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Thanksgiving Interrupted

EDITORIAL NOTE: I wrote this piece in 2001, shortly after an interrupted Thanksgiving Dinner. This piece might make you cry but please know that Blue Eyes is healthy, happy and still dangling from high places whenever he gets a chance. And he still has the most beautiful blue eyes...

When the unthinkable happens...

A screaming child interrupted Thanksgiving preparations. A few days later when finally sat down to eat and passed around reheated turkey, we had much to thankful for.

what to be thankful forwhat to be thankful forAll the Thanksgiving dinner elements were there - the turkey, crusty buns, carrots, potatoes, gravy and in-laws. But this was our second attempt to sit down to our Thanksgiving meal. Now, two days later, we gathered around the table thankful for the reheated meal and so much more. We joined hands and gave our reasons for being thankful.

"I'm thankful that Grandma and Grandpa are here," said my four-year-old.

"I had fun at the park," chirped his younger sister.

"I'm glad you're okay," said my ten-year-old son, bringing tears to the eyes of the adults.

Blue Eyes sat quietly listening, making me wonder, not for the first time that weekend, what he was thinking...

A crash followed by a scream

Two days earlier I'd heard the crash and scream while beating potatoes into submission. I threw down the electric beater, spilling goopy potatoes and butter across the counter. This was not a normal yell, it was filled with terror and pushed every emergency button in my heart.

I ran around corners and over toys as my mind reached towards the noise and the child making it. I followed my husband and father-in-law in a frantic race for the stairs. We hurtled them three at a time.

Blue Eyes crash landsBlue Eyes crash landsMy husband reached Blue Eyes first, running his hand across his body, feeling for broken bones. I cried my son's name as his lips turned blue and a noiseless terror replaced his screaming.

"Look at me, tell me where it hurts," I implored using my stern mother voice. His eyes glazed over, and I watched in terror as he left us for a long, agonizing moment, his body limp and his face placid. I continued to talk to him, beg him, plead with him, order him to answer me. I was his mother, dammit.

Each second felt like a thousand. I held my own breath as I fought for him to come back to me. I turned to tell my husband to call the ambulance, but he already had the phone in his hands.

Blue Eyes came barreling back into the world with the full scream of a newborn and a look of complete panic etched on his eight-year-old features. I wiped his sweaty cheek and spoke more softly.

He vacated the premises again.

My husband's frantic voice, my other children's voices, the rush of my beating heart fell into the background as my world narrowed to those beautiful blue eyes. Fight, Blue Eyes, fight.  

After a fall from the top of his bunk bed flat onto his back, Blue Eyes needed medical attention - fast. He regained consciousness again and began to twist and writhe with pain. He scuttled like a crab back into the darkest corner of his room, crying and yelling at me. His legs twisted and turned while he grasped at the carpet, trying to find someplace to put his pain. I lay down beside him, touching his shoulder lightly while I talked. Knowing that soothing words weren't helping, I talked about anything that came into my mind. Free association at its best.

I told him I loved him

I distracted him with talk about our dinner waiting in the kitchen, the green paint stain on his pants, his grandparents playing with his younger brother and sister, the stickers on his wall, his older brother wearing a groove in the pavement outside while he waited to flag the ambulance down and the mess under his bed.

I told him I loved him.

I talked about anything but the pain, the ambulance ride or the hospital. Slowly the writing stilled. His bore into me, focusing on my voice and the mundane things of my ramblings like someone who had nothing else to live for.

The paramedics clanked into the bedroom. "My back hurts bad," Blue Eyes whispered, refusing to move when they asked if he could sit up. He moaned, "Mommy don't leave me," as they carefully transferred him to a backboard and taped his head in place.

Friends and neighbors watched from their own houses, worry etched on their faces. I kept my eyes on my son, concentrating on him, not letting myself think past the next step. Afterwards, people told me I looked as calm as if I were only going across town to pick up milk.

A rainbow appeared

an emergency at thanksgivingan emergency at thanksgivingIt had showered briefly before we got outside and we drove away, I looked out the back window as a rainbow bathed our neighborhood in color. My breath caught as Blue Eyes glanced out the window too. And then we locked eyes. He understood.

Blue Eyes retreated from his pain after we arrived at the hospital. He slipped to a place within his mind where no one else was welcome, not even me. I watched him withdraw deeper and deeper inside himself, only to re-emerge with a single tear when someone asked him to move.

"Where's Daddy?" Blue Eyes cried when they came for x-rays. I squeezed his hand and shook my head. Minutes later, my husband showed up with our oldest in tow and they handed Blue Eyes a picture the youngest had drawn. Blue Eyes crumpled the picture under his arms and didn't say a word.

We took Blue Eyes home hours later, with warnings to wake him every two hours and care instructions for a concussion. He groaned in agony as my husband carried him to our waiting van. Our oldest tried to fill the space between tears with talk about what had happened since we'd left. Another round of free-association.

"Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch." Moaned Blue Eyes all through the night. I lay beside him on the bed, holding his hand, praying for morning. When the first rays of sun kissed the sky, I opened my eyes to see the most beautiful, bright blue eyes staring back at me. Not pain free, but definitely reflecting a rainbow of hope.

Finally sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner two days later we all gave thanks for Blue Eyes. My three-year-old daughter reached over and wiped my cheek as she patted my shoulder.

"Why are you crying Mommy? He's okay now."

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