the lost man chronicles
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Friday, October 21, 2005

how fragile, these little souls

Last night I came home and was climbing the stairs when I heard, “Papa, I’m bleeding.”

By the splashes and the echo, I could hear that the boys were in the bath, and by the relative calm tone of my six-year old’s voice I could tell that he was more concerned about getting blood in the water and on the basin than with the seriousness of the cut itself.

Hence, I approached presuming that I’d probably just have to apply a band-aid, but when I saw the actual injury I immediately realized otherwise. It was a serious laceration, about an inch long on the lower leg (i.e. the gastrocnemius) and it appeared to be exposing muscle.

So, I sighed to compose myself and yelled from the toilet where I sat, “Honey, I don’t think that you’re going to play tennis tonight! It looks like Enzo’s going to need stitches.”

Of course, unwittingly, I sparked terror in the little soul’s heart and he began crying, “But it doesn’t hurt Papa.” As I applied the gauze that I found in the cabinet under the sink, I tried to console him by trying to explain that it will hurt a lot more if it is not closed up and becomes infected.

How silly of me! To think that such a callus rationale would prove to soothe the frazzled soul, would prove to be the halcyon to calm the sea of emotion he was undulating in.

That’s when his mother came in and knew exactly what to say to put him at ease, “You may not need stitches, we’ll see.” She couched the comfort of ambiguity with, “And if you do, just remember that your three-year old cousin, your older (11 year old) cousin, as well as your best friend, all recently had stitches themselves. Even Papa and I have both had stitches before.”

As we wrapped his wound a little tighter with more gauze and surgical tape, he whimpered an “Okay,” even though his wide, deer in the headlight eyes indicated he was still frightened by the prospect of being sewn up.

Of course, it didn’t help that recently he had asked me about my most painful experience, to which I recalled with unbridled drama how I had jumped off the top bunk when I was 11 years old and sliced open the bottom of my big toe. I explained that it wasn’t the deep cut that hurt the most though, it was that damned anesthetic syringe they stuck in the middle of my sole that made me scream in agony, a sensation that I’ll never forget (for, as you may know, there are more than 7,200 nerve endings in each foot).

Hence, playing in the back of Enzo’s excited mind, I’m sure he was mulling, “But I don’t want them to stick a needle in me!” And so when solace came in the translucent form of a pale white lie, I readily went along with it, by simply getting him ready so that his mama could take him over to the emergency room.

As we put on his sweatpants I conveyed little beyond kissing him on the head and saying with a tight-lipped smile, “You’ll be okay Mijo, you’ll be okay.”

Once my wife was ready to go and Nicky was standing outside the tub dripping, I carried Enzo down and put him gently into the car, and then ran back to finish drying off Nicky, put his pajamas on and read him a few more bedtime stories than was originally planned.

While I was drying Nicky’s hair he said, quite out of the blue, “Papa, I wish you didn’t live here.” Of course, immediately I was a tad distraught, but I also thought that coming from a four-year old who recently declared that he wanted to go live with his friend and their family and how “Mrs. Anderson can be my new mommy!” I reacted calmly by asking him to elaborate. “Oh, yeah? Why is that?”

He readily answered, “Because that way we can do more experiments.”

I was expecting more of a:

“Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

-kind of response and so I hummed, “Hmmm, I see. What story would like you like me to read to you Nicky?” instead.

Despite the apparently innate stoicism of our youngest (He is far less emotional than his older brother has ever been, and much less socially attached. When the phone rings Enzo anxiously answers it and will speak non-stop for half-an-hour, whereas Nicky might say “Hi-Bye” (if you’re lucky) and then hang up the phone.), I will miss seeing these boys grow up—someday.

Yet, regardless of how every-ready, ever-present and all-tuned-in to my boys needs that I may never be, I have to remember that I likewise experienced my ever-working father’s pseudo-absence while growing up. And after coming into my own as a young man and learning how to handle life alone I can say with utter sincerity that I love my father deeply.

Granted, he may not get phone calls from me as often as he would prefer and being that we live coasts apart we barely see one another all-but once a year, my sincere affection and appreciation of all he is, was and has done for me throughout my life grows stronger as my empathy and understanding of life increases through the experience of my own.

A meaningful life teeters in the balance of satisfying your own needs with those of the people you love. And the arbiter of a great life remains centered and stalwart, no matter how heavy it sways from one side of the balance to the other.

p.s. Enzo ended up getting 7 stitches.

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