“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” – Erma Bombeck
Sometimes tragedy stares you in the face and you never forget it. Does history repeat itself? Here is a true story about one of my grandsons and the day serious injury, perhaps death reached out for him.
“I don’t know how his head will stand it!” My Mom sobbed, holding me tight to her bosom and rocking my little frame. I remember gripping the fabric of her blouse as I came around. I’d fallen down the stone steps from the garden into the courtyard and bashed my head. Blood everywhere. Dad staunched the bleeding. Next stop the doctor’s and a later diagnosis of a comminuted fracture to the back of my head. A year later, driving with Dad in his old Morris 8, I saw a friend as we turned a corner in Arbroath, a small town on the north-east coast of Scotland. I opened the door and stepped out of the car to say hello; what price safety seats and child-proof locks? I crashed on to the road at about twenty miles an hour. Blackness. Next, I came to on a couch surrounded by anxious faces: Mom red-eyed with hanky in hand, Dad pale and sombre faced, the doctor close by holding my wrist; a policeman providing support. It’s a nice memory, strangely enough: unconditional love and sincere concern is wonderful when you’re its focus.
Two generations on, danger sneaked on to the horizon and zeroed in on a little boy like a Cruise Missile.
Late on a Sunday morning, we arrived at the play area in a village on the north shore of the Forth west of the Forth Road and Rail Bridges. Mom and big brother were occupied on an energetic climbing frame about forty yards away laughing and making happy noises. The wee-man and me had been rushing around playing on swings, roundabouts and with rocking animals on springs. Laughter, energy and joy. We played tag, hide and seek, chases and boo! Our cheeks were red from the cold air; eyes bright.
After a while we arrived at a playing framework suitable for an agile two-and-a-half year old. At one end of an exciting pipe lay a pretend ship’s bridge and platform. Both attracted the little person’s interest.
An intrepid adventurer entered the plastic pipe and a crusty navigator exited heading for the helm of a “super tanker”. Grandad stood by and for a moment admired the view towards a sparkling expanse of water. Trees rustled in a gusting breeze.
The tiny blond-haired skipper gripped the wheel while his view-distracted protector, about six feet away, paid no attention. That’s when fate stepped in to risk the well-being of a young person; perhaps steal his life.
At about four feet high, the platform was innocuous. The bridge of the boat was a floored metal frame with no sides, just a standing space. The wheel, at the left of the structure could rotate freely; within seconds danger leapt out.
I looked at the lad with a tad of absent-mindedness; saw him grab the wheel with his left hand. For some reason he didn’t use his right; maybe he held a stick or something.
He leaned his weight on the helm. Neither of us expected it to move, but it did; all the way. He started to swing out and down over the end of the frame. All was silence as he tipped past the horizontal … and let go. A tiny squeal rang tore into my ear as I watched him try to recover. He fell.
In an instant he was in the air, curly head pointing straight down, about six inches out over empty space. He didn’t even put his hands out to protect himself as gravity seized him and hurled his small body groundwards.
In terrible slow motion I watched the fragile little head drop towards the bolted steel feet of the metal framework. Even now I see him passing the edge of the platform, head down like an olympic diver without extended arms. His chest passed the flooring as he fell, no sense of danger; a look of quizzical interest on his angelic face. His plunging body was beyond my reach. His little cranium accelerated towards a an almost certain connection with hard metal and untold damage…
Thinking back, with my history of head injury as a toddler, this event is forever carved in my mind. Everything became blurred as the little man fell towards inevitable injury or worse.
I can’t explain how it happened. My hand gripped a little ankle as I caught and held him inches from disaster. He shrieked with laughter as he swung up into a relieved hug.
My thoughts were unrepeatable … again no !***!! way … as I clasped the little person to my chest, unscathed. As I write, I think of my Mom and the battered, bleeding, unconscious child she had to nurse as shock and terrible fear tore at her with cruel talons. If you’re a parent, maybe you’ll relate to this.
“Where’s Mom?” I said, placing a happy toddler foot-first on to the ground. He thought for a moment.
“Momeeee,” He ran off up the playground. I smiled, waved my fist in the air with exuberant, relieved happiness and loped after him.