Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Big What If

I spent the day with 'what if.' Late this morning, as Mike slept a little longer, I had a strong urge to look in on him to make sure his ears were still pink. He almost never goes back to bed. I didn't want to wake him, just make sure he was still breathing. I spent a bit of time imagining how I would manage, or more likely not manage, if something happened to him. I wondered, and not for the first time, if a man can die of lack of sleep. So, I held myself in check and stayed away from our closed door. I tried to change my train of thought as I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and chatted with Nick from the other room. Then, I actually sat down to watch inane cartoons with Nick after I got the dishwasher going. Sometimes it's good for your mind to watch inane cartoons on TV. When Mike got up, a little after noon, I jumped up to hug him.

I know it isn't healthy to think a long time about what will happen when someone I love dies, but you have to remember that I know what it feels like to lose people. I believe that in a way, it's a memory instead of just a daydream. Those days were hard, especially after my dad died. I spent a lot of time then by myself. It was a lot for a thirteen year old girl to figure out on her own.

I've learned that the flip side of all this is that I know exactly how lucky I am to have loved Mike for nearly twenty-six years. Plus, I get to imagine that we'll have more time together. Most days, I imagine a lot more time with him.

There was another 'what if' this weekend, the one that started it all. On Friday morning, Nick was a bit too exuberant in opening the hatch to the Pruis and cheap plastic parts holding the struts onto the hatch failed. The thing came down hard, grazed Nick's forehead, then hit him across the chest. At first, he didn't realize he'd been hit. Hard hits work that way.

A goose egg bump formed immediately on his head and, leaving his backpack, vest, and lunch bag in the rain, I huddled Nick back into the house.

"Mike, you need to assess this. Nick was hit in the head by the hatch. It came loose from its moorings and fell on him," I yelled as I sat Nick down on the couch and ran for an ice pack. Mike sat down with Nick while I paced back and forth. Mike shined the LED light from his iPhone in Nick's eyes. Not fixed. Not dilated.

"Do you feel dizzy?" he asked him.

"No. Well, maybe a little," Nick said.

"How is your vision? Is it okay?"


"Does your head hurt?"

"Not really. Kind of."

Seeing that Nick probably wasn't having an emergency, I ran out to the car, at the same time calling Adrian to have him run over to meet me. He was going to be late for school. One of the struts stuck out of the side of the hatch and it wouldn't close properly. Leaving the hatch, I scooped up Nick's things and threw them into the car. Adrian jumped in with his stuff, and I sped down the road, trying to slow my breathing and my driving while telling Nick's story to Adrian. I dropped him off and drove a little more safely back home.

"I gave him some Acetaminophen," Mike said as I walked up the stairs. "Dont' give him Ibuprofen. It might make things bleed more easily. Keep ice on his head. You might need to take him to the doctor later if his symptoms get worse." And then Mike was off to work himself.

Not an emergency. Not really.

Still, with the addition of visual changes, dizziness, and some nauseousness, meanth that we were headed to the doctor later that morning. I'd had Nick keep the ice on his head for more than an hour. The poor kid kept taking it off because it was giving him a brain freeze and I kept nagging him to put it back. For a while, the swelling spread down into his eye, threatening to close it, but it eased after a bit. I take credit for my work, the nagging, regarding the ice. Still, I didn't want Nick to suffer the same fate as Natasha Richardson who hadn't thought the bump on her head worth seeing a doctor over. So I made an appointment.

I was okay, I really was, that is, until the doctor kept talking about how lucky Nick was that the hatch had only grazed his head instead of hitting it square or on the back of his neck or something. This doctor was a wonderful, a very curious and thorough doctor, and he spoke directly to Nick instead of talking to me as if he weren't in the room. I love those characteristics in a doctor.

But it hit me how incredibly lucky Nick had been.

In the car after the appointment, I hid the way my hands were shaking by talking to Mike on the phone about what the doctor had said. Mild concussion. Two days rest. Heavy limits on video games and no school for two days. Too bad it was a Friday. No contact sports for a week. Mild exercise, yes. Bouncing and bumping, jumping and especially sparring, no. I got calmed down while I talked to Mike. He has that effect on me.

And then, I was okay until this afternoon, when I needed to run errands. I left Mike to look after Nick who had been pretty quiet for the past twenty-four hours. I brought the dog because he needed a walk. After I finished my errands, I headed to the dog park, hoping the off leash area would be busy, but there wasn't a soul around. We'd have to walk then.

Dangerous, these quiet walks.

I let my mind wander to its own place. 'What if' came back. What if that hatch had come down square on Nick's head? What if it had chopped at the back of his neck? What if, what if, what if? In the end, it was good there weren't any people in the grassy area when I got back from looping out through the back field where the elk lie. I was wrung out, jittery. My head hurt. Leave it to me to have my head hurt when Nick is the one who got the bump.

He's okay. I said to myself over and over. He's okay. He really is okay.

When I got home and walked up the stairs, Nick was raring to go. The Lego store. It was important. I could see that he was feeling better.

"Are you going to come with us?" Mike asked.

"Yeah, I missed you while I was out." I really am an extraordinarily lucky woman to have these two men in my life.

Thank you for listening, jb


  1. I relate to you so much here, Julie.I have the same thoughts and worries about my husband and my son...keep imagining 'what if"..!I lost my dad when I was 12- does this have something to do with that? I am so fearful of losing my loved ones.We live in dangerous times.Anyway,its great to know that everything turned out alright, take care!

    1. Thanks Arti. I don't know answers, but my sense is that losing so many people so early has made me know the fear of losing the ones I love and the joy of having time with them. I try not to get down into the fear too often. It's like the way black and white make the picture deeper, isn't it?