Same Mother, Different Drama

scene1CRASH – SCENE 1, TAKE 1

Feb 17, 2012

When my thirteen year old son texted me from the ski slopes that he needed a new helmet after crashing, I handled myself very well – at first.  From my seat in the lodge, I calmly texted back a list of head injury symptoms to check for.  Instead of a return text, my cell phone rang.  It rang!

(In case you missed the significance of this, modern teenage practice dictates that only ‘old people’ use the phone.  Kids text.  Always.)

My worry meter escalated when I heard Beagle’s shaky voice asking me to pick him up on the other side of the mountain.  “I can’t see out of half my eye or hear out of my ear.”  Crap.  ‘At least he can talk and walk,’ I say to console myself.

Kindly First Aid people recommend a trip to the hospital. (Ya think?!)  They offer an ambulance for two, one seat for Beagle and one for the poor soul with the broken leg.  Strangely un-comforted by the thought of medical personnel escorting son, I opt to take him myself, unwilling as I am to let him out of my sight.

On the way to the hospital, I remain stoic on the outside and desperate on the inside.  I begin bargaining with God.  First, I offer my gratitude for life and health.  ‘Thank you, God, for sparing my son’s life in this accident.  I know you’ve got his back.  But I want to buy some extra insurance to cover him from the damage that has been done to his brain.  What can I give You?  How much will it cost me to insure my son’s well-being?  Take anything from me in exchange for his health.’

For a moment I actually believe this is possible – to sell myself to God in exchange for complete protection of my baby boy.  Prayers offered in earnest shift quickly to threats as doubts of my power to persuade God creep in.  I confront Him with my demands, desperate pleas, acts of contrition…in short, my LIFE.  If only He can give me a guarantee.

None is offered.  The swap shop isn’t doing business it seems.  I am left holding a heart full of fears, unsure where to turn.  So I turn back to Beagle, lying on the seat beside me, who is trying to block out the light from his overly-sensitive post-concussion eyes.

‘Be okay!’ I command silently.  ‘Please.’  I feel meek and helpless.

My son’s thirteen years flash before me – joys, sorrows, worries – always the worries.  It’s a cruel revelation when a parent realizes that the immense love she feels for her child is balanced in equal measure by fear for that child.  The more I dare to love, the more I risk the hurt.

A solid 48 hours passes before I begin to breathe freely.  Son was given clearance from the doctor to return home with caveats.  It’s not until Beagle starts fighting with a sister that fear loosens its vice grip on me – normalcy in any form is welcomed.

Beagle has all but forgotten the incident within the week.   But I, still shaken from my first head injury experience as a mother, continue to treat Beagle like a prized possession who narrowly escaped death.

Feeling that I should pay up on my answered prayers for Beagle’s recovery, I promise that I will never take a child’s health and well-being for granted again.

So much for promises…..


scene 2CRASH – SCENE 2, TAKE 1

February 17, 2013

(Same ski mountain, one year later)

My one day off from kid duty began uneventfully.  By mid-morning, with chores complete and tea brewed, I sat down to a novel. Simultaneously, my cell phone buzzed – a text.  I considered ignoring it but felt compelled by nothing more than curiosity to check the message.  It was from husband:

   HUSBAND: Teen daughter fell while snowboarding and bumped her head.  Probably has a concussion.

ME:  LOL.  Very funny.

It is exactly one year to the day of son’s incident.  Funny joke, husband. I’m not falling for it.

HUSBAND:  No joke.  Meet us at first aid.

A feeling rolls through me erupting in a howl.  Nooooooo! My one day off, ruined by another trip to the hospital! 

I kid you not – irritation is what I felt.  Surprising, and difficult to justify, I know.  As it turned out, I would spend the better part of a day trying to defend my lapse in compassion.

It wasn’t as though I was heartless.  On some level I knew that Principessa would be ok.  The tone of the text maybe.  Or mother’s intuition.  Or perhaps it was a deep-seated lesson learned from the experience with son last year – I could fall apart by worrying and praying my way through the next several hours of medical emergency (as I did with Beagle), or I could see it for what it likely was – another unfortunate, though not tragic, incident.  What couldn’t be anticipated was the level of chaos I was about to walk into.

Husband phoned to say that ski patrol had called an ambulance, advising that Principessa not be moved.  What?!  “Do NOT let her in that ambulance until I get there!”

Visions of insurance denials for expensive and unnecessary ambulance services flashed before me.  (In my defense, I had been apprised of the events and symptoms – which gives me about as much credibility as the average Grey’s Anatomy viewer, I know, but still.)

I stormed in, ready to take charge.  “What happened?!” I demanded.

Later, I learned that husband had predicted my entrance.  “In a few minutes a small Italian tornado will be coming.  That’s the mother.  We’ll all be okay, but brace yourself.”

By the time I showed up, Principessa was hysterical, trembling all over while an over-reactive medic held her head still and collared her.  He seemed surprised when I questioned his motives, requiring a justification for panicking my daughter.

Having done a quick assessment of my own, (I do have a level of medical training beyond that of the average mother,) I postulated that Principessa’s signs of shock were indicative of an anxiety attack caused by the drama, not by a spinal cord injury. If only I had gotten there sooner, I could have calmed her down and avoided this scene.

While husband and I weighed the options and potential risks of driving Principessa to the hospital ourselves, First Responders charged in with enough equipment to sink a ship – namely the one I was trying to captain.  It was too late, I couldn’t keep it afloat.

By the time we arrived at the hospital via flashing lights, Principessa had calmed sufficiently to bring her vital signs, and her senses, back to normal.  She laughed at my jokes and complained about how uncomfortable the backboard was. A CAT scan confirmed what I already knew – Principessa had an expensive headache.

I suppose this scene could have ended badly, in which case I wouldn’t be writing about it with self-deprecating humor.  But it didn’t, which gives me leave to assess the whole drama in contrast to the one that took place exactly one year ago.

During my recovery from trauma #1, it appears that I both gained and lost something of value.  On the positive side, now in possession of a thicker skin, I was able to keep my nerves in check when a child was injured.  Being desensitized can be a valuable asset.  The flip side is, I’m desensitized, which rendered me a bit harsh in a situation that called for compassion.  I all but attacked the very people who were trying to protect my daughter from the unknown, whilst I brazenly denied anything other than what I wanted to believe or suspected to be true.

All this to say that motherhood is Chaos with a capital C.  I could analyze it until I’m blue in the face, trying to glean scraps of clarity from the experience; I could promise to do better or different;  but no matter what, chaos will continue to sneak up behind me and change the rules, giving me yet another new experience to toy with.  All I can say is, God help me.  And God help the next kid who gets injured on my day off.

Thank You For This

With my 43rd birthday in sight, I feel like I’m approaching a finish line.  As I gaze at the month ahead of me, the home stretch, I realize that I am no more immune to death now than I was when I first experienced my premonitions of death at age 42.  I am acutely aware that if Heaven wants me, it can grab me off the race track of life whether I’m thirty years from the ‘finish line’ or thirty days.  There are no rules, no fair and square, where death is concerned.

Read more please……

The Sweetness of Clarity

Today I was blindsided by chaos.  I imagined it would be a mostly ordinary day – kids to school, Mom to work, and husband on a rare business trip.  Silly me.

The drama actually began late last night when teen daughter waged a war against chores and chicken for dinner and all things parent.  Poor husband sought consolation, “Can you believe her?! ”  To which I responded with my go-to justification, “She’s a teenager.”  When rational explanation fails, this single fact makes it all better.  Teenhood is not a permanent condition.  Doors were slammed, lights flicked off, and sleep was welcomed.  Tomorrow would be a new day……A day that began too early.  Midnight to be exact.

Like Cinderella who transformed at the stroke of midnight, dear son turned into a vomiting machine. This, as you fellow parents know, is a game changer.  Instantly, my day went from busy/manageable to crazy/juggling.

As it were, I was scheduled to drive my usually-bus-riding daughter and a friend to school for the Architecture Fair.  SHOOT!   This is the event that husband was supposed to attend to fulfill the ‘at least one parent should show support’ thesis.  But he is away on business which means I should go. But when? How?

The phone rings, breaking up the rapid-fire problem-solving in my head.  It is friend, wondering if we’ve forgotten her or are we just running late?  Scrambling to the car, bagel in one hand, trifold display in the other, we settle into a comfortably illegal pace on the highway when teen daughter exclaims (too hysterically) that the written portion of her project has been forgotten at home.  Would I go back and get it after dropping her off?

I gaze at the Heavens with a ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ look.  Is this level of chaos all in one day really necessary?  Daughter gives further instruction on the location of said paper.  It’s beside the computer which, by the way, “crashed when I was trying to print off another copy.”  Lovely.

I am torn.  Yes or no?  Go out of my way, taking more time than I have, in order to save my daughter?  Or help her to learn responsibility by suffering the consequences?  She was, after all, a beast last night.  She wasted valuable project preparation time with her tirades.  I’m not feeling especially generous toward her.  But there are other factors to consider too: a younger child in tow who needs to be at a different school momentarily, a son who clearly shouldn’t be left alone, a dance carpool commitment (of all weeks!) and oh yes, a job that is expecting me.  My mind is on a spinny ride at the amusement park and I want to get off.

When Chaos arrives like it has today, Clarity eludes me.  She loves a game of Hide and Seek.   Sometimes it’s easy to find Clarity.  She’s like a small child who hides in the same obvious spot every time she plays the game.  Other times she gets sneaky and hides somewhere in next week or next month – so far away that I have to give up searching for her, knowing that eventually she’ll return to me.  So I keep the door unlocked.

Today, Clarity jumps out at me from behind the phone.  Grandpa calls and would LOVE to drive  45 minutes to spend part of the day with a sick child so mother can take care of the rest of the world. Mercy abounds!

This one monumental gesture of kindness lights a spark in me.  My cold and confused heart warms from the gift it has received and it feels like giving too.  It feels like calling work to say that business is never more important than children.  It feels like fetching and delivering the forgotten school report.  It feels like completing the child chores that were left undone last night.  It feels like attending the Architecture Fair to support not only it’s own child, but the others whose parents didn’t hear their hearts today.

My heart is rewarded with immense gratitude in the form of bear hugs when I arrive back at teen daughter’s school.  It is further elated when it returns home from a brief stop at work to find that, without prompting, the dishwasher has been unloaded by the very same teenager.  The heart knows this path.  It gives generously and without expectation and ends up receiving.  The mind is not as smart.  It would have me judging and measuring out gifts, and calculating retribution.  I really should learn to consult my heart first.  It would save me, and my mind, a lot of trouble.

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