Saturday, April 25, 2009

Two Days Off...

This is an odd sort of April Day. Yesterday began cold and rainy, giving way later to warm air and sunshine. Today began in that way, and by the time I tossed on some clothes to head to the post office, it was already 74F. At 10:30am. Warm, sunshiny, nice breeze. Tomorrow is expected to be more of the same.

The trip to the post office capped my academic work for the semester, overnighting a paper to one of my professors in lieu of traveling back to campus to get the job done. I still have to return on Monday, pick up my students' portfolios to grade, but by Wednesday at the latest, I'm free and clear for four whole months. It's nice being back in the country, not feeling rushed to do anything or go anywhere. I wore a pair of plaid pajama pants belonging to one of the boys out in public this morning--Mary or Tiffany had accidentally sorted them into my clothes, and I had no plans to give them back until I had a chance to wear them at least once--and my toilet consisted of no more than brushing my teeth, tying my hair into a quick ponytail, and finding my sunglasses. A younger woman could get away with this sort of thing in the city, but I'm too old now. Only in the country do I feel that I can be at home wherever I go.

The original plan would have had me in the city early in the week to write, to pick up my students' work, to turn in my own paper, then to wait for Christopher to take his last final so that I could load him up and bring him home, too, for the summer. My husband has taken over that task, so Chris will make it home as planned tomorrow. Me? "Life on life's terms" intervened. Monday evening, after dinner, while I sat, much like I am now, except upstairs in bed rather than on my front porch, laptop open, intent on my favorite mah jong game, my legs began to ache more than normal, my lower back tightened, keeping on, on, on up until...I sighed. George coated me down with Capzacin, I crawled into bed and prayed for relief by morning.

No go. From Tuesday until Thursday evening, the pain was acute, settling in on that right hip, the one I pulled the first time when Sage was three weeks old which left me, for weeks afterward, caring for an infant while my sciatic nerve shot pain the full length of my leg; the one I later pulled again two? three? days after Sage learned to ride a bike for the first time, the day he crashed, driving his eyetooth through the corner of his upper lip--though of course it wasn't his accident that destroyed my hip that day. I'd felt it pop out of the socket while I dragged the washtub full of clay from the side of the bank, dragging it rather than heaving shovels full of it because clay is heavy, and I am strong--I was strong. I needed a trench to transplant what I then thought were prairie roses and now am not so sure. They were so beautiful, pink, single blooms, with delicate thorns, found in the clearing in the woods on top of Hoover Hill. I couldn't lift the entire tub, so I grabbed one of its handles and gave a good, hard yank, feeling my pelvis move independent of my right leg, and *pop!* There it went.

So it was only moments after I'd replaced the brown bottle of muscle relaxers, of which I'd taken three? four? (memories muddy like the clay), swallowed down with a cold Rolling Rock, back on the shelf that Denny came in and said, in his trade-mark sarcastic way, "Whelp, I don't think he lost any teeth, but he'll probably need a stitch or two." And of course, Denny, being three or four Rolling Rock's ahead of me on such a beautiful summer's day, wasn't going to risk his driver's license to take Sage to the emergency room. That would be his response, had I the mind to tell him what I'd just done. Not, "I can't drive him. I'm intoxicated," but, "Don't think I'm going to get pulled over for DUI."

Sage was about eight seconds (nine? twelve? twenty?) behind Denny's entrance, one hand in Aaron's, one covering his mouth, blood seeping through his fingers, wailing at the top of his three-year-old lungs.

Sage had asked me, while I was digging, if he could go jump ramps with the other kids. "Mom, I'll wear my helmet. I'll be careful. I'm a good bike rider, huh? Right? I'll be careful, honest, I will." Sage, Little Man, Midget Magumba. He was the darling of the neighborhood. He spoke better than many kids years older than him, always asked funny questions, rarely ever threw tantrums. The boys had built little dirt mounds in the back yards behind the apartments. What could happen? He'd fall off the bike into the soft grass?

But it wasn't those little ramps he wanted to jump. The landscapers had dumped several loads of dirt near the entrance to the complex to build up the back yards nearest the creek. The "ramps" were taller than a good-sized man. When I realized he had come from the wrong direction, my first instinct was to check his arms, his legs for broken bones. Denny stopped me. "He didn't make it any further than the first speed bump."

Determining that Sage would not need anything larger than a dish towel to catch the blood (a tissue would likely have worked at this point--the blood had nearly stopped), I scooped him up in one arm, grabbed my purse and keys with the other, and tossed him into the front seat of the Caravan. I was no longer thinking about my hip. There's one chemical that is more effective than any pain killer known to humankind, and that is a mother's adrenaline. I didn't remember my hip until we were about four miles from the apartment, still three miles from the hospital. That's when the muscle relaxers, chased with cold beer, kicked in.

Just as a mother's adrenaline will kill pain in a heart beat, a mother's fear that she may do harm to her child causes a converse response. Whereas before, I'd sprung to action, now, all I wanted to do was slam my feet down on the breaks, not move another inch, lest I might, now high as a kite, hit another vehicle head on, side-swipe a mailbox (of course, on the passenger's side, where Sage sat), ram the tailgate of the truck in front of me. My foot off the gas but only hovering over the brake pedal, I inhaled deeply, tried to coral my thoughts into one place long enough to calculate the distance, the ease of travel, and the probability that I could make it the next three miles without killing us both--though I might think I deserved to die for such an idiotic move.

We made it there just fine, and though Sage required two stitches, his tooth was in good shape. The doctor praised the mandatory helmet laws and impressed upon me how much worse Sage's injuries could have been. Sage had given up the tears by the time we reached the hospital, and though I was oblivious to it, his inspection of them in the hand-held mirror the doctor offered began his fascination with having himself put back together. The years would hold many more such adventures. I was oblivious because it's difficult paying attention to doctor's instructions, mother's guilt, and a curiously quiet three-year-old all at the same time.

The doctor slowed, then stopped his speech to ask, "Ma'am, are you alright?" I could feel my lower lip quiver. As fuzzy as some of the details are of the day, as fuzzy as my head was at the time, I remember that quite clearly. It wasn't a good sign. My eyes filled, then overflowed, and the sobs began. While old doc was attempting to calm me, thinking, of course, that I was concerned for my son's safety, I threw my hand up, grabbing his shoulder, and cried, "I'm STONED."

Maybe it's not all that unusual for zonked parents to bring injured children to the ER. Doc called for a nurse, asked her to walk us both to the waiting room and to fetch me some black coffee, and there we sat. I know it was a couple of hours before I felt sober enough to drive. Sage, with his new stitches and a stack of story books, didn't seem to mind.

His birthday is in three weeks. He'll be nineteen. He lives about twenty minutes from here, and doesn't, at this time, have a working car or even a bicycle to come visit. We haven't seen Denny in quite some time, though the last time I spoke to him on the telephone, he's as sarcastic as ever.

I'm here, thirty-five miles from those apartments and six and a half years from any concerns over my mental ability to drive. Physically? That's another story. The seven mile round-trip to the post office nagged at my hip quite a bit, and the gardening I'd like to begin will have to wait. I've got two days off, to spend any way I like. I found an Anne Rice book on the shelves that I never got around to reading--Servant of the Bones--and it seems like a good guilt-free read about now. My house should fill up over the coming days and weeks with children home from adventures, people over for barbecues, music piped out onto the porch--life.

Till later...

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