already hitting on the girl on the next table, who had suffered severe facial trauma trying to pierce her own lip. A match made in Urgent Care.
More recently, just a couple weeks ago in fact, I paid another visit to our local emergency room, this time with my daughter Lindsay. In a moment of questionable judgment, Linds signed up for a co-ed basketball league for kids aged 15-17. On her high school team, she's actually one of the taller, sturdier girls standing about 5'8". She's used to being one of the bigger players and uses her size to her advantage in the girls' league. However, playing in a league that's eighty percent post-pubescent guys, she seems better equipped for a stint in the Lullaby League.
Which turned out to be my poor innocent little girl.
The good news is that she stood in there and took the charge, just as she's been taught. The bad news is that since Man-Mountain McGee had at least a hundred pound weight advantage, the resulting collision sent her flying through the air. Gravity, as it tends to do, took it from there and when Linds re-entered the earth's atmosphere, it was the back of her skull that first contacted the wooden floor. A nauseating "thunk" echoed throughout the gym.
As I raced the ambulance to the hospital, my body was possessed by St. Wimperly, the Patron Saint of Overprotective Parents. "That's it, she's done with basketball," I thought. "Tomorrow I'm signing her up for oboe lessons. The only dangerous thing about an oboe is listening to somebody try to play one."
In a feat of driving skill that would put Jeff Gordon to shame, I beat the ambulance to the ER by about five minutes. I followed Lindsay's gurney (my baby girl is on a GURNEY!) to the patient inspection room or whatever they call it, where they took her vital signs.
"Hi, Linds, how are you feeling?" I asked.
She looked at me and smiled. "That ambulance driver was HOT!"
If she wasn't already in the hospital, I think I'd have knocked her out.