Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The End of the Innocence

When our son, Patrick, was still a toddler, we lived in a two-room flat, You entered though a small hall, with the bathroom door on the left and an entrance into the living room on the right. Walking straight ahead took you into the kitchen and a pocket door on the right slid open to reveal a bedroom. It was an apartment originally for Sigrid and me that became 'and Patrick made three'.

Within minutes of his learning to walk, he was running and it seems through the mists of memory he has been taking life at a gallop ever since. Der hat kein ruhe im arsch, says my wife's people. We might agree he was an Excitable Boy. It comes to the same thing. There was a day, for whatever reason, as he came across the kitchen floor headed towards the bedroom that his feet went out from under him and his forehead hit the metal frame underpinning the box spring mattress of our bed.

There's very little extra skin at your forehead so any cut there will bleed and he did, profusely. Sigrid called the Arbiter Samariter Bund ambulanz and I held our son in my arms as he became more frantic at the sight of his own blood. By the time the ambulance had arrived the first EMT through the door thought I needed the help, that's how much of our son's blood was on me. We all piled into the ambulance and headed for the Offenbach Krankenhaus, where he had been born and where, for about an hour, the ER staff tried gamely to make sure he really was okay by running a battery of tests and attempting x-rays of his skull.

The only way they could do the x-rays was if I held him while the scan happened, so they covered me in protective jackets and vests and stood back in their cabin reading the results. I can still remember Patrick looking up at me while one of the scans was in progress (it was the noise that frightened him. I lacked the language skills to make that understood to the doctors) and staring into my eyes he asked me 'was machts Du den hier?' (what are you doing here). All I could say say, in English, was "I'm your father, it's my job."

Patrick has long since relinquished the memory of any of that. For many years, he had a crease, of sorts, on his forehead. I think nowadays only his mother and I can see it. I thought about that strange hospital ride so long ago this past Saturday when our son, an adult of twenty-eight who isn't happy we will always see him as our child (nor is his sister, Michelle, but both are accepting of the failings and foibles of their elders) called to tell me his car had been burglarized in the parking lot of his apartment house in New London, a town twenty-five minutes away from where we live.
He was heading out to work and his car was in the parking lot up on cinder blocks with the four tires on the rims, stolen. I'm the kind of guy who goes for the throat, especially when it's my child who is hurt. I wanted to know where the building security cameras were (there are four in the lobby of this landmark in The Whaling City, but none for outside) or when the local police had last patrolled (the answer involves a calendar rather than a clock). I eventually drew a deep breath wrestling with my anger as my son, the victim in all of this, calmed me down and made sure I understood he was okay and that his insurance company was already engaged and things would work out fine.

He'd picked up on the tightness in my voice and asked if I were okay. For just a moment, we were in an x-ray lab in a hospital basement half a lifetime ago, and though I thought I knew the answer, I knew what I could not say.
-bill kenny

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