When time stops

Record Observer - - Sports -

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:


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