Thursday, February 4, 2010

O for Owie

Mama's Losin' It
I’m participating in Mama Kat’s writing workshop today. The prompt I chose is: Explain a time there was an emergency. What “mode” did you go into? Freaking out, calm and collected, etc.

We were celebrating what would’ve been my sister’s 20th birthday; our emotions still raw from the life changing event less than two months prior, and our minds still attempting to figure out how to move forward without her contagious laughter and big, heartfelt hugs. The questions still swirled around in our brains: How? Why? What really happened? And the only person who could answer them was sitting in a downtown jail cell.

Many of my sister’s friends had come to celebrate her life with us. They brought their children with them, so my sister’s son (my youngest nephew), Li’l D, was surrounded by friends. We had decided to once again do one of her favorite things; a bonfire was crackling in my mom’s backyard on this unseasonably warm February day.

There were at least half a dozen kids playing in the snow in my mom’s backyard. My sixteen year old stepbrother started pulling some of them in a sled, taking a circuitous route from the backyard to the front yard and around again to the back. The kids loved it! All of a sudden, those of us standing at the bonfire recalling our memories aloud heard my stepbrother screaming, “OH NO! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!” We turned. He was running towards us with a crying Li’l D in his arms. Li’l D was holding his head. We all saw it at about the same time; the blood that was running down Li’l D’s face.

My mom freaked out. She ran towards my stepbrother screaming, “What did you DO?!?! WHAT DID YOU DO?!? WHAT HAPPENED?!?” She tore Li’l D out of stepbrother’s arms. She pulled his little hand away from his head and shrieked, “OH.MY.GOOOOOOOD!” as she ran into the house with him. Mom’s husband asked his son what had happened. Stepbrother claimed he didn’t know—he was pulling the kids through the driveway, and all of a sudden he turned around and Li’l D was laying on the ground bleeding. Mom’s husband asked me to go in the house and check on her; I was already halfway to the door.

She was still screaming when I entered the house, going on and on about all the blood and having to go to the Emergency Room. I headed straight for the bathroom, calmly declaring to those sitting in the living room wandering what was happening, “I’m sure it’s not that bad; head wounds always look worse than they are because of all the bleeding.” I am not a medical expert by any means, but I thought I’d heard that somewhere once.

My mother screeched, “NO! This is BAD! This is seriously BAD!” I entered the bathroom to see Li’l D sitting on the counter with a hand towel pressed firmly to the left side of his head right above his temple. He was no longer crying. Mom was washing blood off of his face and hands. I crouched down to his eye level and spoke gently, “How ya doing, buddy? Got a pretty bad owie, huh?” He nodded his head, “Uh-huh.” Mom told me that the blood was spurting out. She said that, if the washcloth was removed, the gaping wound would shoot blood out.

Mom has always had a flare for the dramatic, so I thought nothing of it as she gently pulled the washcloth away from my nephew’s head to prove to me just how horrible his injury was. Okay, okay, so maybe it was that bad. There was a gash about three inches long and a quarter of an inch deep in my two-year-old nephew’s forehead. I realized that I needed to be calm, because my mother was completely incapable of that at the moment. I was surprised that the extreme shakiness, brought on by the adrenaline surging through my body, wasn’t outwardly visible.

“Okay!” I said brightly, “Good thing we all already have our jackets on! Let’s get in the car and go to the Emergency Room.” I said this in the way one would announce to a two-year-old boy that he was about to depart on a grand adventure to Chuck E. Cheese's.

As we headed out of the house, I grabbed my purse. Music Man and mom’s husband were still outside trying to figure out what happened. Mom’s husband asked how Li’l D was doing, and mom snapped, “We’re going to the EMERGENCY ROOM!” I felt bad for mom’s husband; once again, he was being blamed for his son’s screw up. Whatever had happened was clearly an accident, and with all of us having suffered enough emotional upheaval in the previous months, I saw no reason to dub anyone the malicious bad guy. It was obvious that stepbrother felt awful, and it was obvious that everyone was concerned about Li’l D’s wellbeing.

Mom declared that we’d take her van, so we piled in; her holding Li’l D in the passenger seat and me in the driver’s seat. I quickly adjusted the seat and mirrors and started backing out of the driveway. There was a bump, and my mom screamed, “STOP! OHMYGOD! WHERE’S PRINCESS! OHJESUSOHGOD—WE RAN HER OVER!” Did she honestly think we ran over my almost two-year-old niece?! Jeezus! (Whose name is not Princess, but you probably know by now that all names used in my blog are nicknames or pseudonyms.) REALLY?!?

I tried to remain calm. I knew it was the mound of icy snow at the end of the driveway that had caused the bump. But, adrenaline racing, I temporarily forgot about my mother’s flare for the dramatic; Panic set in as I pictured my niece’s little body trapped under the back tires of my mom’s minivan. I screeched to a halt, put the van into Park, and nearly threw up as I rolled down the window and yelled, “WHERE’S Princess?” The group assembled on the front sidewalk announced, “Right here,” as my niece appeared from behind my husband. J.F.C! I was about ready to tell my mom she needed to get out of the van, because adding a saner, more rational person to this mix was a necessity.

As we drove to the Emergency Room, mom ranted about her stepson with Asperger’s; who, of course, obviously did this on purpose. She postulated that he had probably pulled the sled too close to a car that was parked in the driveway and that a license plate had clipped my nephew’s head as a result. She told me that she’d been thinking about separating from her husband, because she just couldn’t handle stepson anymore. “He’s just an idiot, completely incapable of doing anything,” she proclaimed, “I’m so sick of his carelessness and stupidity.”

I kept myself quiet as I realized that now was probably not the best time to point out that, if she knew him to be so careless and stupid, perhaps she shouldn’t have let him pull the children around the yard in a sled. I chose instead to try to change the subject, or at the very least, to keep her calm. Besides, I knew that the venom she was spewing was a result of her overly emotional state and not based on reality.

Li’l D kept trying to sit up, but mom insisted on cradling him like a baby, because the blood would move slower if he was lying down. (No, she’s not a medical professional either.) I asked, “How ya doing buddy?” A small voice replied, “Good. I got a big owie, auntie,” and his little hand reached up as he pointed to his head. Despite his large owie, he was cool as a cucumber. I was glad to see that he was dealing with the situation more on auntie’s level than grandma’s. When we arrived at the Emergency Room, mom rushed him inside as I went to park the van.

By the time I got inside, they had checked in and were waiting patiently for a triage nurse. A medical assistant came over to put a hospital bracelet on my nephew; seeing someone in scrubs walk towards him made Li’l D panic. He did not want to be touched by any medical professional; probably because his owie wasn’t hurting as much anymore, and he didn’t want them ruining that.

The triage nurse came over and took us into a little room. She asked my mom if she was the mother, and mom replied, “No. I’m his guardian.” The nurse asked, “Where’s his mother?” as she looked at me assuming that I would answer in the affirmative. My mother’s face twisted in anguish as she replied, “Deceased.” Tears rolled down both of our cheeks now. My mom quickly summarized my sister’s untimely death as the nurse took Li’l D’s vital signs.

I distracted him (or tried to at least) while mom held him and the nurse cleaned the wound and put some kind of numbing/antiseptic gel on his head. The gel stung “a bit,” and Li’l D started wailing and struggling to get out of my mom’s arms and away from the nurse. He reached for me with pure terror in his eyes, and I felt completely helpless. I tried to tell him that he was going to be okay and that the nurse was almost done, but his screams blocked out my words.

The automatic reflex children have to yell out for their fiercest protector, mommy, kicked in; As Li’l D screamed for a mommy that couldn’t be there, and who would never again be able to answer to those cries, we tried to console and calm him as the wounds on our already fragile hearts tore wide open again.

Tears continued to run down our cheeks as the triage nurse announced that he’d need stitches. As she tried to bandage him up, we tried to keep him calm and immobile. Mom held him in a bear hug while I held his legs—it was torture for all of us. I briefly contemplated asking if there was a doctor available to stitch up my broken heart, or perhaps, to put me in a coma until my grief had subsided.

As we sat in the waiting room again, it was clear that my mother and I were having similar thoughts. We FAILED! Li’l D had been under our* tutelage for less than two months, and here he was with his worst injury to date. We were in the Emergency Room, on his mom’s birthday of all days, and all any of us wanted was his mommy.

(* Clearly Li’l D was (and is) under my mom’s care. I say “our,” because our family agreed after the loss of his mother that “the village” would help raise him. Music Man and I had even offered to take custody of him, but my mom insisted on keeping him with her. She reaches out to my sister or me when she needs a break, and we take the little guy for a night or a weekend. Music Man and I absolutely adore our weekends with him, and still maintain that we will take custody of him if it’s ever necessary.)

Not sure how long we’d have to wait for the doctor who would sew up my nephew's head, my mom wanted her husband to come to the hospital with clean (read: non-bloody) clothes for Li’l D. I took my phone outside to call Music Man. I translated mom’s request for clothes and a few other things, and asked Music Man to bring mom’s husband to the hospital in my car.

The evening was approaching, and it was a Sunday night, so we’d need to head home soon in order to prepare for the week ahead. Music Man asked how I was doing. OMG...was he trying to break me?!?! I answerd in a quick clip, "I'm fine. Everything's fine. Li'l D is gonna need some stitches, but he's going to be okay." (I almost convinced myself that I was, indeed, fine.) I took a deep breath and headed back inside.

Mom was called away to deal with insurance forms, so I took Li’l D over to the children’s play section of the waiting room. He was immediately immersed in Thomas the train, suddenly oblivious to the trauma he had endured just minutes ago. I marveled at how resilient kids are. When Music Man arrived with mom’s husband, we said our goodbyes. I hugged my nephew, and told him that the doctors were going to fix him up really good. My mom and her husband hugged me, thanking me for my help and for keeping mom calm.

In the quiet safety of my own car, I broke down. All of the emotions that had built up over the day could now be freely released. I no longer had to worry about being the calm one or staying strong. Music Man held me as I cried, assuring me that Li’l D was going to be just fine. Of course he was right; I knew my nephew was going to be just fine. I was just wondering when, or if, I was ever going to be.

Li’l D ended up with 21 stitches that night. Today, almost two years later, he has a faint scar that will remain with him for the rest of his life. When he gets older, we’ll tell him about his accident. We’ll let him know what a strong, brave little boy he was and how proud of him we were. I will thank him for the lessons he taught me that night: I am strong. I am resilient. I will be okay.
Creative Commons License


  1. Hi Elle! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Off to check out some more of your posts now... have a great day! :)

    Joanne @ Ready, Set, Craft!

  2. I am all sniffly and teary-eyed now. What an awesome post.

    ...I'm really sorry you had to go through all of that. And Lil D too. :(

    Thanks for stopping by earlier!

  3. Wow. You may be strong and resilent, but I'm CRYING. AT WORK. Thanks a lot. Seriously though. That is an awesome post. I'm not sure how you got through that moment in time or how you were able to revisit it to write about it. His little cries would have torn me right in two.

  4. You Elle, are one fantastic writer! I just had to say that before anything else. The way you told your story really had me. I felt like I was there and could really feel the turmoil that evening.

    I am so sorry that you've lost a sister...that LilD lost his momma. I am heartbroken for you all. You did a really fine thing that evening; staying calm in spite of the chaos. That's what both the little guy and your mom needed. I can tell that you are strong and resilient.

    Peace to you.

  5. Oh my goodness, that was so well written! I felt like I was there.

    thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. Wow! What a terrific writer you are! I'm so glad I found you!

    Please don't stop!

  7. Just loved this post... coming from SITS. Random, but are you going to Bloggy Boot Camp in Baltimore?

  8. What a well-written emotional post! I'm hooked and will definitely be back to check out your other writing exercises. Glad I discovered you today!

    Happy SITS Saturday!

  9. I'm so sorry you lost your sister. You indeed, though, wrote this post well. I'm here from SITS also, and will be back.

  10. You poor thing! What a horrific time!

  11. Thank you all for your wonderful, supportive, and complimentary comments--it means so much to me! I'm glad you all stopped by and that you enjoyed this post. I've emailed most of you. If you haven't received an email from me, it's because I didn't get your email address. Please know that your comments are very much appreciated!

  12. happy saturday!

    Amazing post. Kept me enthralled to the very end. Such a hard, and sad story though.. wonderful that the "village" will be there for him as he grows up though.


Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for taking the time to comment! Readers like you make me want to continue writing. I will do my best to reply to your comment by either commenting on your blog or by sending you an email. In order for me to send you an email, which I really really like to do, because it's a more personal response, you need to put your email address somewhere on your blog or in your blogger profile. Also, can you please make sure to leave me a link so that I can come and visit your lovely blog? Thanks a bunch!

I hope to see you back here again soon!

Related Posts with Thumbnails