Recently, I earned the Father of the Year Award . Please, save the champagne for later. Its heft will come in handy.
To explain how I landed this prestigious award is no easy task. The path I took to fulfill its strict criteria is lined with riddles, doubt, discipline, and ice. Lots of f ice.
It began when I invited my retired neighbor, Herb, over to my house to check out a wall I wanted knocked down on the first floor. You know, open up the place a bit.
“You're looking at 10k! Easy!” he shouted. “It's a carrying wall, too! Twenty, maybe higher.”
I was thinking more like two grand.
While Herb was scaring the hell out of me, my cellphone rang and it was my wife.
“Leo [our son] fell at the birthday party and says his wrist is really hurting,” she said. I think.
I was fighting to hear her because Herb's assault continued with a hammer’s touch in the background. “Oh, kid! You're gonna need all this electrical ripped out and replaced, too. That's another seven, easy.”
“OK,” I told my wife, “bring him home.”
She comes home and the kid, who is 8, is obviously bummed out. He's got his left wrist wrapped in a mesh tennis ball bag. His eyes were wet, but not panicked. All my attention should have been on Leo, but Herb was still raining in my ear.
"If that wall ain't done right, whole second floor's gonna fall right in."
I had my son stick his arm out. No swelling, no bruises. Skin intact. “Wiggle your fingers,” I said. He could. “OK, make a fist.” He did, with just the slightest of a wince.
“You're fine,” I tell him. “Let's put some ice on it.”
I'm monitoring him now, making sure he actually was what I told him he was.
I broke my hand once and the swelling was mortifying. The purple stretching of the skin, the nut-sized knot across my knuckles, all of it still keeps me awake to this very day.
He showed none of that same pain. Keep icing.
Next day, he seemed OK. I mean, it was before 7 in the morning and my brain hadn't kicked in. He was wearing an Ace bandage around his wrist that I hadn't given to him. Too busy figuring out what a carrying beam means.
I told my son his efforts were resourceful and forward-thinking. “Keep any potential swelling down,” I said, “which there likely won't be seeing that your wrist wasn't swollen in the first place. Right?”
Off to school he went. Came home. Next day, same deal. He was spooning his flavorless oats with his dominant hand, little wincing, the Ace, the ice. Always ice.
At dinner, my wife was still eyeing that wrist four days later over my pork chops. “Can you please take your son’s shirt sleeve out of the squash?” I asked.
My wife looked at me with that biting, all-knowing glare. “He's fine,” I said, almost certain his wrist wasn't broken.
Two hours later, a bottomless howl ran through the house. Deep wails of stored pain. A cry so urgent it said said just one thing: Get me to a doctor’s office, you mad fool!
The next afternoon, the boy and I walked into the doctor’s office. From the parking lot to the front door, I said, “Now, when the doctor tells you that your wrist is fine, that's the end of it.”
The doctor walked in, took one look at his wrist and said, “Yeah, you banged this up pretty good, didn't you buddy? Let's get an X-ray.”
An X-ray? I caved into loathing, guilt, the whole deal.
Over to radiology we went, and I still half-believed I was correct. He was fine!
Three minutes later, the radiologist returned. “See that bump sticking out where the bone should be? That's where his wrist is broken.”
And that's how I earned the Father of the Year Award.
Go ahead and pop that champagne now. Empty it out before breaking it over my head. No worries. I’ve got plenty of ice in the house.