15 February 2008

Don't let it show

A little background if you've only recently joined us: the son had reconstructive surgery on his knee in December. If you really want to, you can read about it here.

The son had yet another post-operative exam this morning, and the surgeon, who is thrilled with the outcome of the surgery, said that if he wanted to, the son could stop wearing the hinged brace he currently calls home.

I couldn't help but shudder at the idea of $30,000 of unprotected reconstruction. Fortunately, the son also couldn't help but shudder.

"Uh, cool!" I said, and sotto voce to the son, "You are wearing that brace to school EVERY DAY."

He nodded in full assent.

He is frightened, and with good reason. He doesn't ever want to go through this again. I am frightened, and with good reason. I don't ever want to see him in that much pain again.

Since he moved into the hinged brace a month ago, he's been relearning how to bend his knee, and the brace is reset every week with another few degrees range of motion. Getting to ninety degrees was a big deal, but I've noticed, and my neighbor who is a physical therapist noticed, that he's not bending his knee when he walks. It's not pain, either. It's fear.

As I've mentioned before, I am not squeamish--when it comes to me. I've been dealing with orthopedic injuries forever, and have still not recovered from a nasty case of peroneal tendonitis. The idea of those tendons cutting loose makes me cringe a bit, but when I think about the son's patella moving around, I'm ready to faint. He's very aware of the fear I feel, and I've realized that I'm going to have to look a lot more fearless in order to make him face what comes next: physical therapy.

This kid is 14 years old. I've had to let go of him, bit by bit, as he's grown, and every new adventure for him has been a nightmare for me. But I do let go, and I deal with it. I know I can't hold him back because of my fear as much as I may want to.

And it's not as though I haven't had good reasons to be afraid. This week, a 15-year-old boy was shot to death by a 14-year-old boy at school, in a community a couple of hours north of here. Read that again, please: shot to death at school. This is one of the many ugly realities that kids and their parents face these days.

Next year, the son is off to high school, quite a drive from here, instead of almost across the street. I signed the papers this morning, reluctantly, muttering, "I can homeschool. It would be easier and cheaper. I can homeschool."

Cheaper, admittedly. Easier on me because I know what home holds and I have no idea what might happen miles away on a high school campus. But better for him? Probably not.

Sometimes, I look into the future, and I see college, and I see him moving away, and I wonder how I can survive that. How do I go on when he is somewhere I can't see him, can't protect him?

We are always taught that when we are faced with an adversary, a fierce dog or a wild animal, we are not supposed to let our fear show, we are not to let on that we are vulnerable to attack. We are supposed to look capable, fearsome in our own right.

But no one told me that I have to look invulnerable to my loved ones as well lest my fears, well-founded and rational or not, become theirs.

Go listen to some good music: "Don't Let It Show" from the album I Robot by Alan Parsons Project.

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