That time when my dad was wrong

May 15, 2010

I’m eleven years old and I am in flight, having just launched off the upper level of the Allstate parking lot—sailing with handlebars raised to a setting sun.

This is the perfect wheelie jump, dropping a couple of feet over a four-foot wide strip of round stones to the lower level of the Allstate parking lot.  And I am in the middle of my greatest wheelie ever, astride my greatest bike ever:  a green five-speed sting-ray with a banana seat, the apotheosis of noble steeds of biking steel circa nineteen-seventy-one.

No doubt my Herculean effort is because my father is watching, Zeuss-like on his blue Schwin—not quite paused to watch, but circling near the landing zone with a vague promise of attention.   With my little brother watching as well, it’s only me and the sky and a faint possibility of the moon.

Then, on sudden, at the top of my graceful and impressive ascent, the ghost of Icarus slips my hands from the green hand-grips and I am sailing, along with my bike, barely holding on with my legs.  As if in slow motion, the handlebars languidly rotate so that the horns of this bull are looking to the left, the front tire now perpendicular to my line of travel.

As the rubber hits the road, the bike stops short and the banana seat bucks up and tosses me forward, rocketing me like superman, arms out in front of me, wherein the entire trip culminates with a wrist-landing.

Snap!  The green twigs of my kid-wrist break and I know it.

Besmirched by asphalt, bruised all around, my dad helps me up from the warm asphalt, still holding warmth from a day in the sun.

“My wrist is broken,” I declare.

“No it’s not,” my father counters.

A passing car, having witnessed the lyrical magnitude of my great crash pulls into the lot to ask if I am okay.  “My wrist is broken,” I tell the driver.  “No it’s not,” says my dad.

They offer a ride and I wish to accept, my father knows that I don’t need a ride home.  “Alright, back on your bike,” says my dad.  “I can’t,” I say in all honesty.

“Then you’ll walk your bike home,” he informs me.  I do, holding it with my good wrist.

“He sprained his wrist,” my dad informs my mom as we enter the house through the garage into the kitchen.  “It’s broken,” I tell her.

She puts my arm in a stinging bowl of ice cubes and water, cubes that had been earmarked for my dad’s after-work scotch and not my dubiously conditioned wrist.

An hour later I say that my wrist really hurts.  With great reluctance and negativity (energies I only wish I could honestly say I never heavy-sighed to my kids, but I’d be a pants-on-fire liar of the worst magnitude) we pile into the car and drive to the spanking new suburban hospital ER as the summer sky grows inky dark.

We wait our turn.  A horrible accident takes precedence.  Another man comes in holding his severed hand in a bloody handkerchief—his dad, if he’s still around, certainly isn’t telling him that his hand is fine.

When it’s my turn we get an X-ray, and then we wait some more.  The doctor finally comes out holding the X-Ray and shows my dad how both bones are broken cleanly and no longer sit attached to each other.  I’m broken on the inside and the picture proves it.

I’m in great pain, but also great joy—to be right!  They give me a shot, right in my bone to numb me for resetting.  The resetting still hurts, but then I get a cool cast and a conversation piece to take to sixth grade.

The kids all sign it, even the cool kids.  I don’t have to stand in right field and miss fly balls for PE, I draw my dinosaurs for my big project with my left hand, and the teacher tells me they’re not very good (can’t a kid get a break?  Oh, I guess I did…).  My wrist heals in six weeks and forever after lets me know if it’s going to storm before the rains come.

My dad feels all guilty and ashamed, and he’ll go on to tell me how bad he feels about that whole thing many times.  And I forgive him many times over—and today I thank him for the fodder for a post on memory, a once-bad memory that is, in it’s own broken way, now sort of a good memory.

Namaste, Bruce

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese May 15, 2010 at 11:31 am

Perfectly drawn, Bruce. I was right there with you and found myself holding my own wrists (each broken at different times) while reading. And that feeling of savoring the victory of Right? Bittersweet and delicious. Just like the very best chocolate.


privilegeofparenting May 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Double ouch for your wrists. These days I’m finding that while it was nice to be right that time, that bittersweet chocolate sounds really good.


Allison @ Alli 'n Son May 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I have to ask, do you rub this in your dad’s face from time to time – when you were right and he was wrong? Only in fun of course. :-)


privilegeofparenting May 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm

It’s come in handy now and again for such purposes, I must admit :)


Launa May 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

This line is so funny: “The kids all sign it, even the cool kids.”

What a terrific memory.

Having missed two out of the three broken bones my children have suffered (the third was so obvious it wasn’t even funny), I can empathize with Dad. And I am a HUGE worrywart.


privilegeofparenting May 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I haven’t missed a broken bone (as we’ve, knock wood, not had one), but I did reluctantly take my kid, at five, to the ER for an Asthma episode that I thought wasn’t really that bad… only to find him hospitalized for three days. Oh, well. It is tough as parents and as kids—and I too am a huge worrywart, or at least I think I am. I guess I’ll find out when I read my kids blogs in the future where I REALLY messed up—but at least I’ll read them—and thank you for reading here :)


mummyjanie May 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Great story.

I didn’t break any bones but I did swallow a paperclip.

I was probably about 6, laying in bed, playing with a paperclip pretending they were braces (why anyone would want to pretend they have braces I don’t know) and then I swallowed it. My parents did not believe me but reluctantly took me to the ER, just in case. I had the same moment as you when the doctor came back into the room and showed my parents the xray with a paperclip clearly in my tummy.


privilegeofparenting May 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm

That reminds me of slipping some coins into my brother’s orange juice when we were really little. No X-ray was taken, but the pediatrician instructed my mom to search for the gold in the poop. We will always remember her, holding a popsicle stick at the bathroom door calling out, “Don’t flush!”


Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla May 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Oh my, Bruce, that was the funniest line, about the guy with the severed hand – did HIS dad say nothing was wrong with it? Burst out laughing.

My mother had a one-size-fits-all fix for everything that happened to us: a whiskey compress. Honestly, I think the ER was out of her lexicon. Thank goodness I never broke a bone.


privilegeofparenting May 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I remember my Buby suggesting whiskey for tooth-aches, but I’m not sure my dad would have been to keen to see his Johnnie Walker wasted in a compress :)


Beth K May 16, 2010 at 7:53 am

My moment like yours and Mummyjanie’s was when my mono test came back positive. My parents had put off taking me to the doctor for weeks. My mother’s standard response to my complaints of being tired was that I was “just depressed.”


privilegeofparenting May 16, 2010 at 9:46 am

It’s funny you had that experience with mono, as I had it in college and the health center doctor insisted that I didn’t have it until my third visit, after laying on my dorm floor for most of six weeks, and she reluctantly ran the test which, of course, came back positive. Whether I was depressed or not to start with, being sick like that is plenty depressing.

I guess the take-away could be that we are the best “experts” on what we actually feel. Here’s to being healthy and well for all of us :)


Natalie May 16, 2010 at 10:33 am

!!!!! You mean I’m not the only one?! I was about 2 when a cousin pushing me to swing on the monkey bars pushed just a little too hard and I broke my arm in two places. It was midnight before my dad finally took me in to the ER for an X-ray. I remember very clearly breaking it, the stroller ride home when my mother drove by, stopped, chastised me for being a crybaby, continued on with her errands, and then I remember later my dad carrying me into the a brightly lit building. Then I remember getting a plaster cast, getting it wet in a sprinkler, picking it apart, and then getting it removed.

I remember triumphantly holding up my splinted arm to show my older sister as she built a Barbie mansion out of books and household minutiae and her saying, “You’re still a faker.” I cried harder at that than my arm being broken.


privilegeofparenting May 16, 2010 at 11:29 am

But now you have a lifetime membership to the broken-arm-but-not-believed-club (very exclusive).

As some philosopher once said, “A lie requires a liar, but the truth just is.”


Sarah May 17, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Oh, Bruce, what a terrific memory. Full. Layered. Drifting. Because in and out of it you become more than just a boy on a bike with a broken wrist. I’m trying hard to remember a time when I can say I had the same result. Not a broken wrist, but the knowledge that I was clearly right. Clearly. Not something idealistic or trite, but something identified by an x-ray. I can’t find a thing right now. Perhaps because my own mind is swirling with memories inspired by all of these beautiful posts. But I know one thing for sure, that I, too, am now that parent from time to time. That I, too, brush things off, tell my boys to get back up, tell them their fine, tell them to wipe away the tears, only to find a bruise or some bloodshed down the road.

And that philosopher’s quote up above…I’m going to claim that now. Truth is my present mantra. But lies are my past, and I know them too well.


privilegeofparenting May 17, 2010 at 9:50 pm

It’s interesting, this swirling of memories as we share our own and venture into each others.

I know we’re all reading a lot of each others’ posts, but I’ll be very curious to see what you guys end up thinking and feeling after all this mingling of memory.

More than anything I sense that we are creating memory—I’m sure I’ll remember these ten days as my first five-for-ten back in 2010.


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