Guess I Won’t Do That Again

by Andy Wood on August 12, 2008

in Gamblers, LV Alter-egos, Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

Pam was 15 and pregnant.  Somehow, in the wake of some poor choices, however, she made a good one.  Pam decided not to get an abortion, and a young man – an all-star outfielder in his high school – lives today because of that decision.  But Pam’s decision was costly, because her family didn’t approve.  Pam needed a place to go.  So at a time when our own children were four and two, Pregnant Pam came to live with us.

We helped arrange a private adoption, and the time came for Pam’s baby to be born.  Robin was committed to walking with Pam through all of this, so she stayed at the hospital with her, and I kept the little ones at home.  Having been through all of this together, the kids and I were excited about seeing Pam’s baby.  So we planned a little trek up to Medical Center East in Birmingham.

Being something of a hospital veteran, I decided on this Saturday to go in through the Emergency Room.  I herded my little brood through the waiting room, through the double doors, and into the elevator.  After a delightful visit, we reversed the process – into the elevator, back through the double doors, breezing through the ER waiting room.  The kids were walking ahead of me, self-assured and chattering away.  They marched through the exit doors and started down the sidewalk toward the car.

Just outside the ER drop-off, the hospital had erected a series of yellow steel-and-concrete posts, about 3 or 4 feet tall – I guess to keep somebody from crashing into the ER.  I was wearing jeans and tennis shoes, and had a really clever (not!) idea.  I thought how cool it would be to run and take a flying leap and see if I could land on one foot on top of one of those posts.

(Yeah, you know where this is going….)

I ran up to the first post, took a flying leap and landed on one foot, posing like somebody from a “Karate Kid” movie.  That was fun enough, so I did it again.  All the while, the kids are moving on ahead toward the parking lot.

To understand what happened next, you need to remember the last time something happened to you and your brain freeze-framed it in such slow motion, you could remember every detail.  I’m told there’s a brain chemical that makes this happen.  Suffice it to say, regardless of what I may lack in other areas, I have plenty of whatever that brain chemical is.  Not much sense, mind you, but plenty of brain chemical.

On the third jump, my foot didn’t land right, and I slipped.  Forward.  Toward the Emergency Room driveway.  All this happened in a split second, but I remember it in excruciatingly vivid slow-motion detail.  My face is pointing toward the pavement, and I’m watching my three preschool children marching on ahead into a parking lot without me.

I landed on my chest and face simultaneously.  I was seeing stars and sucking wind at the same time.  And my children were still clueless as to what had happened.

I got up like a fighter trying to prove to the referee that he can keep going, and tried hollering at my kids.  But I didn’t have anything with which to holler.  The wind was completely knocked out of my lungs, and all I could do was whisper in a raspy, grotesque voice, “Wait!  Wait!  Wait!”  I finally got the kids’ attention and rescued them from parking lot peril.  But there was no rescuing me.  I was hurt, and badly.

As I continued to try to regain some sense (sensibility was long gone) and some ability to breathe, I noticed her for the first time.  She was sitting on the brick wall to the left of the ER.  Some sort of medical professional – a nurse or something – wearing scrubs and smoking a cigarette.  I’ll leave it to you to meditate on the irony of that.

Anyway, this lady has seen all of this happen.  She saw the kids, the fall, and everything.  And as I finally got the kids stopped and caught her eye, she asked the stupidest question in the history of medicine:

“Are you all right?”

“NO!” said the hoarse, raspy voice from deep in my chest.

Then Carrie – Sister Sensitive – offered this helpful encouragement:

“Well, I guess you don’t do that again!”

She felt badly about that later; I made sure of that.

Carrie was amazingly perceptive.  I’ve never done that since.  But I’ve taken plenty of other breathtakingly stupid risks and acted on plenty of other ideas of what may be cool.  While it took days to recover from my hospital accident, some choices have taken years to heal from.  And without fail, they all have produced the same cast of characters:

  • the otherwise-intelligent person who asks dumb questions, but offers little help,
  • the prophetic wannabe who is gifted at stating the obvious, and
  • the ones who just seem to show up and walk through it with us.

Pam discovered that during a crisis.  I’ve discovered that across a lifetime.

No, nobody walked me to the car or held my hand or cleaned up my wounds or anything.  I was too proud and embarrassed to let that happen.  But I was surrounded by three attentive encouragers who knew that Daddy was hurt.

And knew for certain he’d never do that again.

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