A Day in the Life: How tall is Maria?


It’s a little after 3:00, you’re at work, up at the front desk chatting with your co-workers about a big project the department will be starting very soon. Yom Kippur begins tonight, and you have been honored with an aliyah during the evening service, so you are trying to finish up a little early to have plenty of time for dinner before the fast tomorrow. The phone in your office rings. The administrative assistant picks up at her desk and hands it to you. “Yes, this is she. Oh, no! Yes, I’ll leave right now.” No big deal, just the school calling to tell you that your younger son has had an accident, he looks pretty bad and you must come immediately. You run in, shut down your computer, put your phone on forward, grab your things and run out to the car.

School is only two miles away, thankfully. When you arrive, your baby is laid out on the grass, looking a bit green himself, blood on his face, his arms up over his head, both wrists akimbo in an odd position. It seems that as they were leaving school for the day, another boy on a bike cut in front of him and slamming on his brakes, he ended up going head first over his handlebars. To protect his face, he put his hands up as he hit the ground. Your older son, who has been home all week with pneumonia, is there and wants to walk the bike home, five blocks away. That’s fine, you are happy not to have to deal with it. The principal and a few teachers who have gathered around help you get him into the car. He is obviously in shock, dazed and confused.

A woman you’ve just met recently, who will, in time, become your best friend, works at an immediate care clinic, so you rush him over there because you know the ER will be busy at that time of day and pretty soon, he will be feeling a lot of pain. You run in and ask for someone to help you bring him inside. A PA grabs a wheelchair on his way out to get him. He wheels him in and takes him back to an exam room while you park the car and fill out the necessary paperwork. When you go back to the room to be with him, the PA asks if it’s all right to sedate him so they can splint him and make him comfortable before going to the ER. He says that both wrists appear to be broken, but thankfully, despite what looks like a lot of blood, aside from some small bruises, his head and face are not injured. While the PA is taking care of him, the nurse has made arrangements for you to take him to the ER, where they will be waiting for you.

By the time you get to the ER, your son is conscious and asking questions. “What happened to me? Why are these things on my arms? Where’s my bike?” You assure him that the bike is fine, but they think he has broken both wrists. True to form, you sit in a room and wait and wait and wait. By 6:00, you are still waiting and he is in a lot of pain. You go to find someone, and while you’re at the desk, you ask to use the phone; you call the temple and explain why you cannot be there tonight to do your bit. As you are returning to the room, a doctor comes out, asks if you’re the mom, says he’s ordered some pain reliever and did you want to accompany them to radiology for x-rays. The films show what you already know: both wrists are broken, but they are clean-ish breaks and the surgeon believes that they will heal without any problems.

You sit out in the waiting room as they set the bones and cast him, wondering how much use of his hands he will have, how much school he will miss, and if you can find someone to stay with him at home for a few days. Finally he comes out, casts from knuckles up over both elbows. They will stay on for seven weeks. Stunned, it occurs to you that he can neither feed, nor toilet himself, and that you will have to take off for the next seven weeks to care for him and home school him. You make a mental list of all the work on your desk. Some of it you can do in your studio at home, some your junior designer will have to do. Before you leave the ER, you call home to say you’ll be there in a few minutes, but first you will stop and get something for dinner. You can’t even stand the smell of McDonald’s, but your invalid asks for it as a special treat. You feel so bad for him that you acquiesce and order Big Macs and fries for both boys.

Your son is very unhappy that you have to take him to the bathroom, help him go, and clean him up afterward. He’s not bothered by having anyone else feed him, but he’s 11 and that’s a bad age for the puberty/privacy thing. In the morning you call the school to report that your child will be out for the next seven weeks, and arrange to get his assignments each week. You will home school him while he’s out so that he will not fall behind. The idea of staying home and playing teacher makes you uneasy, but you do what you have to do. You call your office, explain why you will not be back for seven weeks, and checking your mental list, you assign what you can to your junior designer, who offers to bring you the things you can do in your home studio when you’re not pottying, feeding or teaching your kid. You call and order a new pair of glasses, since his were broken when he fell and he can’t see much without them, and then, you call your friend who works at the clinic and ask her if she could please run out to Lenscrafters at the mall to pick up the replacement pair you’ve just ordered. He will have them by evening.

He has a lot of pain for the first couple of days. The pain pills knock him for a loop, so nothing much gets accomplished with educational activities. Over the weekend he perks up. It’s not a weekend with Dad, which doesn’t much matter, since Dad has already made it clear that he’s not interested in feeding and toileting an 11-year-old, too disgusting. You spend the two days taking care of his needs, watching movies with him and getting ready to start home schooling on Monday. Your other son takes advantage of the opportunity to have the playroom and all the games to himself.

The following weekend is a Dad weekend. Your older son wants to stay home because Dad’s new girlfriend prefers horses to children and he spends the time there largely being ignored while he plays on the computer, plays video games or watches TV. He doesn’t want to have to go by himself, even though the two of them fight constantly. You make him go because that’s the agreement, and you are still operating under the delusion that boys need their fathers, although you are seriously beginning to question this notion. His brother is happy to stay home, but angry that Dad doesn’t want him.

You find that you are actually enjoying the home schooling part of this adventure. Your little patient is a bright and willing student, that is, until you get to story problems. Story problems, or word problems as they are now called, were the bane of your existence as a child, so you certainly understand his frustration. You read the problem to him. “Maria has six brothers and sisters and eight cousins. Maria is shorter than her cousins, but taller than some of her siblings. Her parents are taller than she is, and some of her siblings are taller than her parents…. How tall is Maria?” You haven’t the slightest idea how tall Maria is, and if your son is half as confused as you are, he has no idea either. “Ummm, could you read it to me again?” As you repeat the problem, you can see his mind wandering. You tell him to concentrate and pay attention, not easy for an ADHD child with both arms in casts from knuckles to above his elbows. Totally exasperated, when you ask him for the answer, he makes a face and asks you, “Don’t these people know about birth control?” Needless to say, he didn’t get any points for that one, nor for the one with the geese, the cows, the farmer and his wife and kids and how many legs were there. “How should I know? What do I know about farms? I’ve never been on a farm in my life!”

Seven weeks pass quickly. The day arrives and you take him to the surgeon’s office after lunch to have the casts removed. Of course, the saw completely freaks him out. You’d think that after the first cast came off, he’d be used to it, but noooooooo. Finally, both casts are off. He’s sitting in a wheelchair, head down. Every time he tries to stand up, he feels faint. His wrists hurt like mad, his arms are not exactly pretty to look at, and the odor is anything but pleasant. No wonder he feels like fainting. The surgeon suggests getting a little fresh air. A nurse begins to push the chair toward a side entrance. You hold open the door as she wheels him outside.

It’s now nearly 5:00, it’s a bit chilly and everyone wants to go home. The nurse helps you to stand him up and tells him to take a deep breath. His color seems to be returning and everything seems to be coming along fine. Suddenly, he bends over and throws up on the nice nurse’s shoes. You hear her swear under her breath before she assures him it’s OK, not a big deal. Mortified, he apologizes profusely, but he knows, without a shadow of doubt, that he will forever be known as that kid who barfed on that nice lady’s shoes. It’s been a very long afternoon. You’re just glad it was her shoes and not yours.


My son returned to school two days later and I returned to work. Those seven weeks were some of my most satisfying as a mom.


About Peace Penguin

Just a penguin on the path to choosing peace.
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