A handful today – your ER doc tomorrow
On New Year’s Eve my mother and stepfather usually go to a gourmet dinner at a neighbor’s house.
This year, however, Fred developed shoulder pain and severe bruising and swelling in his arm. He and my mother thought at first these were manageable results of Coumadin, the blood thinner he takes to prevent clots and strokes. But his symptoms, including high blood pressure and dizziness, worsened, and the two set off for the emergency room.An emergency-room physician, Dr. Charles Iliff, known as “Chaz,” and is also remembered from the neighborhood by our family as Chazzy, met Fred and my mother at the door and led them inside, saving them hours in the waiting room. After blood tests, X-rays, a CT scan, and a reassuring diagnosis, my stepfather was home again by the New Year. “Chaz is so impressive and so capable,” my mother e-mailed the family, “when once … ah, we all remember that headstrong toddler.”Chazzy in his day ranks among the most active little boys I’ve ever met, and that is saying something. At about age 3, barefoot, riding his Big Wheel, he careened an eighth of a mile clear down the hill road to the river, raising jaw-dropping blisters on his heels trying to stop. For the next week Chazzy simply ran around on his tiptoes.
My parents lived in an old colonial, with a stone fishpond in the garden. At times we have dumped a few goldfish in, and they live on self-sufficiently. Once a searching mother found Chazzy and a neighbor boy, Edward, both about 4, standing in the pond, trying to catch the goldfish with crab nets, buck naked except for their mothers’ good leather boots. Two of my mother’s friends once told her, with some hesitation, that whenever they met a particularly fussy, frowning child, they’d say to each other, “Remember Teddy!” Teddy, now Ted, is my brother. As they recalled, “With Teddy everything was too hot or too cold, or the peas were touching the carrots.” My father used to say to my disbelieving mother, of the cantankerous child clinging to her hip, “Someday you’ll be proud of him.” Today Ted is the most pleasant person you could meet, with a contagious laugh. He speaks five languages, including fluent Vietnamese, and he is a diplomat.I remember an accident-prone little girl whose bloodcurdling screams brought the neighbors popping out of their houses, and who is now a professor at MIT.Sometimes I hear people complain about the noise children make on their streets. Or perhaps about paying taxes that benefit schools, or about fellow employees receiving maternity leave. I respect the choice not to have children, and know many childless people having wonderful lives. And kids can be rotten. Mine are, with frequency. But when I am irritated when a snowball whizzes through my car window and hits me in the face, or you are that the neighborhood gang is singing show tunes in a backyard when you’re trying to take a nap, remember that humans are a community.
All of us will, at least if we are lucky, age at some point, or need help, whether we’re in the hospital or our house burned down. And when you’re 40 or 60 or 85, those kids who once drove you crazy, or maybe skied across your ski tips by accident, will be the firefighters, the police, the surgeons, nurses and physical therapists you need, or your airplane pilot, or the engineers building the bridge. Last summer my younger son, riding on his scooter before an awards ceremony at a bike race, inadvertently knocked over the beer of a pro rider. He shouldn’t have. Nor should a pro of 27 cuss out a fifth-grader with F-bombs and the a-word. My son used to love watching that guy ride; I think they both lost something that day.Years go by fast. Some day we might wish for the regard of the kid who is now an adult.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com.
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