Nan sat in the hospital waiting room, collecting her thoughts.
Tom was going to be okay. Sure, he had sprained his arm rather badly when he fell onto the dock while he was playing on the side of the boat.. Laura reassured Nan that she had been watching him–“Yes, mom, like a hawk, but I had Paula to look after too!”–while her husband had been loading in supplies for a boat trip they were planning for later that week. But since Laura was also watching her two-year old—Nan’s beloved grand-daughter—her attention was divided, so she hadn’t been able to stop when Tom went plummeting over the side. Fortunately, it was about a five foot drop, but he landed on his arm.
Apparently, he had let out a loud and dramatic shout. “I thought maybe he had fallen into the water, mom! I was so scared. When I looked over the side of the boat, there he was, face down on the dock! We had to pick him up and basically carry him to the car!”
Of course, by “we,” Laura was referring to her husband and his friend Matt, who did the heavy lifting of carrying Tom to the car. Tom’s nose was bleeding rather badly from when his face met the wood, and all three men–Tom, David, and Matt–now had blood stains on their shirts to prove it.
Laura had been convinced that much worse had occurred. David said that, other than the nose bleed and a little shock, he thought Tom was basically fine. “I mean, it is only a five foot drop, and other than the shock of the nose-bleed, I didn’t really see anything to be upset about.” Yet Laura had insisted, being the ever-concerned sister, that they take Tom to the emergency room.
Now all five of them–Nan, Laura, Nan’s grand-daugher Paula, Laura’s “hubby” David, and Matt-were awaiting word that Tom was ready to be taken home. Apparently, they were giving him a cast.
“Why does he need a cast if it’s just a sprain?” David had questioned when the doctor announced this development.
“It’s a pretty bad sprain,” the Doctor said matter-of-factly. “We want to make sure that the arm is set correctly so that it will heal. The cast will help.”
David had looked on skeptically yet had said nothing more.
Nan found herself thoughtful. Compared to Laura’s state of high-alert, she tended to side with David on this: Tom didn’t seem that badly hurt. The shock of the situation that seemed to have gotten to Laura. Nan was a bit skeptical herself about the choice of going to the emergency room. Do you know how much that costs? Not that she couldn’t cover it, but she admitted she tended to be a little bit of a tightwad. However, she kept these thoughts to herself. She was glad that Laura cared so deeply for her brother, and had acted quickly.
Since day one, raising Tom had not been a walk in the park, as they say. Nan had never dreamed in a million years that her second child would be autistic. She had had an autistic aunt, but she hadn’t spent a lot of time around her, as she lived across the country. However, over the past twenty-seven years, she had become an expert.
You needed to be very patient. You couldn’t expect the usual routine that you might have from being with someone normal. Over many years, Nan had accepted that every day was a learning experience in patience, in tolerance, and in unconditional love. In this last regard, Nan knew she had benefited greatly from raising Tom. She loved him dearly. After years of practicing patience, patience, patience, she was able to bask in equanimity in the challenges of motherhood.
She focused on that love right now as the other three adults discussed what happened, and not without a bit of upset.
Laura, holding Paula rather too tensely, Nan thought, said, “I was so scared there for a moment.”
“Honey, you did great,” David reassured her. “It could have been far worse!”
“Worse than not being there for your own brother?” Laura protested. “I’m horrified.”
“Well, you did act quickly,” Matt offered.
“Of course I did! But I’m still shocked at what could have been. Thank God we were by the dock. He could have fallen into the water!”
“But he didn’t, Honey,” David said. To Nan, he seemed to be slightly impatient now. Yet she continued to observe without speaking.
“I know he didn’t, but I was still scared. Mom, it could have been really bad!”
Nan nodded slowly, and took a deep breath. “Tom’s going to be alright.”
Yet Laura remained temporarily inconsolable. Nan wondered why she seemed to be experiencing such guilt. She had always noticed that her daughter tended to worry. But she hadn’t noticed it in quite such a pronounced way. She wondered if there was something else going on for Laura that caused her to be especially off-kilter.
Nan opted to change the subject. “Let me take Paula from you, Dear. Is she asleep?”
“Not yet. I just nursed her.” A bit absent-mindedly, she reached out her arms toward Nan, and handed over her two-year old daughter, who adjusted to being in her grandmother’s arms as smoothly and easily as if she hadn’t noticed the transfer.
At that moment, the doctor walked in. Behind him walked Tom, all six-foot two of him, with a big smile on his face. “Look, Ma Ma! I got a casth!” He pointed excitedly at his left arm, which was wrapped in gauze. “I’m gonna wear thith for three weekth! Doc thaid tho!”
As Tom made this excited proclamation, Nan was suddenly reminded of Charlie talking about his dog. A wave of annoyance came over her, but she brushed it aside, as she held her grand-daughter tenderly. “That’s wonderful, Dear! I hear you had a little fall of the boat.”
“Yeth I did!” Charlie exclaimed. “Right onto the dock! Laurie sath I could have hurt mythelf! But I didn’t. Look at my casth!”
“Wow, that is quite a cast, Tom,” Nan said, gesturing for Laura to take her daughter back. Laura obliged, and Nan reached out to take her son by the arm, new cast and all. “I’m so glad you didn’t hurt yourself! C’mon, let’s go home, shall we?”
“Yeth, leth go home… and, and… I can color with my new casth! It’ll be fun!”
Nan smiled at her son, whom she loved greatly. She looked at her daughter, apparently still grieving at the tragedy-that-might-have-been but rocking her daughter gently, at her daughter’s husband and his friend, who just happened to be along for the ride, and she felt a great sense of well-being.
My how she loved her family.