My 39th birthday came and went last weekend. It was fairly uneventful for me, which is the way I like it. It was, unfortunately, much more eventful for The Boy. A week ago, he and his babysitter came suddenly home from his best friend's house with his arm held still. Apparently he fell while climbing around and down a bunk bed and landed on his left wrist. Now I'm no doctor (or at least no doctor that counts), but I could tell that his arm looked, well, wrong.
We left pretty much right away for the hospital. We rode nearly silently in the cab, his streaked face now dry, me trying to say something both soothing and believable. He'd been through this before more or less, and I assumed that he was thinking about what this trip likely meant. Which is to say a cast. Given our terrible experience with Q at NYU Med Center, we went back to the source this time — New York Hospital, where Q and The Boy were born.
It was the right choice. Whereas the folks at NYU looked at Q as if she were some kind of foreign object, New York hospital has a pediatric ER, with a waiting room (in which we barely waited) decorated with animal murals and a real fish tank. After checking in with a nurse (and not some grumpy lady behind bullet and largely soundproof glass), we were taken back to a bed to wait for an examination. As we sat on the gurney, a young woman came in to ask if we wanted to watch a movie while we waited. This ER had a waitress. The Boy and I settled upon The Polar Express, and by the time we made it home about five hours later, we had pretty much seen all of it. There were questions asked over and over by different doctors — "Did you ever black out?" — several x-rays that appeared magically on screens right after the beam switched off. He had, it turned out, a buckle fracture, and the bone needed to be reset. They used what they called "conscious sedation" so that he wouldn't be completely under while they realigned the fracture, but he wouldn't remember the procedure either. It all went quickly and without problem.
We went home tired and with his arm in a cast. (No purple this time; we weren't given a choice.) We also weren't given a lot of information about how long he'll need to keep the thing on. (We'll find that out next week.) We do know that his summer contracted in an instant — no more bike, scooter, beach, or pool. No tennis or soccer or basketball. Take it easy in the sandbox and on the slide, though he's probably better off staying away from both. Bathe, fittingly, with the arm in a trash bag. A week has passed, but he still says, every now and then, "I wished I didn't do it." He didn't do anything, of course. It's just one of those things.
So that's a bit of context for my birthday, which, like I said, was much nicer for me than it was for him. I'll spare you many of the details, largely because some things I keep just for me. But I do have to share a bit of my great present from the kids. Q and The Boy (with a solid assist from my lovely wife) made me a book about them and me. On one page, for example, Q said:
I am, in fact, on the tall side, and, if I do say so myself, good at giving slingshots. Note: Q colored the picture and wrote "100" herself.
And The Boy reminded me, among other things:
Such a simple idea, this book. I have it here by me now, close, where I like it.
I'm not sure when it was exactly (maybe around 27 or so?) when I entered the middle stretch where birthdays don't seem to signify much of anything. At both ends of a life, they mark successful survival, which is certainly worth celebrating (with presents!). The middle is a little mundane, which is just fine with me.
Then again, thinking about that cab ride to the hospital last week lets me see a bit of how my middle-stretch birthdays matter. I'm still a puzzle to myself in many ways — and can't see what there is for me even a month out from now — but each year I get a little better at being a solid thing for the kids to lean and climb upon. I can be the person who gets The Boy to thinking how cool beds with wheels are and the one he looks to before the drugs take him under. And I can show Q how to twist the cutter on the counter to make a clean biscuit, which is the same as showing her how to make things to be proud of. (She figured out on her own how tasty the raw dough is.) Then I can be the one that she can be proud to.
There are other things, too, but some things I keep just for me.