Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Grabbing some air

My older son was playing outside with his friends on Sunday, and one suggested they all ride bikes. B carried his bicycle down the front steps, forgetting his longtime protests that it was too big for him. He got it last summer, when he was much smaller. He never really tried to ride it, so since then he’s been hesitant to do so.
But peer pressure is a curious thing. It gets kids to do things a parent would swear their child would never do.
I was at work in New Britain at the time, otherwise I would have sat on the front steps just in case he lost control. B couldn’t reach the ground last year with his toes, and he didn’t trust the stopping power of the hand brakes. Last year, he would get on the bike from the curb and dismount it much the same way.
B called me on the phone, in a small voice, saying he hurt his leg.
“Outside,” he said, “I fell off my bike.”
He wasn’t crying, so I asked if he scratched himself or if he was bleeding.
He assured me no, but his leg hurt a lot.
“Can you come home?” he asked, again in that small voice.
I told him to take some ice and put it on his leg and to lie down on the couch and watch a TV show for a little bit.
“My friends are helping me out,” he said.
Good, I thought. They’ll be joking and laughing in no time and B will forget all about his leg.
Another phone call. “Mom, do I need an ambulance?” B asked, plaintively.
“No,” I comforted him. “Nothing is broken. Just relax.”
“Can I stay home from school tomorrow?”
Always the opportunist, this kid.
Again, the phone rang. “Mom, I can’t breathe.”
Great, I thought. The kid has asthma.
Then, in the background, “I think you’re going into shock.” His 13-year-old friend, Dr. Doolittle.
I wrapped up my desk, told my boss I was finishing in Middletown, and headed toward home.
My husband, who had run out for a short time, which turned into a long time, was unreachable by phone.
As I peeled down Route 9 toward home, I knew B was OK, as I’d talked to him. His panic was entirely self-induced, I thought.
Halfway home, I get yet another call. “Mom, E’s home.”
Then E calls me. “He fell off his bike. I think he’s more scared than hurt.”
Great. I drove to work in Middletown instead of home.
A couple hours later, when I arrived home from work, B was on the computer, taking full advantage of his “injury.”
“Mom, can you get me a drink/something to eat/a blanket/a pencil and paper?”
The next morning, B went to school without incident.
T and I drove toward preschool, saw the Press building had been reduced to a pile of concrete rubble over the weekend, and stopped to watch the construction workers.
Giant Caterpillars kicked up clouds of gray dust.
As a light mist began to fell, T and I watched.
I saw a man in a blue sweatshirt, hood over his head like the Reaper, head toward us.
I know that guy. It’s our neighbor!
“Wow, B really took a header yesterday!” D said.
“What do you mean? Did you see it?” My mouth went dry.
D went on to describe the scene.
B was riding along, talking to his friend, not even paying attention to where he was going. He smashed head-on into a parked car and flew over the handlebars.
“There was clear liquid all over the street. I think he peed himself,” my kind neighbor went on. “I asked him if he was OK, and he kind of hobbled off.”
I said a quick and silent prayer thanking the Lord for my son’s safety.
“Actually, he didn’t,” I said, icily. “When I got home, he was wearing his same pants. It must have just been water.”
I marveled at my son’s ability to walk away from a magnificent accident relatively unscathed.
Then I started to beat myself up for ever doubting him.
The light rain turned to steady as I said goodbye.
My neighbor walked away, headed to breakfast. At least a mile’s walk in the rain.
As I grabbed T’s hand, I thought I should have offered him a ride there.
Then I thought better of it.
After all, he could have left out the last part.
Guess that bicycle will be gathering cobwebs in the basement until next year.
It’s just as well.
B will have probably grown 6 inches by then.

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