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When Leaders Fall, All Are Punished http://ow.ly/30tHOR
July 7, 2012
Sarah and Annie were outside in the backyard playing on the hammock and that’s when it happened. I didn’t actually see Sarah fall because I was in the kitchen making dinner. I heard Sarah crying in the yard but, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to it. To be honest, Sarah exhibits a strong flair for drama. She can put on quite a performance when she wants some attention, besides the kids ALWAYS bump into things. They fall all over the place like little drunk midgets! It’s never anything serious. Most of the time if I ignore it, they eventually get up and just start playing again. I continued peeling potatoes and slicing carrots without much concern until Annie came to into the kitchen insisting I come outside to get Sarah. I put down my chopping knife and glanced out the back window.
That’s when I saw Sarah crumpled in the grass under the hammock canopy like a discarded little rag doll. She was lying on her right side and her back was to me so I couldn’t see her face. I ran outside and knelt down coaxing her to turn over and show me where it hurt. When she tried to move she yelped in pain, terror in her little voice. I began to panic debating over whether to try to move her inside. Don’t they always say not to move someone who’s injured? I thought I might have to call an ambulance. My outer self was still rational, accessing her small body, urging her to sit up. Annie was shuffling all around us like a nervous cheerleader.
Finally Sarah slowly sat up, grimacing and clutching her left shoulder. There were blades of grass tangled in her hair and sticking to her wet cheeks. Her face was red and twisted with pain. Through her tearful hiccups and the way her top lip forms a point in the center when she is sincerely crying, I instantly saw her as a newborn again, fragile and vulnerable. I felt calmer knowing that she could at least move on her own but her shoulder was swelling fast. Annie was born with a broken collar bone so I vaguely recognized the symptoms, realizing that Sarah was going to be spending the evening at the hospital getting x-rays. I also surmised that our family has weak clavicles and made a mental note to start serving milk with meals.
Getting everyone out of the house is always a struggle but when someone is injured and I am frantic, it’s nearly impossible! On any given outing, I usually have to add on an extra fifteen minutes of prep time just for the “shoe search”. The kids shoes can be found anywhere from the closet, where they should be but rarely ever are, to the depths of the toy box. On especially exasperating occasions I’ll find one shoe in the house and the other inside the van. Don’t ask. But in the interest of getting Sarah to the hospital quickly, I decided that any shoes would suffice, matching or not, and if the kids got a righty and a lefty, well that would just be a bonus.
Thank God my mom is always available to help me watch the kids otherwise I would have had to drag them all to the hospital with me, which would have been a total circus. My moms’ house is on the way to the hospital so I dropped Foster and Annie off there despite their protests. Little sister Annie is obsessed with having or doing anything that big sister Sarah has or does so naturally she wanted to come to the hospital with us. I noted a flash of betrayal in her blue eyes as I got into the van with Sarah and left her forlornly standing on the sidewalk with my mom. Since then, Annie has been staging accidents in a concocted effort to gain back some of the attention stolen away by Sarah. Last night in the shower she kicked over a bottle of shampoo in a loud ruckus, carefully laid down on the wet tile and began a series of loud caterwauls, lifting her head every now and then to see if I was going to offer a “here now, there, there”. Of course I eventually relented and gave an equally award winning performance of consoling her alligator tears. I hope Annie was satisfied with it.
Thankfully the pediatric ward of emergency room was empty when we arrived and Sarah got right in. After weighing and measuring her, the beefy nurse bent down to ask her what happened. I opened my mouth to begin the run down but quickly decided to let Sarah answer for herself. I’ve seen the shows on TV where abusive parents give canned explanations for their children’s injuries. ‘Uh, she ran into a wall…’ My inner self stood quietly, holding up her hands in a shrug of innocence. Sarah did a very eloquent job of describing her fall from the hammock, of course blaming the whole thing on Annie jumping off unexpectedly, while I silently berated myself for not watching them more closely. Was that an accusatory glance the nurse gave me?
A half hour and two more repeat explanations of how this happened, a radiologist rolled up with a wheel chair to take us into the x-ray room. She sat puppet-like in the oversized wheel chair listening intently to the tech explain the procedures. She has always been extremely brave and while she stood, undaunted, sandwiched between the metal x-ray equipment, I was struck by her strength and courage. The X-ray showed a clean break so no surgery required. The doctor let her behind the nurses’ station to view the digital image of her snapped clavicle on the monitor. Sarah was dumbfounded as the doctor animatedly briefed her on the various bones that make up her neck and shoulders. She is always saying she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Who knows? Maybe this experience will give her an added spark. She will be wearing a sling for the next three weeks and then a follow up X-ray to make sure she’s healing correctly.
The accident is still very surreal to Sarah as she randomly states that she can’t believe she actually broke a bone! I’ve noticed her proudly looking down at the navy blue sling as if she’s been initiated into some elite club of survivors. She eagerly compares broken bone stories with anyone who asks about her injury. Doctor says limited movement which means no swimming, bicycle riding, running, or anything else she might think is fun. The remainder of her summer break is going to be very lacking and I think, to her, that is proving to be more painful than her broken bone…
Sept. 5, 2012
On the way to the hospital with Sarah, I thought about what life would be like if we suddenly lost her. I have become very loose with my thoughts lately when I get frustrated with the kids. Once or twice in the midst of breaking up one of their arguments, drowning in a chorus of whines about what I’ve served for dinner or picking up and putting away the same toy for the ninth time, I’ve given in to the indulgence of considering what I’d be doing at that moment instead, if I’d not had kids. Its always something quiet and simple, like reading a novel, working on a novel, meeting a friend for a glass of wine and some intelligent conversation or an evening bike ride. Not one image or another lingers for long but rather they all flash through my mind like a furious rolodex of someone else’s life. The whole thought is over within seconds but the guilt seeps in, settling into the cracks of my mind and haunting me at times like this. What if this is happening to Sarah because the universe or God was trying to teach me a lesson?
If something happened to Sarah how would it impact not only me but Foster or Annie? Even though she does not have the esteemed title of first born or the privilege of the constant coddling that “the baby” of the family enjoys, she is the critical link that connects them. Her relationships with Foster and Annie are quite distinct yet the whole thing flows together so smoothly.
Foster and Sarah will steal away in Fosters room and play Star Wars games. She is a good soldier and lets Foster take the lead in mostly all of their games. They giggle at inside jokes at the dinner table. Foster walks her to her classroom in the morning and waits for her in the school hallway at dismissal. Even though he claims that Sarah lives only to annoy him, he has reluctantly admitted more than once that she is his best friend. Foster hasn’t connected with Annie in the same way. From his perspective, the five year age gap between him and Annie defines her eternally as a baby sister and he treats her accordingly. Although he has been caught showering her with affection from time to time, I doubt she will ever be elevated to best friend status.
That doesn’t mean that Annie doesn’t have a partner. She has a best friend and that best friend is Sarah. She always considers Sarah in her daily decisions. If she gets a piece of candy, she must also insist on one for sarah. She follows Sarah everywhere. They shower together, play dress up, sneakily apply my lipstick on each other inside the confines of their bedspread forts. They share a bedroom and I hear their giggles late into the night, long after I’ve sent them both to bed.
As the middle child, Sarah is in the best possible position. She is a best friend to Foster and a best friend to Annie. If Sarah were to suddenly be taken from us, the void would be immeasurable. Of course losing any one of my children is an utter horror to me, however losing Sarah specifically would completely devastate the dynamics of our family in a way that one could consider the worst possible scenario.
So what now? Waiting around the ER since 8 am while they run test after test I’ve spent the hours counting my blessings. I’ve sat at the edge of Sarah’s bed studying her little purple polished fingernails. I brushed and braided her long golden hair. I counted all the little freckles sprinkling her nose and cheeks. I held my palm over her stomach, quietly begging God to take her pain away and protect her. Even if all the moments from here on out are hard ones, I’ll wholeheartedly take them and ask for nothing else. I stroke her sore arm from where a spiderweb of IV tubes invades and I cant wait to get her home so I can give her a bath, cook her dinner, and pick up her toy for the tenth time.
You are a wonderful God. You have been so good to me and so forgiving. You have been so gracious and kind. You have spoken to my heart with an understanding that is greater than my own. You reveal the vileness of my ways with such tenderness that I can no longer remain in my filth. You lead me along a path to a better and more prosperous life. I am humbled that you even consider me. Even while sin covers me, you pursue me. You court me as if I were the most beautiful girl in the world. When I was broken and walking blindly on a destructive path, you came to get me, to turn me around. You saved me. You comforted me and your love was the soothing embrace of a parent calming a wounded child. Nothing can hold back my tears at the merciful love that you have shown me. When I realize the magnitude of how great you are, I can hardly bare it. I don’t deserve your love but you pour it out to me in abundance. You quench my thirsty soul when lovers and friends have left me dry. Even when I fail you, disappoint you and sin against you, you are patient and still willing to pick me up, dust me of my mistakes and lead me on again. I walk along life, my small hand in yours and I will follow you anywhere.