Photo – Freeimages.com: Jacque Stengel
The pain must have been excruciating upon impact. I cringe at the thought of my seven-year-old's collarbone snapping.
The call came in at 11:03 a.m. The school secretary said he fell playing soccer. They put his arm in a sling; after tears, he returned to class. She said he seemed okay. Nobody thought anything was broken, so I said he should stay at school.
I irrationally felt neglectful for leaving him there.
Maybe I was selfish for not wanting to pick him up. I had deadlines and research to finish. Needed to get more done before the kids returned from school. Plus, my boy's been known to milk the "sick" card. Fine line discerning between genuine pain and complaining.
"If you cry wolf too much, I might not react as quickly as I should," I've often told him.
The morning after, he complained about some pain. Figured he was angling for a day home. I didn't buy it, but cut him a deal. "Let's go see M," I said, a family friend and physiotherapist. "If she thinks we need to see a doctor, then we will."
"Okay," he agreed.
"I think you should get an X-ray," M said, pointing out the swelling on his left-hand side, "to be safe." It wasn't that swollen the previous evening. "If you go to Urgent Care you won't have to wait as long as at the ER."
I stubbornly didn’t believe he broke a bone, but thought it prudent to rule it out.
We arrived at Urgent Care. Took a number. Eighteen people in front of us. M had supplied us with a stash of comics to keep us occupied. We made the best of our unforeseen father-son time.
We read silently, side-by-side. He inspected M's vintage 1970s comic books, with the same Hubba Bubba ads I grew up with. I read a Maclean's article about the Fort McMurray inferno of 2016. How people lost their homes, all their possessions, evacuating a burning city. Stories of bravery and neighbours helping each other cope through a hellish nightmare.
I realized how lucky we are to be alive. Most of my worries are very trivial. I looked at my son and felt a little teary. Let's make the most of our time together, I thought.
We kept busy playing hangman; rock-paper-scissors; other games in fashion with younger kids. Big smiles. Little pleasures. Forget about devices, iPhones, tablets—just good old school fashioned fun.
Photo – Freeimages.com: Jeff Prieb
Our number came up. The kindly doctor, friendly bedside manner, examined my son. "I think it's broken," he declared. "We'll get an X-ray to confirm."
My heart skipped a beat. I felt guilty for thinking it was only a shoulder sprain.
"Oh," I said, remorse, sympathy oozing. "Is there anything we can do?"
"Let's look at the X-ray first," the doctor said. "I'm a man of logic—let's see what we're dealing with, then we can make a plan."
I walked with my boy to the X-ray area. The receptionist asked if he was okay to go in the exam room alone. They prefer patients only in there. My heart went out again.
"You okay to go by yourself, buddy?" I inquired. He nodded yes. Such a brave boy.
We took a seat. They called him up. I instinctively accompanied him.
"You'll have to wait out here," the technician said.
"Okay," I nodded, watching my son walk down the hall.
I paced. Two or three minutes felt much longer. He emerged from the exam room.
"You good, buddy?"
"Yep," he said, nonchalant.
We trudged back to see friendly doctor. He called up the X-ray on the computer; tilted the monitor so my son could see. Broken bone, clear as day.
"Fractured clavicle," he stated. "No sports, no gym. Four to six weeks. Kids heal fast."
"No soccer then," I added. Think my son took the news better than me.
"You could help the coach out," the doctor said. "Chart plays, tell your teammates if they're out of position, cheer them on."
Some questions: Can he go to school? (Yes.) When do we follow up with our family doctor? (Two weeks.) Can he wear his backpack? (Lighten the load, sling it over his good shoulder.)
We made our way to the car. Two hours, in and out. I helped my son buckle his seat belt; something I hadn't done in a while. Brought back toddler memories. Nostalgia never tasted so good.
I drove away, sneaking glances of my boy in the rearview mirror. Could see him staring out the window. Maybe we saw the same things: a soggy, cool spring; sun poking through puffy clouds. Maybe we felt the same things: connection, intimacy, love.
"Dad," he asked, "do I have to go to school today?"
"No, son. We're gonna spend the rest of our day, together."
They grow up so fast. Sometimes it's nice to slow down.