When time stops
Time stops at the wrong times when you’re a parent.
My wife and I have been married for nearly two decades; our firstborn, Spencer, will turn 18 in six days.
Time has flown by. May 24, 1999, the whole of which we spent awake in the hospital in Easton, now looks about as clear in my rearview mirror as a dinged-up road sign half a mile back. Mandy’s six hours of pushing — not labor, just what’s supposed to be the last, allegedly quick part — followed by what we didn’t learn until later was an emergency C-section delivery still sticks in my mind, obviously. I’m sure Mandy remembers it better than I do, though.
His birthdays, and the 14 our next child, Logan, has celebrated, have run past us like light in a vacuum. Our third child, Paige, is 8½ now. It’s all a blur. But several moments stick out because they lasted an eternity, despite actually taking only minutes, hours, or at worst a couple of weeks.
Sadly, very few are good ones.
A year ago last month, when the phone rang on what Baz Luhrman called “some idle Tuesday,” time stopped. It was Spencer.
“Dad,” he said breathily, in a voice so full of fear, I had heard that tone only once before — on Sept. 11, 2001, at 10:08 a.m., when my mother called to tell me the world had changed forever.
“What’s wrong?” I ask immediately. “Are you OK?”
And then you hear the word that you know you won’t hear. “No.” He had broken his femur in a freak accident, and was on his way to the hospital. His recovery, which involved what we both hope will be our only visit ever to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and a twoday stay, was amazing.
But I aged five years in the half-second between that one word and my asking what happened.
Logan, born with spina bifida in 2002, has had several brain surgeries; all but one were on an emergency basis.
Every time, he was asymptomatic. His ventriculoperitoneal, or VP, shunt, installed just after he was born, was clogged in all but one instance; the tubing broke off in his chest when he was five.
Each phone call telling us he had to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital was like a kick in the face.
An injured, or desperately ill, child is the one thing parents really fret the most. It’s not the mortgage, your sciatica, or the scandal du jour on Capitol Hill.
It’s being told by Dr. Ben Carson that “for me this operation, on the 1-10 scale, is about a three. But for parents, it’s a 200. I know it’s impossible, but try to relax. We’ll take care of him.”
That doesn’t help much, really. Parents understand the well-intended aspect of the remark. But no one whose kid this is, right here, right now can relate.
It’s the slow-rolling ball of dread you get, knowing your kid is out 90 minutes past curfew ... and hearing sirens.
It’s watching your teenage daughter fall the ground in the middle of a softball game. She’s hurt — because the universe has just decided that yes, it is somehow possible for a six-inch-wide foul ball to slip through a gap beneath her mask less than a quarter that size, and knock her to the ground.
Folks, you gotta understand something. This world is out to get us.
And we gotta stick together.
That’s why when that happened to a young lady from Easton High’s softball team Wednesday, the clock didn’t move at first. For anyone there.
Not the parents, though for all but two, the fretting wasn’t ours this particular time. Not the players on either team — because it could’ve been any one of them. Not the coaches, because it’s their job to do all they can to keep the kids safe.
Nobody failed in that last bit Wednesday, by the way. Physics failed. But not the softball community.
When time stopped for the Easton softball family on Wednesday — because no team in this area is merely a gaggle of children wearing the same color clothing — it stopped for the North Caroline family the Warriors were playing, as well.
Seeing one of their own hurt, the assemblage sprang into action with a velocity and depth of concern that puts medics in the Army to shame.
With an injured girl on the field, no fewer than 19 parents, players, coaches, and fans lent a hand one way or another.
One offered a towel to support the player’s head. Another was calling 911. Water bottles appeared like manna in the 91-degree heat. Someone was running to get this, grab that, and no one outside the hive of activity made a sound.
One of our kids was hurt. Even if she didn’t live in our house. And those in attendance did what they could as a group.
When the clock ceases to tick in these situations, sometimes nothing anyone can say or do will make things better.
But when they can, people where I live don’t just do it. They do it all the way.
Get better, young lady. We can’t have our daughter feeling bad. It tears us all up. Follow me on Twitter: