Parents recall forever the acute accidents experienced by their children and with the same emotional turmoil every time the memory surfaces. It’s as if the horror is locked in the mind, frozen in time.
For example, my first born, when he was a toddler, hated to stay in his crib. A tall child, he was intensely curious about the world around him and would wander to explore whenever the opportunity presented itself. Hence his frustration at being limited by a crib. Because of his height, he threatened to vault over the crib’s edge at an early age, and so my husband and I bought an extender fence that attached to the top of the crib’s rail and presented an insurmountable barrier to his escape. Or so we thought.
One night, when my parents were visiting, we had just put our son to bed and retreated to the kitchen for some after-dinner coffee and conversation when we heard a loud splat, followed by a blood curdling scream. When the four of us rushed into his bedroom, we found our 1-year-old splayed out on the cement floor, stopping only to suck in air for the next horrible scream. I don’t have to tell you what thoughts went through our heads.
I can picture the scene perfectly, in all its detail, to this day.
Then there was the time our second son, thrilled that he had just discovered his sea legs, was running at top speed across a green lawn in Texas. We were in front of the Air Force base hospital where my husband worked, and we were to meet him for lunch. Because we were early, we waited on the grass. I was desperate for some shade since the temperature was in excess of 100 degrees, and I was heavily pregnant with our third son. Settling myself beneath the lone tree in the park, I closed my eyes briefly, then looked over to track my toddler just in time to see him running on a perfect trajectory toward a girl swinging high in the distant playground. Struggling to my feet, I began to run after him, frantically calling his name. Either because he couldn’t hear or chose not to, he kept pumping his chubby little legs, with mine clumsily running to catch him. I can still picture the scene in horrifying slow motion and remember that I knew I would be too late.
Just as I put my arms out to grab him, the back arc of the swing smacked him in the mouth, and instantly there was blood everywhere. The poor girl on the swing that had come to an abrupt stop looked over her shoulder in terror at the sight. I scooped up my screaming and bloodied child, and ran with him cradled across my arms to his father’s office in the hospital. Again I can perfectly remember all the minute details as we burst through his door, especially the look of horror on my husband’s face as he took in the sight.
And then, not to be left out and because they have always been equal-opportunity children, there was the time the bloodied face of my 3-year-old third son came into my line of sight as I drove up the driveway from an early morning tennis game. With the babysitter crouched over him on the blacktop beside the kitchen stoop, bleeding profusely from a cut on his forehead, was my screaming child. He had somehow fallen sideways off the top step onto his head.
This visit to the hospital involved stitches. Fortunately for him, they have long ago healed and the scar is all but invisible. Too bad the memories don’t likewise fade. Such is the price of being a parent or having responsibility for a child’s life, whether a niece or nephew or grandchild or a babysitting charge. Whatever the accident, one can never forget.