I got to work early this morning. Walking in I held the door open for a lady I don’t think I’ve seen before. I can’t be sure because there’s a lot of people I don’t know that work here, and I tend not to pay attention. She said thank you and then when we got on the elevator she asked me what floor I was on. I said five and she pushed it, as well as six for herself. She looked at me and said, “this is my last day here.” It’s 6:30 in the morning and people don’t normally talk to me in the elevator. I think I said something profound like “really?”
Her: I’ve been here twenty-five years and my job got deleted.
Me: (oh wow am I not prepared to have a conversation like this) Well, what are you going to do?
Her: I don’t know. Probably cry a lot.
Me: (trying to be funny, but also inspiring) You should do something awesome like go to the roof and throw stuff off. (it doesn’t work)
Her: (starting to cry) I just don’t know.
Me: (swimming in it) I’m sorry.
The elevator reaches five and the doors open.
Me: I hope it’s a good day.
Her: (fully crying now) thanks.
And I got off the elevator.
Yesterday I got home from work and I don’t know what it is about the drive home, but by the time I get in the driveway EVERYDAY I’m fighting, like shaking my head and yelling out loud fighting, to keep my eyes open. Something about the drive home just exhausts me. I put the car in park and have to immediately get out or I’ll fall asleep in the driveway. Crazy.
So when you’re sleepy tired like that, the last thing you want to do is…well, anything. Jacob and Asher were out on the play set and something happened and Shannon was feeding Piper, so I got nominated to go outside and manage the issue. So I drag myself outside and intervene—I don’t remember what it was about. Maybe the plastic shovel for the sand box. Anyway I get out there and Jacob disappears to do something else, leaving me with Asher, who now wants to go across the street to play with the fifth grader.
I convince him to stay by starting to swing. Once I start swinging, he of course wants to swing. Asher loves swinging. He just loves it. He’s not big enough to get in the swing by himself, but yesterday I taught him to stand with the swing on the back of his legs and reach high on the chains and pull himself into the swing. He’s not strong enough to pull himself into the swing yet, but with just a fraction of help from me he did it. And now I’m fully awake and have forgotten that I’m a selfish jerk. It’s a beautiful afternoon and I’m really enjoying being with Asher.
He loves swinging. I know I already said that, but I really can’t emphasize that enough. He loves going high. So I’m pushing him and he’s laughing and we’re talking the way a thirty-five year-old dad and a two year-old son do. We’ve done this a lot and it’s something we both really love.
Then he fell.
I play it back in my mind and I can’t identify what went wrong. I pushed him exactly as I had pushed him for the previous ten minutes. He reached the bottom of the arc and then tumbled backward out of the swing. I can only guess he let go of the chains. He did a back flip and appeared to land on his hands and knees.
As a parent you learn to recognize the difference between when they just fall down and when they’re really hurt. He only fell like two feet or so, and the grass is thick where he fell. So I played it for “just a fall” and waited that fraction of a second between the actual event and his response to see if he’d come up laughing or crying. He came up crying so I scooped him up and headed for the house.
We can talk about how I played this one wrong, but I think you already see it.
We’re walking up to the house and he’s got a good cry on. We reach the steps and I think he’s probably had enough time to cry the scare off, and any pain that might accompany it. So I say, “that was pretty scary wasn’t it?” He cries his yes. “Ye-he-ess.” And then in my best conspiratorial voice I say, “but it was kind of fun too, wasn’t it?” I get an emphatic no through the tears. I still haven’t looked at his face.
We get inside and Shannon says, “he fell?” And I say yeah. Shannon walks around behind me to look at Asher. “Neil, he’s bleeding!”
I am the worst parent ever. This at least ties with the time I dislocated Jacob’s elbow.
I set him on the counter and now it’s pretty obvious he didn’t land on his hands and knees. He landed on his face. He landed face-down in the grass. Face-planted in the truest sense. He’s bleeding out his nose and mouth. Not a lot of blood, but enough. He’s got bruising on his forehead, nose and upper lip. His upper lip is fat and his nose looks broken. He actually has grass up inside his nose. We’re pulling grass out of his nose.
Like I said, worst parent ever.
And that was the worst of it. He’s got all his teeth. He didn’t bite his tongue and he can breathe through his nose. Nowhere near what Weston went through with the bathtub incident, but still…
These two things are somehow connected, the elevator and the swing set. I can’t see how yet, but there’s a thread there I need to pick up.
2 months ago