This weekend my kids learned that life can change for the worse in a split second, and that there are rarely do-overs.
Saturday we drove an hour north to Nottingham N.H. for an outdoor gathering of some friends in the security industry. Duncan was delighted to find they had a playground, and ran for the monkeybars. Before any of us had a chance to react, he slipped and landed on his wrist, breaking bones in two places.
We spent the afternoon at Exeter Hospital and the staff was terrific. They quietly moved Duncan to the front of the line (you should never leave an 8-year-old sitting in agony, after all) and got him x-rayed. They had to take him to the operating room to re-set the bones and now he’s walking around with an enormous splint on his arm.
He’s taking it like a champ, and in the hospital, when they had to repeatedly stick him with a needle in search of a vein for the IV, he was much tougher than I was at his age, when my veins were equally elusive during hospital stays for Crohn’s Disease flare ups.
But Sean was particularly upset to see his brother in pain like this, and it brought him to tears more than once that afternoon. On the car ride home, he kept talking about the suddenness of it all. If we could just go back that one second and prevent what happened, he said.
Erin and I explained that sometimes in life these things just happen, and the key from that moment on is how you react to the unexpected. In this case, we did the right things. We got Duncan to the ER quickly and have followed all the doctor’s instructions since getting home. But Sean still has trouble accepting what happened.
At one point I laughed and told him we’re shocked it took this long for one of them to break something.
By age 10, I had already been to the ER for a broken finger (I flipped my brother off and he promptly grabbed the finger and snapped it in half), a butter knife through the hand and a broken leg. The leg cast used to make my skin itch something fierce, and I tried to get at the itch by shoving my father’s golf tees into the hole for my toes. When they finally cut the cast off, a bunch of golf tees spilled onto the floor.
And this stuff was in addition to all the Crohn’s-related visits.
Either we’ve shielded these kids exceptionally well or we just have an abundance of dumb luck.
Sean wasn’t comforted by the explanation. He kept obsessing about how he wishes we could have traveled that second back in time.
We’ve all played that game. We love to go over the what-ifs and think about how much rosier life would have turned out if we had just done that one thing differently.
But it’s never worked that way. We break bones. We crash cars (multiple times in my case). We get sick unexpectedly.
Trying to go back never makes things better. Never has. The key is in how we respond to the rude surprises life hands us.
You all knew that already. Now Sean and Duncan know.