Bedlam in Boyville
A Bad Break
I threw open the front door to find a little boy named Luke standing there. "Miss Margaret," he said solemnly, "Henry broke his arm." It occurred to me to wonder how a 9-year-old could possibly diagnose a broken limb. Then I saw Henry's arm. It looked like a California highway after an earthquake -- both bones snapped completely in two, one half sitting entirely on top of the other. It was all I could do not to scream myself while I helped Henry into the car.
He was still screaming when I screeched into the hospital parking lot and he screamed anew with every step to the building. We didn't even slow down at the security checkpoint -- I just threw my bag to the guard and followed the nurse straight to the trauma room.
And that's where Haywood finally found us, guided through the hospital maze as much by the sound of Henry's voice as by the receptionist. He walked straight to his son and bent to kiss his head. Then, as he walked toward me on the other side of Henry's bed, he started to sway. The nurse, who was trying to stick an IV needle into Henry's good hand, looked up. "Hon," she said, "I think you'd better sit down."
Too late. Haywood collapsed against a portable x-ray machine, slid down an oxygen tank, and hit the tile floor beside the IV tree.
After the second ER doctor came in, it appeared that I'd be going home with two family members in casts, though it turned out that Haywood only suffered a gash to his right eyebrow. But every time he tried to stand up, his face would go green again and his knees would buckle. Haywood's medical team was taking up a lot of room right where Henry's team was trying to get an IV started, so they finally put Dad on a gurney and rolled him into the corridor. For nearly an hour I ran back and forth between them.
Every time I got to Haywood, he would apologize: "I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I should have cut down that swing the day I put it up." I don't know which one I was more worried about -- Henry with the broken arm or Haywood with the broken heart.
The poor nurse, too, was coming a little unhinged after three failed attempts to find a vein in Henry's hand. When she finally stood up to let another nurse give it a try, Henry smiled up at her through his tears. His broken arm was still crooked, but he reached out for her with his good hand.
"Thank you for taking care of me," he whispered, squeezing her fingers.
And somehow, I realized, that's the way it always happens in our family. Just when I've grown accustomed to the maelstrom of reckless energy and bravado, suddenly, in one quiet moment, all the tumult and bluster will disappear, and I'm wholly encircled by tenderness and love and heartfelt gratitude. A mother of only daughters, I'd wager, could not know anything sweeter.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2007.