I was chatting on the phone with my Dad. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, maybe getting his hot tub fixed. All of a sudden there was a scratchy male voice on the line: “911 operator. Please hang up for an emergency call from Abby.” Only it didn’t sound that clear.
With a little more than my usual obtuseness (these have been trying times for us lately), I said, “I don’t know any Abby. Go away,” and went on chatting.
A minute or two later there was a much more forceful and coherent woman’s voice on the line: “911 operator. Hang up now for an emergency call from Abby about your son Julian.”
Abby is a mom who had been walking into a playground with a babe in arms and toddler when Julian fell out of a tree a few feet from her. She told me, “You are to meet Julian’s ambulance at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.” She later told me, although this was probably an illusion, that she thought that if she hadn’t had her kids with her she might have caught Julian.
This is a phone call no parent ever wants to get.
Julian had fallen out of a tree when the branch he was on broke. Accounts place the height of the fall as between seven and nine feet, onto a cement sidewalk, with the impact on the back of his skull. He was on a stretcher being loaded into the ambulance, Abby told me.
Phyllis and I got in the car and raced to Children’s Hospital. It’s hard to obey traffic laws in these circumstances, but probably a good idea. Fellow drivers: bear in mind that you don’t know the circumstances of your brethren, and someone in that car tailgating you so obnoxiously may be racing to the hospital to meet their beloved Julian.
From the car I phoned Nate the babysitter who had been watching Julian and his two younger brothers Nicky and Mathew at the playground. Nate was getting ready to head to the hospital with the young ones. I told him that Phyllis and I were on the way to the hospital, and that he should head home with Nicky and Mathew. Believe me, a hospital is no place for a two-year-old and a four-year-old.
We beat the ambulance to the hospital. At the emergency entrance, they had a trauma room set up for Julian. The white board had his vital’s: “9 year old, 7 foot fall, head and neck injuries.” There were probably a dozen doctors and nurses waiting for Julian to appear.
The ambulance arrives, and the pace quickens. Julian is brought in on his stretcher. He is conscious. That’s when he says those words to me about being damaged.
Gratitude. Mainly gratitude that Julian will be OK. Also gratitude that I could be there for Julian when he needed me most, that Nate the babysitter was CPR trained and knew just what to do, that Abby was there and reached out to help strangers.
Julian will probably be coming home from the hospital today or tomorrow. He is lucid, although his time sequencing and memory of events right around his fall have some peculiar aspects.
I played a game of chess with Julian shortly before his fall, and then again last night in the hospital. Oddly enough, he seems to be a far stronger player after the fall: more deliberate, less impulsive, and more concerned with strategic issues.
Julian says to me: “Daddy, luck was with me!”
Harold: “I think so, too.”
Julian: “I wish I hadn’t fallen out of that tree.”
Harold: “Me, too.”
Julian: “Probably a life lesson.”
Harold: “What do you think that life lesson might be?”
Julian: “I should be more thoughtful and pay more attention.”
For me, the lesson is gratitude.
This is Julian’s second brush with that dark angel (here’s the story of Julian’s birth). My thought is that he has been saved for a reason, although, of course his simply having been saved is enough.