The night of Saturday, February 14th seemed normal when I went to bed. Kids asleep, house quiet, bedtime for Daddy.
Until around 3 am, when Seamus woke me up crying, with his face bashed up and bleeding.
Seamus told me that he woke up and was uncomfortable, so he tried to roll over – and rolled out of bed. From the top bunk.
When it was daylight I ascertained that his face probably landed on about a 6-inch tall plastic princess/fairy toy of Kathryn’s that was nearly invisible against the floor.
When morning – that is, sunrise – broke and the kids woke me up to make breakfast (I’d promised pancakes) I asked Seamus some more questions about his face, decided he was fine, and started cracking dad jokes about “not doing that” because “it hurts.”
I felt bad about it, but in an almost abstract sense – I didn’t like that he’d been hurt, but he’s been sleeping on the top bunk for about a year and a half and this was his first incident. I fell out of my share of top bunks when I was younger, so I am familiar with the feeling. He had a wicked shiner, sort of (it missed his eye), and a funny (in hindsight only!) story.
Aside from a few cracks about rollovers, it was a normal Sunday, and I brought the kids back to their mom’s house Sunday night.
On Monday, I left work around 4:30 as the snow was starting to intensify and picked up the kids on my way home. The whole drive home we planned out our snow day for Tuesday (the 17th.) Uncle Jimmy was coming over, and we were going to be outside sledding all day with him and maybe the Aunties too!
I got up Tuesday morning and made egg and cheese sandwiches and we got ready to go outside. Snow pants, sweatshirts, coats, hats, gloves, boots – if you’re reading this you probably already know what a production it is to get kids ready to go outside in the snow.
We went outside and hit the slope. We have a yard that includes a huge steep hill, with a sled run of probably 120 feet or so (as seen in my profile picture.) The hill covers a pretty wide area. At the bottom on the far right are a swing set and a trampoline.
I noticed that Duncan was making his runs a little too far to that side of the hill, and admonished him to move over towards the middle. Twice.
After riding down in a saucer with Kathryn in my lap, I trudged back up, with the sled, right behind Kathryn. I was thinking about how particularly slick and powdery the snow was – I kept slipping on my way up the hill, so couldn’t carry Kathryn up at all.
I got to the top and turned around. I saw Duncan heading straight for the swing set’s cross braces. Before I could even cry out, I saw him hit the pressure treated lumber face first.
I ceased all motion, for about 2 or 3 seconds, shocked. My heart rate probably tripled. Then Duncan started screaming. I ran/slid/tumbled down the hill as fast as I could go, and picked up my little boy to help him. Blood was covering his chin and dripping onto his coat. I pulled away the fabric to see a grisly hole in his chin, and then quickly put a handful of snow to it.
“Stitches,” I thought immediately, praying that’s all it would be. I tried to pick Duncan up and carry him up to the house, but I was slipping and falling too much. I had to make him walk, and hold his hand, and keep holding snow to his face. I tossed away two blood-soaked snowballs on our short trip up the hill.
Duncan was rapidly gaining control of himself. I was not. Both boys with facial injuries on consecutive days at my house? What kind of a terrible father am I? Why did they both happen on my watch? Why did they have to happen at all? And why oh why did I have to have such a perfect view of Duncan’s accident?
I will never forget that feeling of watching him crash. The world slowed down for a moment, then sped way up. It felt like the end of the world. It felt very close to how I’ve reacted to some deaths in the family. Why couldn’t I protect him better than this?
Of course, as time went on reason returned. Duncan was a trooper at the hospital – if you follow me on Facebook you’ve already heard about how positive he stayed – and I was able to get a little perspective. Accidents happen. I hurt myself that badly growing up on a pretty regular basis. People need a little risk in their lives to be fulfilled, and it has to be real. There have been hurts on Mom’s watch too, serious ones even.
Still, Seamus smashed his face on Daddy’s day. Duncan had to go to the ER for smashing his face on Daddy’s day. And I will never forget those horrifying, gut-wrenching moments as I turned around at the top of the hill.