Thursday, March 3, 2011

Falling Hard

My son was supposed to come to the city today to compete in a big East Coast indoor track meet in pentathlon. He called us yesterday afternoon excited to tell us he had qualified and would be here tonight, that the team would sleep in a hotel but he would be able to stay at home. Can you say thrilled? My husband, my daughter and I all planned to take Friday off to go and watch him. My daughter was practically levitating with anticipation of seeing her brother compete and of course, it didn't hurt that we had agreed to let her miss school.

But last night at around 1 a.m. the phone rang and woke me up. My heart stopped because phone calls at that hour don't usually bring good news. And sure enough, it was our son on the line, a sob in his voice. "Mom," he said miserably. I waited for it with forced calm. If you read here regularly, you can imagine all the places to which my worry brain flew, so I had a moment of guilty relief when he said, "I rolled my ankle really badly at a soccer game tonight. I feel like such an idiot."

But quickly, the dimensions of this turn of events became clear. Not only would he not be traveling to the city tonight with the team, and not only would his coach be upset, he would now be on crutches for the next six weeks, hobbling up and down the stairs and pathways of his very hilly and snowy campus, and he also wouldn't be able to do his job as lifeguard for open swim hours. The coach for the swim and dive team had just proposed sending him for additional training so that he could help instruct the student lifeguards next year, which would pay him more money and give him another life-saving certification under his belt—my boy collects first responder type skills the way others survey coins or stamps or your more tangible collectibles.

Well, his outdoor track season is now effectively wrecked. And one other thing. He needs to always be moving, this child. He is a kinetic being. As a student, he runs off his excess energy training daily for track, then he can concentrate on more sedentary work after. We've known this about him since middle school, when he first became involved in organized sports. He is deeply competitive, but his main competitor has always been himself, hence his emphasis on always trying to better his PR (personal record). Perhaps he might have been evaluated ADHD if he hadn't had athletics, but his involvement in regular physical activity has helped him effectively channel his energy surges, his hyperawareness of everything going on around him, which is an impressive skill when managed, a madding noise when not.

My son loves his fellow trackies. He feels as if he has let them down. My husband and I think they're all goofy, prankish ADHD kids who found a magic pill to focus the roiling electricity coursing through them. On the track field, they become laser beams of intention, their understanding of one another translating into the kind of single-minded camaraderie seldom seen outside of team sports. Once, when asked if he planned to pledge a fraternity in college, my son said, "Why would I need to? My track buddies are my brothers and sisters."

Last night, one of my son's roommates, also a trackie and an athletic training major, wrapped the ankle and helped to ice it. My son will present himself at the training room as soon as it opens this morning at nine. He says the ankle is swollen like an inflatable ball and hurts like hell this morning, and I worry that it may be fractured. Waiting to hear more.

Secretly, I feel like I tempted fate and did this. I have been writing here about my son flying, and then I put up that post facetiously glorifying the art of hurling yourself through space and missing the ground. Last night, he didn't miss the ground. He connected properly, because he always tries properly. Never mind that he should have been in his bed instead of playing soccer at midnight. This somehow feels like my fault, my hubris.

To this, my wonderful therapist who retired a decade ago or I would still be seeing her, the woman my husband and I called Saint Eleta, would have responded wryly, "You're not that powerful, dear."

One of my band wrote something a few weeks ago that stays with me (I thought it was Marylinn Kelly, but now I can't find it anywhere on her blog. If someone else else said this, please tug my sleeve): "The only superpower I desire is the ability to smooth my son's path." Yes. Yes. Yes. For both my children. But the truth is I can neither smooth nor rumple their sacred paths. They have to walk it on their own. And for the next several weeks, my son will be doing so on crutches.


  1. Your therapist would be correct. And...maybe your son will find himself swimming instead of running and jumping and maybe that will lead to something else that he would not have known he was so capable at. Or something.
    All will be well, dear. Don't fret.
    I think this is going to be one of those one-door-closes/another-opens situations.
    Now quit feeling guilty for something you had NO control over. I MEAN IT!

  2. what a bummer!

    hope the ankle heals surprisingly fast!

    the universe is strange in how sometimes it sends us a sign that we should slow down....could it be that your son might have gotten a cosmic suggestion?


    happy to learn your auntie's new aid is kind and gentle - rushing frail elders is just asking for a bushel of trouble.


  3. Oh dear, this is terrible news. It's so hard for us mothers, to stand back and watch our children's paths. Best wishes for a speedy healing. xx

  4. Damn!
    No one's fault.
    Time to think about that lemonade.

  5. Whew! Amazing post!!
    Wishing your son a speedy, pain-free recovery!!
    Sending love ~

  6. Oh, I know you must be disappointed! And while I understand we're not that powerful, I also share the fear of "jinxing" the things I write about. Sometimes, I feel like I call the universe's attention to it, and it must put a wrinkle in my bliss.

    Hang in there, Mom!
    :o) BJ

  7. Oh no! Wishing him a refuah shlema! (healing)...and your therapist (or former therapist) is're not that powerful...and even if you were you're more like Glinda -- only using your powers for good and not evil!

  8. Despite feeling bad that your son injured himself and is so disappointed, I have to say that I smiled at this post -- smiled at your guilty mama thoughts and shook my head. Why are we all so daft?

  9. Oh my sweet friend, I am so sorry. I can absolutely relate to your son's kinetic energy as I married a man who MUST be moving and produced one or two daughters who contain that same sort of energy, one having been "diagnosed" with ADD. You cannot blame yourself, a lesson that I am finally beginning to get with my 21 year old daughter. Just as you cannot keep them contained, you also cannot keep them from moving constantly and with the constant movement there are risks. I always try to remind myself that when something awful happens, maybe, just maybe, something even worse was avoided and that this was just an obstacle placed in the path. Somehow, this makes acceptance a tiny bit easier.

    I pray that your son has a very speedy recovery and that somewhere, the silver lining in all of this shows itself soon. Our children are meant to defy gravity even if the fall back to earth sometimes smarts more than others.

    Breathe, my friend, remember to breathe...

    Big hugs.

  10. Oh, I know this is hard on him, and so hard on you, too. My first thought was the same as Ms. Moon, though - I bet this will lead him somewhere new and interesting. He's quite remarkable, you know!

  11. But what joy to have a son who 'flies'!

    There is no more difficult job than mothering.

    Hang in there.