All the Thanksgiving dinner elements were there -- the turkey, crusty buns, carrots, potatoes, gravy, and of course in-laws -- but this was our second attempt to sit down to the meal. Now, two days later, we gathered around the table thankful for the reheated meal and so much more. We joined hands and gave our reasons for being thankful.
"I'm thankful that Grandma and Grandpa are here," said my four-year-old, Simon.
"I had fun at the park," chirped his younger sister Grace.
"I'm glad you're okay Alexander," said my ten-year-old son, Nelson, bringing tears to the eyes of the adults.
Two days ago I heard the crash and scream, as I put down the electric beater, goopy with potatoes and butter. My feet started running around corners and over toys as my mind reached towards the noise and the child making it. I followed my husband and father-in-law in a frantic race for the stairs. We hurtled up them three at a time.
My husband, Stacy, reached him first and tried to calm him while feeling for broken bones. I shouted my son's name as his lips turned blue, and a noiseless terror replaced his screaming.
"Alexander look at me, tell me where it hurts," I implored using my mother voice. His eyes glazed over, and I watched in terror as he left us for a long, agonizing moment, his body limp and his face placid. I continued to talk to him, beg him, plead with him, and order him to answer me. Each second felt like a thousand. I held my own breath as I waited for him to come back to me. I turned to tell my husband to call the ambulance, but he already had the phone in his hands.
Alexander came back with the full scream of a newborn and a look of complete panic etched on his eight-year-old features. I wiped his sweaty cheek and spoke more softly, hoping to calm him. It didn't work, and he vacated the premises again. My husband's frantic voice, my other children's voices, my beating heart invaded my thoughts as I ticked the seconds off one by one, praying for his return.
After a fall from the top of his bunk bed, Alexander needed medical attention -- fast. He regained consciousness again and began to twist and writhe with pain. He scuttled like a crab back into the darkest corner of his room, crying and yelling at me. His legs twisted and turned while he grasped at the carpet, trying to find someplace to put his pain. I lay down beside him, touching his shoulder lightly while I talked. Knowing that soothing words weren't helping, I talked about anything that came into my mind. Free association at its best.
I distracted him with talk about our supper waiting in the kitchen, the green paint stain on his pants, his grandparents playing with his younger brother and sister, the stickers on his wall, his older brother wearing a groove in the pavement outside while he waited to flag the ambulance down, and the mess under his bed. I told him I loved him. I talked about anything but the pain, the ambulance ride, or the hospital, and he stilled his groaning and twisting. He concentrated on my voice and the mundane things of my ramblings.
The paramedics clanked into the bedroom. "My back hurts bad," Alexander whispered, refusing to move when they asked if he could sit up. He moaned, "Mommy don't leave me," as they carefully transferred him to a backboard and taped his head in place.
Friends and neighbors watched from their own houses, worry and dismay evident on their faces. I kept my eyes on my son, concentrating on him and not letting myself think past the next step. Afterwards, people told me I looked as calm as if I were only going across town to pick up milk.
It showered briefly, clearing as we drove away, leaving a rainbow over our home. I looked out the back window as it bathed our neighborhood in color and promise. My breath caught as Alexander held his, and we locked eyes. He understood.
Alexander retreated from his pain after we arrived at the hospital. He slipped to a place within his mind where no one else is welcome. I watched him withdraw deeper and deeper inside himself, only to re-emerge with a single tear when someone asked him to move.
"Where's Daddy?" Alexander cried when they came for x-rays. I squeezed his hand and shook my head. Stacy showed up minutes later with our oldest son Nelson in tow. Nelson handed Alexander a picture our four-year-old had drawn. Nelson watched his brother hold the picture close to his heart and look away. Nelson turned back to me with tears in his eyes.
We took him home two hours later, with warnings to wake Alexander every two hours and care instructions for a concussion. Alexander groaned in agony as my husband carried him to our waiting van. Nelson talked incessantly about anything that came into his mind, filling the quiet spaces between Alexander's cries. Another round of free-association.
"Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch." moaned Alexander all night long. I remained as still as I could through the night, holding his hand and praying for morning. When the first rays of sun kissed the sky, I opened my eyes to see Alexander's bright blue ones staring back at me. Not pain free, but definitely reflecting that rainbow of hope back to me.
Finally sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner two days later we all gave thanks for Alexander. My three-year-old daughter reached over and wiped my cheek as she patted my shoulder.
"Why are you crying Mommy? Alexander's okay now."
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