Three kids, two dogs, one husband…keeping my head above the laundry pile one load at a time…

A Stitch In (the nick of) Time…

on February 24, 2011

October 14, 2010

To:   Don@work

From:   Lisa@home

Subject: Valentine’s Gift for Me

So, I know it’s not even Halloween yet, and Christmas is right around the corner, and Valentine’s Day is not even on the horizon, but….

I just heard on the radio that John Mellencamp is coming to Massey Hall on February 9th and I was thinking….what better Valentine’s Day gift for you to give me than tickets to see him? Thoughts?

To:   Lisa@home

From:   Don@work

Subject: How Thoughtful of Me

I didn’t know I was so generous, but ok, let’s go.

I had to read his response twice….three times….seriously? Don’s agreed to go to the John Mellencamp concert? OMG! Last Valentine’s Day we were moving from Boston, MA to Toronto and we closed on our new house on Valentine’s Day. That was my Valentine’s Day gift. My husband, a hopeless romantic. Well, the hopeless part is accurate. The romantic part? No so much. The year before that, he had just been laid off from his job, so Valentine’s Day was a complete and total bust.

I researched the tickets and found they ranged from $49 to $115 (plus service charges….thank you, Ticketmaster). I decided to wait until Don got home from work to see if he would spring for a bit pricier ticket so we could sit on the floor instead of the balcony. When he got home, one of the first things he asked was if I got the tickets. I told him no, because I wanted to talk to him about the choices. After feeding the kids, practicing math facts, site words and spelling words, getting them showered, teeth brushed and into their PJs then their beds, we finally had a few minutes to chat before the call of Facebook took me away and the lure of his Blackberry took his attention (it’s a romantic life we lead, isn’t it?). “So, about the seating. We can sit on the floor for about $115 each, or in the balcony for $49. Massey Hall is pretty intimate, so I’m sure the balcony seats would be good. Of course, I’ve never seen John Mellencamp and he is from my hometown of Seymour, Indiana and he did have my great grandpa is his ‘Rain on the Scarecrow’ video and I do so, so want to see him. And last year our new house was my Valentine’s Day present and the year before you had just gotten laid off, so there was the big fat goose-egg for Valentine’s Day. Maybe we could go for a bit better seats?” I say this all quickly and giddily because I am so damn excited about going to this concert. “I like Mellencamp’s stuff, I think we should get the seats on the floor.” Who is this man? Really? “Great. I’ll order the tickets right now – before you change your mind.” I look at the information again and say, nonchalantly, “Of course, you could spend the big bucks and go with the VIP package – guaranteed seats in the front 10 rows, a t-shirt, a vinyl copy of the his new album….” Then he asks, “How much is that?” After I pick my jaw up off the table and reattach it to my face, I tell him the price and say “each….plus taxes and services charges.” “We should go with that one.” OMG! OMG! I don’t know who this man is. Perhaps he’s been abducted by aliens and replaced with a pod person. Doesn’t matter, because he said yes and I’m clicking “Buy Now”. I must have purchased them at 8:30 p.m., because at 8:31 p.m. I posted the following Status Update on Facebook:

…it’s a dream come true!! Not only has Don agreed to go see John Mellencamp in concert, he was willing to spring for the “Premier VIP Package”…somewhere in the front 10 rows of Massey Hall in Toronto, plus t-shirt, vinyl of his new album and more!!! Please John, stay healthy, continue to cut back on fatty foods and stay away from the cigarettes. It’s not until February 9th, but I am so excited!!!!!!

So we had Alex’s seventh birthday party and went Trick-or-Treating in October, celebrated American Thanksgiving in a most understated way here in Canada, then celebrated Christmas in Illinois, sent the kids back-to-school in January, shoveled some snow, shoveled some more snow, and I patiently waited for the big day to arrive.

Two weeks before the concert, I received the email confirming the ticket info. Our seats were actually somewhere in the front three rows, not ten. I would need to pick up the tickets at the box office at Massey Hall the day of the concert, but no later than one hour before the pre-concert film (no opening act, but instead a documentary film showing the recording of John’s album…recorded at various sites around the U.S.) that started at 7 p.m. I had the babysitter scheduled to arrive at 5 p.m. and everything seemed to be falling into place. Yippee!

I’ve been taking a Pilates class for quite awhile now and hoping to drop some weight, so I didn’t want to buy my concert outfit too soon, in hopes I would miraculously drop a size or two before the concert. But now, a week before the big day, my thoughts turned to what to wear. I had toyed with the idea of buying a Seymour Owls t-shirt (the town John and I grew up in, Seymour, where the high school mascot is an owl) and bedazzling it to make me stand out. I decided that was just silly…my seats were somewhere in the front three rows, but the chances of being within eye contact weren’t that great. I saw a feature in Real Simple magazine, showing affordable Valentine’s day outfits. There was a cute sequined-covered layering tank for only $14.99 at Forever 21. I’ve never been to Forever 21, so I went online and found a store at the Vaughan Mills Mall. I went to the store and felt ridiculously out of my element. The music was blaring, the clothes were displayed throughout the store in no discerned arrangement – this was not my type of store. But I persevered and found a similar tank and made my purchase. The shirt is thin and flimsy, and with me being a bit….shall we say….”busty”, I felt the shirt made me look more tawdry than chic. The day before the concert, my friend and I cut ski lessons because it was too cold and went to the mall instead. Way more fun, just sayin’. At the Michael Kors store, I found the perfect shirt. Black, sequined all over, a heavier weight material that would not cling to my boobs and would be more flattering. But I didn’t buy it.

The next day, concert day, I decided I really needed the other shirt, so after Pilates, I popped into the mall to buy the shirt.

Then I decided that since traffic in Toronto is so iffy, I should go into the city and pick up our tickets in the afternoon rather than risk arriving at Massey Hall too late that evening. I had lost my cell phone the week before, but the kids were healthy and at school, so off I went. I knew I had plenty of time to get there and back before the dismissal bell rang. Tickets in hand, I arrived from the city to the front of the school at 3:30 – five minutes to spare! Then I saw my husband driving down the street. He rolled down his window and said: “Did the school get ahold of you? Ryan has a splinter and needs to be picked up early.” A splinter causes a child to be picked up early? A splinter? Damn lost cell phone! Not that it would have mattered, even if they had reached me when the incident occurred, I was in downtown Toronto and wouldn’t have arrived at school until 3:30 anyway.

I walk into the office and find Ryan’s principal, the school secretary and two other parents hovering over him and looking at his knee. “Looks like you will need to take him to an acute care center to have this extracted” the principal tells me. I look at his knee and go to the happy place I go to whenever one of my kids or dogs throw up or have any other “accident”. I take myself out of my head so I won’t be sick. The “splinter” is a sliver of wood from the playground. We later determine that he had been climbing around on the four-by-fours that surround the playground equipment and a piece of the wood was snagged on his knee. It penetrated his thick jeans, leaving the tiniest of holes, and rammed into his knee cap. It looked like a toothpick skewering his knee. You could see one end at the point of entry and the other pushing its way to the just under the surface of his skin. My first thought? I can’t tell a lie, my first thought was, “I never do anything with just my husband….today, the day we finally get to have a date night in six years…..today is the day this has to happen?” OK, that sounds shallow, crass and selfish, but wait, I get worse. I know he is going to be fine. It’s a sliver. It will come out, we’ll put some Neosporin on the wound, cover it with a Superman band-aid, and all will be fine.

Until it isn’t fine. I take him home and my husband looks at it. I hand my husband the tweezers. I clean up puke and diarrhea….I don’t do extractions….I don’t pull teeth, I don’t remove splinters. He takes a deep breath. He gets a drink of water. He takes another deep breath. He gets a piece of gum. He takes another deep breath. I say, “You know, I really think I should take him to the doctor to have it removed. What if it gets infected? What if it breaks off? The school said I should take him in. For liability purposes, I think that’s best. Don’t you?” My husband takes another deep breath (I think if was in relief) and says “If you think that’s best.” I do, so I did.

My husband stays home with our two younger boys and Ryan and I head off to the walk-in clinic. I quickly assess the room and determine – wrongly – that things are looking good. It’s 3:50 and there are only two people sitting in the plastic waiting room chairs (and I make a mental note to Purell Ryan and I both when we leave). Then the receptionist says “Oooooh. There’s a long wait here. Like an hour. Let me call another walk-in to see if they have a shorter wait.” I should say that I in no way indicated that I was in a rush. They just don’t like to keep kids in pain waiting.”The other clinic has about a 45 minute wait, but the doctor says he may or may not be able to take out the splinter and you may end up in the ER anyway. I think you should just go straight to Trillium Health Center and they will be able to help you.” Ryan hobbles back to the car and we drive across town to Trillium. The time is now 4:10.

We take a number like we are at the deli counter of the grocery store. Luckily, we are next. The intake specialist takes Ryan’s OHIP card, gets his weight, blood pressure, and general information. Then he asks what happened. Ryan tells him. The man looks at me and says in quite the sarcastic tone “A splinter? On the snow-covered playground?” I think, but do not say, “Look dude, I’m going with what the teacher, principal and my son tell me. I don’t know how it happened either, but it did. Help me.” Instead I say, “Yes, a splinter. A splinter is lodged in my son’s kneecap. A splinter he got on a snow-covered playground.”

We are sent back to the treatment area and I sit in yet another grungy, molded plastic chair and Ryan hops onto the empty hospital bed. He’s not in alot of pain. He’s not really worried. About his knee. He is worried that Don and I will miss the concert and he will miss the unusual event of having a neighbor boy babysit. There are clocks all over the treatment area. There seems to be one over every bed and in several places in the hallway. Everywhere I look, I see the time tick, ticking away. The doctor comes in around 4:45. He looks at Ryan’s knee and says “OK, I’m going to freeze it [the knee] and pull out the splinter. But first, let’s get an x-ray to make sure there’s nothing else there.” Off we go down the hall to the x-ray room where there is a sign taped to the door that says “Door Broken – Do Not Shut”. Oh great, we’ll be trapped in an x-ray room for the whole night. That seems to be how this is all going to work out for us. But no, we aren’t trapped. We are greeted by a very nice x-ray person (for which I am sure there is a much more professional-sounding description, but I’ll leave it at this). We exchange pleasantries. I tell her how nice everyone has been and how quick the service is and how surprised I am. She thanks me for the kind words and says they don’t usually hear the good things. She takes numerous x-rays of Ryan’s knee and sends us back to our “room”.

We wait and wait. Now it’s about 5:15. OK, we can still do this. I know we can. The doctor comes in and has the technician freeze Ryan’s knee. Ryan sees the needle and panics. He cries. He squirms. He does the same thing at the dentist, even for a cleaning. I’m used to it. The doctor is not. [I know, he’s a doctor, he should be used to everything.] The doctor and technician leave the room while the anesthetic works its magic. They come back in and the doctor removes the splinter. “There you go. He should be all set.” The technician and I look at Ryan’s knee then at the doctor. We both say “No he’s not. There’s still half of the splinter in his knee. It must have broke.” The doctor looks at us both with a bit of disdain and says “No, I got the splinter out. That mark is just an old scar.” I know my son. I know his scars. I know when I can feel a piece of wood poking up through his skin. There’s still some there. The doctor looks again. “Oh, there is another piece in there.” And all I can think is “Boy, that x-ray did alot of good, didn’t it?” But I say nothing. The doctor decides before he freezes it again, further up on Ryan’s knee cap, he will apply a topical numbing cream since Ryan was so squirmy the last time.

He leaves us all alone in our room. The clock keeps ticking. Nothing is happening. Finally, another technician comes in and applies the cream and leaves us alone again. We wait and the clock ticks. There is no way I’ll be making it to the film, but the concert doesn’t start until 8:10. I run some mental calculations through my head and determine that Don and I can easily make it to the concert, we just won’t see the film. We wait some more. And we wait.

Finally a nurse walks by and sees me sitting there looking distraught. She says “It looks like someone is very nervous. You know your body language sends a very strong message to your child.” I tell her I know, but I really have someplace to be at 8 o’clock. I know, I know, that was so wrong. Perhaps I should have pointed out to her that it was 6:30 and we had been there since 4. My son hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since his 12 o’clock lunch. Or that I really, really had to pee, but didn’t want to leave my son alone on the hospital bed by himself. But no, my mental filter was turned off and I blurted out my primary concern. The controlled vitriol she spewed at me cut me to the core. “Your SON is in need of stitches and is scared and worried. You are NOT helping the situation.” Lady, you don’t know my situation. Here’s my situation: My SON has a SPLINTER in his knee. If the doctor had paid attention in the first place, we would have been done and out of here a half hour ago. My son hasn’t had anything to eat or drink since noon today. I haven’t had anything to eat since my oatmeal this morning since I thought I was going out for dinner tonight. I haven’t had a Diet Coke since 2 o’clock. I have to pee. My husband and I have not been out alone for a date night since February, 2005. Yes, we have been out without our children, but only rarely and only for work functions. We haven’t been out for fun and no reason since 2005! I just wanted to have an enjoyable dinner, a couple of cocktails, some good music and a relaxing evening. Somehow, the whole plan has gone to hell in a handbasket over a SPLINTER! You, lady, don’t know the first thing about me. You don’t know that everything I do is for the benefit of my children! Everything! Even the things I do for me are really for them. I scrapbook their lives. I sew curtains for their room. I bake them countless treats for them to eat at home and share at school. I volunteer in their classrooms. I drive them to baseball practice. I let them finger paint in the basement. I have never denied them the joy of Play-Doh in the house. My “own” life consists of drinking a glass of wine while I watch tv and listen for the soft footsteps of one of my three children slipping down the stairs to tell me he can’t sleep. Just one night I wanted to be a grown-up with my husband. You lady, have shoved a dagger deep into my heart by making me feel like a cold-hearted cruel bitch mother when you don’t know me at all! I take a deep breath and say nothing. I bite my lips together and hold it all in. I tell Ryan I’m sorry, but he already knows that. He’s tired of sitting here and just wants to go home. He wants to have dinner, play with his brothers and his babysitter and do his homework. Yes, at this point he’s so tired of sitting here, he actually wants to do his homework.

Finally, the doctor, nurse and technician come in. They hold Ryan down while the needle is inserted in his kneecap. I cover his eyes and close mine. The nurse says “Boy, hun, you are so brave. I hope your mommy brings you back a special treat from the *concert* she is in such a hurry to go to. Better yet, maybe your mommy should stay home and you should go to the concert.” GRRR! But still, I say nothing. It turns out the doctor has to make a small incision to remove the imbedded splinter and Ryan ends up with two stitches. Oh, the irony! The nurse then says “You’ve done a great job. Make sure your mommy buys you something really special, ok?” Double GRRR! They bandage him up and tell us we can go as soon as they give us the discharge papers.

The copy of the discharge paper is still on the front seat of my car. I haven’t brought it into the house yet and it’s been two weeks. I glance over at it and see the scrawling illegible handwriting of the doctor. I’m certain that somewhere in the chicken scratch it says “Patient’s mother is selfish, self-centered bitch who cares not one bit for this poor child.” I’m sure of it.

Ryan and I make the drive back across town to our house, during which he chatters incessantly about how he can’t believe he has stitches for the first time, how he can’t wait to show everyone at school the “trophy” he has shoved in his coat pocket (the technician sent the two splinter pieces home with us), how he can’t wait to call his BFF from his old house to compare his stitches in his knee to his BFF’s stitches he got when he crashed his scooter on the back path to the school. He then re-lives the whole scooter-crash incident and other memories from the old house. We walk in the house and the sitter and the two younger boys who were playing in the basement come up to assess the situation. My husband is relaxing on the couch playing a video game…he was in need of a break since he did fix the little guys their dinner. He looks up and says “I guess it’s too late for the concert, huh? We should send the sitter home.” I look at the clock again and do another mental calculation. “Well, it’s 7 now. We will definitely miss the film, but luckily I did pick up the tickets. I need 10 minutes to change out of my yoga pants and grungy t-shirt, throw on a nicer outfit, slap on some make-up and get Ryan a couple of Advils. The concert starts at 8:10. I think we could make it.” “Ok then, let’s go.” Then I hear the nagging voice of the nurse and say maybe we shouldn’t. Ryan might need us. Don says “It was an accident. It was a splinter. He will be fine. I’ll have my cell phone if they need us.” So I run upstairs, clothes fly, make-up splatters, and I come downstairs. I look like a grown-up. A slightly frazzled, stressed out grown-up, but a grown-up none-the-less.

We arrive downtown, park and step into Massey Hall with 20 minutes to spare! It’s a glorious night! There’s a lounge downstairs so we go down and get a couple of beers. Cheap, but overpriced beer. And we make our way to our seats, which are second row front and center. It is amazing! I drink the beer and savor the coolness in my mouth. I take a deep breath. The alcohol works its magic like it can only do when you have had nothing to eat for nearly 12 hours. The stage, the music, the lights, John Mellencamp two feet away from me. The night was magical. We are so close, we can make eye contact with all the members of the band. It is like they are singing just to me. And for a fleeting, alcohol-induced moment, I consider running away and being a groupie. The guilt for being selfish and self-centered washes away for the two hours John sings, I dance, and all is right with the world. I saved the guilt for the ride home….


2 responses to “A Stitch In (the nick of) Time…

  1. Lisa, this is like three stories in one. I loved it.

    • Thanks Naomi. I know it’s really long, but I felt like all of it needed to be there to make any sense. The lack of a social life, the shopping and pre-event shopping, and the minor detour on the way to the night out. I couldn’t find a good way to break it up.

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