Surviving the family's first broken bone

You can learn many things from children patience you have, for instance.— Franklin P. Jones

Christine and I hit another parental milestone, though it had absolutely nothing to do with our parenting skills, or lack thereof.

As I mentioned last week, Christine attended a writer's conference in California and I stayed here to work. Before she left for California, she had taken the boys to El Paso for a visit with their grandparents. Christine's folks graciously agreed to watch the boys during her week in California and before I flew out to the border city to help them drive home.

But the best laid plans of mice and men....

Esten, 8, and Will, 6, enjoyed art camp and soccer camp, respectively, early in their visit. But their days off were spent with giant bowls of sugary cereal, playing outside in the small pool, and watching endless hours of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

"Quien es ese Sponge Bob?" my father-in-law would grumble.

Occasionally and episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants would not require staring intently into the screen and memorizing the dialogue, so the boys would jump on Grandpa and Nana's king-size bed or play around the house.

One afternoon Esten jumped off the bed and landed with his arm prone and Will followed and landed on that arm. His elbow bent an unnatural way and Esten screamed bloody murder.

His Nana, who used to work in healthcare, was very good at calming him and his grandparents rushed him to the emergency room at El Paso's east-side hospital. She called me later that night to "break" the news to me: Esten had small breaks across three bones in his elbow.

Talk about a shot to the gut. Many of my friends said they knew how I felt, having had a child hurt where they couldn't get to him or her immediately. Christine and I talked and both felt hollow for not being able to soothe his pain in person. I felt anguish after hearing him ask, "Can you drive me to my friends' houses so they can sign my cast?" After a fitful night of sleep, I flew out the next day.

Kids being as resilient as they are, Esten was already in better spirits by the time I arrived. I took him to get his hard cast to replace the temporary splint and the thing that caused him the most concern was what color of cast to pick. Thankfully, the doctor said his bones were healing well.

Before their mom arrived, I took the boys to a park to kick the soccer ball. "Be careful running with your cast," I told Esten.

Later I drove them up to Murchison Park on the mountain in El Paso, where you can look out at the lights of El Paso and Juarez.

But there are only two sidewalks that wind through the park on the way to the observation points. The rest is, well, mountain. And even in his cast and with none of the day's light left, Esten insisted on scampering across the rocky surface, playing out an imaginary Transformers episode with his brother. In my mind's eye, I could envision another fall, another trip to the ER, another cast.

I told him to stay on the sidewalks

When his mom's plane arrived later that night, he told her, "Dad's been on me non-stop since I got my cast."

I guess we parents are just like that.


We did have some good fortune while we were there, though it involved car trouble. After getting Esten's cast, I thought ice cream was in order, so we had a snack at Baskin-Robbins and began the trip back to the in-laws.

But our Ford Focus wagon overheated and I had to pull over. A man pulled up in front of his house where we were parked in a nice, new Ford Flex wagon. He looked over my engine and got it cooled down and spliced a leaky hose. During the course of our conversation, he told me he was the service manager at Casa Ford dealership. Of all the houses in El Paso, that was a good one to break down near.

I gave him some business the next morning, before our 11-hour drive home the next day, and I felt like I returned some good karma as well.

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2009-08-13 digital edition

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