Wednesday, February 09, 2011

I'm not quick, but I'm slow too

Jewel still has all of her teeth, no thanks to her brother.

On Friday, I was at work, waiting to hear from Mama that she and the kids had departed home to come meet me at what 3B calls the Potanic Gardens--you try to correct him, then. Trust me, we've tried.

Instead I got a call from Mama at a coffee shop with the kids, where they'd stopped because events had conspired against her. She calmly explained where they were, why they were there, how soon they would be at my office and we exchanged a few other words. Then she started talking in a shaky voice and said, "It was so scary."

I'm not quick, but I'm slow too, so it took a few seconds for this unexpected sentence to sink in, percolate down to my adrenal glands and squeeze them like a wet rag, accelerating my heart from zero to palpitation in three seconds.

"What? What was so scary?"

I've learned that at times like this, the best thing to do is stand back and let Mama talk. She never gets rattled or weepy, so she must be under tremendous pressure for this to happen. Or there must have been blood. In this case, there were both.

But my nature, when confronted with a situation like this, is to dive in headfirst and start trying to fix. I ask a lot of questions. I demand answers. I suggest changes. This is all good if you're a mechanic in the boiler room of the Titanic, but a husband trying to find out what happened to your wife or kids or both and WAS THERE BLOOD? ...not such a good tactic.

Mama, being smarter than me, however, has learned to ignore me at times like this and went ahead with her story.

She had been at the counter, ordering or paying or I wasn't really listening to this part of the story, waiting for the punch line, hoping it didn't involve actual punches. She had parked the kids--Jewel in the stroller and 3B standing next to it--a few feet behind her. Mama had set the brakes on the stroller. As she turned around, she saw 3B was tipping the stroller from side to side in a rocking motion...tip, tip, tip, which, because she has an older brother, wasn't bothering Jewel.

Then, as Mama watched, 3B tipped the stroller over, pitching Jewel face first onto the tile floor of the coffee shop.

At times like this in stories, I tend to get tunnel hearing. I can hear a word or two at a time while I hold my breath, check to ensure my heart is beating, and wait for it...wait for it...wait for it... So, what I got was: scary...OK.

With that last word, I resumed breathing. Then, Mama added, "I think."


This just in: Leading cause of heart attacks: four-year-old boys.

But I also figured that if it were really bad, Mama would be on the phone with 911. Mama said again, "It was just so scary."

I asked if she still wanted to come in and meet me. She said yes, and so, 20 minutes after that, I was bent over Jewel in her car seat, trying to get her to open her mouth so that I could see her teeth.

Nothing doing, Dad, was her cheerful reply.

Eventually we decided that since she wasn't screaming all was roughly OK. But...just to be sure, we booked an appointment with the dentist. Mama, who doesn't deal well with blood or injury at all, asked me to go. Our pediatric dentist is amazing. 3B loves going there because it's so much fun, despite his natural trepidation toward anything new.

Jewel has no such fear, since she's never been and doesn't associate the dentist with an entire volleyball team putting their hands in your mouth along with a hoover hose, a pike pole and the side view mirror from a Dodge dualie. And she did great. We got there half an hour early and ended up having to wait an hour and a half, right through what could have been Jewel's nap time.

The waiting room has fun distractions: three PlayStations, bead wire mazes, wooden shapes stuck all over the walls, all of which Jewel enjoyed playing with. Most of the reason she did well, however, was that she, like her brother before her, is blessed with a cheerful personality and enjoyed hanging out with Daddy, eating some snacks and watching everybody and what they were doing.

She was so good that she earned a tiara for her patience. And they didn't even take it back when she screamed at them for sticking their fingers in her mouth and poking at all those new teeth coming in.

For my troubles, Jewel let me wear the tiara home, which I hope amused folks in rush hour on the Beltway. And she also let me in on a secret: if I make a kissing sound, she'll smile and lean her soft little cheek right over to my lips to get a kiss. Learning that was almost better than learning that all of her teeth were solidly in place.

OK, maybe a little better.

Papa Bradstein is going to stick two hands, a hoover hose and a bumbershoot in your mouth and then ask, So, how's your day going?

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