Today I did, after all, get my opportunity to spend some rather kid-focused time: my oldest child had a horrific crash on their bike while hurtling downhill on Endresen in HQX.
I handle emergencies well. It’s a gift. I maintained a calm voice and did not doubt what it was I had to do. Blood was pouring out of their nose and they were crying. I gently staunched the flow with my extra t-shirt. The sun beat down on us, very bright and hot. I walked us a few feet to the shade at the riverbank, tracking both children and both bikes, and at this point I re-checked the nosebleed; it had slowed. I felt their limbs and examined the many, many scratches and bruises. I looked at their pupils and gently checked their head, ascertained neither nose nor teeth were broken. We sat there for a while, my child’s head in my lap, their brother’s eyes huge, he was worried they would lose too much blood. Blood and tears had flowed liberally and I was stained by both. It was only my calm that kept things from being so much worse than they could have been.
After a time they are ready to go home. I hide their bike in the bushes. I could pack their bike on my own, but I am in too much of a hurry, fuck it if it gets stolen. I need to get us home, to warm water and cold water and Tylenol. I put my coat around them; they are already calming. Their lip has swollen to an alarming degree and this, plus the potential of a dental injury, concerns me; besides water from my water bottle and a t-shirt, I had not yet been able to put a true cold compress on their mouth.
I am on the bike and I’m a determined machine, not at all inconvenienced by the extra weight and the heat. The kids grow still and comforted by the very familiar experience of the bike. Phoenix says, “The wind is starting to soothe me,” and it is this point I am further satisfied: they are going to be okay. We pass through the cluttered backstreets of N. Hoquiam, a pitbull, mamas in halter tops smoking and listening to hip hop. A golden, shirtless young man says, “Hey, that’s cool!” about my bike. I say, “Thanks!” as I hurtle by and he follows up with, “It’s a lovely day out!”
It is a lovely day out; but I must get the children home. I am a steady, alert mother with two children on my bike and the sun is fire on my skin. I am a train engine getting us home surely, and calmly, but now. We pull up to the house and Nels brings blankets; I slip Phoenix’s blood-splattered dress off of them and put them on the couch. Water. Tylenol. Ice compress. I am literally pouring sweat, which physically feels good, later I will wash up. I am calm but focused entirely on the children.
It’s only later – after I’ve given them a bath in warm water with epsom salts, a few drops of tea tree, geranium, and organic lavender; it’s only later after I’ve called the pediatric dentist and we’ve made tomorrow morning’s appointment; it’s only later after their doctor has allowed us to bring them in and performed a very thorough examination, finding, thank goodness, nothing at all worse than my original assessments. It’s only later.
It’s only later that I start to fall apart. I relieve the incident and have my own reactions. I can hear the sounds behind me the wind did not obscure when they started to lose control of the bike and call out for my help. I can feel the fear and experience the terror of such a profound crash, a crash worse than any I remember from childhood. I re-feel, vividly, my concern that they’d busted a bone, if their arm was held out at an angle from a break (it wasn’t). I can feel the hot blood on my face and somehow worst of all, I can taste the grit in my teeth.
They are safe at home, my mother picked up the hidden bike and then swung by for my youngest, Ralph is coming home. And my head begins to throb – I so rarely get headaches – my body slows down. I am weighted down with the precise knowledge this was my fault. This isn’t a decision, this is not a series of facts that bring me to this. My child was hurt rather badly and no matter what anyone says I am responsible. Funny how just the other day I’d told my own mother she worried and over-managed my emotional pains too much as a child. Funny because I am crushed with misery for an event that my child is already moving past.
My child is fine. After I called the doctor, secured an immediate appointment, and told them we’d be heading out they said, “We have to ride up the hill? Can we drive instead?” politely. They fervently wished for swimming tonight (the doctor said no – their many skin abrasions might contract an infection from the public pool). They gardened with their papa, bringing in pints of strawberries for jam. Being home and they are laughing, smiling, and friendly to the doctor, a deformed lip making them all the sweeter and odder.
They are fine. This is a “nothing”. This is a, “kids play rough” kind of injury. They are fine, but I am less so, and it will take a bit more time, and maybe a restful sleep, to feel differently.