Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday afternoon, July 10: I sat in my doctor’s office. After waiting for more than an hour, he walked into the room. I could tell he was upset and I knew why. Do not worry. There was no devastating news. He merely wanted to chew me out. I let him. Then I paused.
Here is what happened: Thursday, July 6, I was ready to leave for the hospital — so was Dave. It was 9AM. The hospital wanted me to arrive at 9:15AM. Sinus Surgery would start at 11:30AM. As he sat on the couch waiting, I reviewed the places and times with Dave, like I had done over the last few days.
“You will be done by noon, right? I need to be at work at noon.” He urged.
“Dave, the surgery starts at 11:30AM. I do not know how that is possible.”
As the words left my mouth, Dave started to freak out, so did I. Then memories of the week before flooded my mind.
We were in Oxford, England. Dave, Kyle, Eli and I were sitting in our car ready to leave. Dave was in the driver’s seat. In a panic he started the engine and began to drive. As the car began moving, Kyle abruptly shouted,
“Dad, DAD! Stop the car!”Dave kept driving.
Kyle insisted, “No. really. Dad please stop the car.”Dave slowed down and did not stop.
“What? What do you want, Kyle?” Dave demanded.
As I held my bloodied and swollen hand I said,
“Dave. Please stop the car NOW!”
In the middle of the parking lot, Dave slammed on the breaks. Then I asked Kyle what he wanted to say. Kyle wisely uttered the following:
“Guys. Stop. Look around. Just pause. We need to pause. We need to catch our breath. We need to make sure we are not missing anything. Think. Are we missing anything? Take a second and pause.” We did. After a moment, Kyle continued, “Not pausing is how we got here.”
He was right. I took a deep breath. We collected ourselves and then Dave drove us to the hospital.
It was Monday, June 26, and we were near the end of our three week UK adventure. The boys were completely over the trip, their parents and each other. Kyle and Eli wanted to be home. I knew they were on their last legs as I gently urged them out of the car. Eli put his shoes on slower than a snail’s pace. Honestly, it was painful. I was fried and didn’t know how much glass-half-full I could muster. As we locked the car, Kyle complained about how boring the day would be. I assured him it might be. Then we worked our way out of the tiny car park, through a long alley and unto the Oxford city streets. We stopped, looked at our online itinerary (I found a last minute walking tour online), and Dave led the way. Now the boys were both complaining and swatting at one another. I raised my eyebrows then offered up a bribe: Anyone who makes it through 60% of the day with a good attitude will get a prize:
“Dudes and I will pay you cash!” I paused then said, “Dave, you can play too!”
They boys did not care. They continued telling me how much the other was annoying them, and when they were not complaining, they were fighting. When they were not fighting, they were pouting.Dave did not notice. My bribe was lost on the three of them. Guilt had no effect. No amount of telling them how grateful they should be for their super special and blessed lives mattered. Each new landmark became a nuisance, and the museum Dave was excited to see was closed. [insert that hands pulling on the face emjoi here]. Do not worry. I became an active participant in our collective doom. But then I had a flash. Money is not working, how about I bribe the boys with new books? (Please know I have not bribed the boys since they were like three and in the throes of potty training). Nevertheless, I was desperate. So, with my book bribe uttered, Dave and I took the boys to Oxford’s famous Blackwell’s bookstore. Dave encouraged me to buy a book too. (He is also good at bribing.) I fell for it. I knew what I wanted, yet was not sure where to find it.
“Ask the lady for help.” Dave urged (several times).
I finally did.
As the words left my mouth, immediately I recognized the up and down look this young Oxford student was so clearly giving me: contempt. When I asked for books on memoir writing, she directed me to the “self help” and “bestsellers.” Then she succinctly stated:
“the academic books are down here. What you want is upstairs.”
That is when our day turned around (sort of). Kyle witnessed the entire exchange as I said something like,
“You have judged me to be an incompetent, suburban mom, American tourist, haven’t you?”
“You are only partially correct.” I responded.
By his own admission Kyle was totally impressed with me. From my observation, his elevated mood lasted for like thirty-five seconds. Then he asked if he could go outside to participate in a Pokemon RAID battle. “Whatever it takes to make them happy today” is what I thought.
Moments later we found ourselves standing next to Kyle and like several Oxford college students. One asked me if I would be fighting too.
“No.” I smiled and laughed.
The Pokemon RAID battle was complete. Eli had his new Douglas Adams anthology in hand, and Kyle was carrying a new copy of a book we lost earlier in the trip. To answer your question: Those books elevated the mood for maybe another two minutes. And yes, it was totally worth it.
We walked. I snapped photos. I wanted to remember this place I have never seen before. Eli was also hungry and so was I. And the bitching only escalated. Thank goodness for bright spots in snotty college towns. The folks at Noodle Nation, where we ate some great pan-asian cuisine, were a dream. I highly recommend this restaurant. The food is great and the customer service is warm and friendly.
Now fed, the boys could not implore us to leave Oxford fast enough. After buying them some last minute fruit pies (yes, more mood bribes), we found ourselves racing to the car. The parking meter was past due. Dave is 6’2”. Eli is over 6’ and Kyle is just about 6’. I am barely 5’4”. Like I often do, as we left the Oxford indoor Market, I snapped a few more photos. Snapping those photos only put me farther behind. Like Kyle often does, he waited and ran along side me. I watched as Dave and Eli ran across a street. In full sprint, Kyle and I ran to catch up. With my phone in one hand, I heard the beep, beep of a car horn coming from my left. I turned to looked as my feet kept their pace.
Before I realized what was happening, my sandal caught the edge of median I had not seen. I extended my right arm. And as Kyle observed (with full arm motions),
“You dropped hard and then you slid — also hard.”
Even though I could see my pants were not ripped (Props to the durability of the Athleta Trekkie Jogger), I could feel my knees swell and see the blood begin to seep through the fabric. My right hand was scraped, purple and swollen. I was mortified as I lay splayed out in the street.
Kyle ran to my side, helped me up and screamed for Dave. Within seconds, Dave and Eli were at my side helping me walk. Dave asked me if I wanted to stop.
“Why don’t you sit here for a minute. Let’s make sure you are ok. Really. Beth. Let’s just stop.”
Tears streamed down my face. I was embarrassed. “No. No. Let’s get to the car. I will collect myself there.”
Dave held me up as we quickly walked. The boys were behind us. The crowd was large and moving slow. With each impatient breath, the crowd only seemed to move slower. Within seconds, I grabbed Dave’s left arm, nudging him a little and said,
“Let’s pass these people. They are moving way too slow.”
As I pushed on his left side, Dave stepped into the street.
As he stepped, we heard loud, panicked screams. It was a woman.
“NO! NO! NO!” she cried.
I watched as her bicycle hit the ground as a car swerved to miss her. She kept screaming. I held my hand. The car missed her within inches, continued honking and drove away. The crowd stopped. Now all those slow walking people were screaming too.
“Ma’am, are you ok. Ma’am!” I heard them shout.
Her left pant leg was ripped at the knee. I did not see blood. She was wearing a helmet. Thank God!
“Yes. Yes. I am ok. I am ok. I just need a moment.” She shouted as her tears fell.
People walked her over to the side of the road. Dave gathered her bike from the street. We stood there. We asked. We wanted to know she was ok.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. I am ok. I am just late.” She trailed off.
An older woman in the crowd took over. Within seconds the older woman had the injured biker’s phone and was making calls. And from behind I hear a quiet, calm voice. I turned to look. It was a priest on a bike. He was probably 70 and about my size. He tried to help the injured biker. When he saw the older lady take over, he began to talk with us. We watched. We stayed. We asked. We made sure she was ok. Several moments later and when we knew she was more frightened than anything, Dave quietly asked the priest,
“My wife just fell. We need a hospital.”
I showed him my hand and he said,
“Oh my! Yes you do.”
He pointed us the way. Dave and I said nothing as we rushed to the car. Then we said everything. Mostly we were shocked and completely grateful that the woman was ok. Seriously, I can still see the rapid chain reaction.
In the past few days, via an MRI and x-rays, I had it double-confirmed that my hand is broken (a minimally displaced 5th metacarpal fracture and a minimally displaced hamate fracture). My hand still hurts, is still swollen, and my arm is still numb. In a month we will see if there is anything else to address. Honestly, I feel lucky and my guess is everything will heal.
[Flashing back again to that Oxford, England, parking lot:]
After falling and after the woman crashed, it made complete sense that Kyle was insisting we pause. So last Thursday I wanted to correlate Kyle’s wisdom. When things were falling apart, and it was time to leave for my sinus surgery, I took a deep breath and asked Dave to pause. Then we both sat down.
We caught our breath, readjusted, and re-grouped. Sure, I could have gone to my surgery alone, but it is my surgery, my body and I did not want to be alone. Instead, we canceled my surgery. Then Dave went to his meeting.
Ultimately, Dave and I took responsibility. The doctor goofed up too, changing times and mysteriously canceling the original surgery the week before.
[Fast Forward again to Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday, July 10:]
As I mentioned, the doctor asked me to come in. He is a good doctor so I obliged. Nevertheless, even good doctors overstep, and I think that is what he did when he chewed me out. I felt shamed, humiliated and scolded. As a result, I really wanted to have my say. I thought about posting a Google review. I considered saying something like,
“This doctor had to prove he was right. He wanted to punish me. He is immature and self-centered. Be careful.”
Sure. I think he was immature and self-centered. I definitely felt punished. I also have compassion. He is frustrated and my guess is he is not getting the full story. Miracles do happen. As he rebuked, I took a note from Kyle. Instead of screaming, I paused. I apologized for any misunderstanding and offered that I could see another doctor. He said, “No.”
I am no saint. I am human. And because I make a lot of really awful mistakes (especially via my words), I get it. I also appreciate that he was willing to move forward. In reality, it was the chain reactions of the past weeks that remind me to consider all sides. See, in all of this, it was my impatience and self-focus that almost got a woman killed. You know what else? Instead of screaming at me or telling me it was my fault, she had perspective. She was rushing and admitted she was. So were we. She did not scold me. She was kind and she was forgiving.
I am grateful she was not run over by the car. I watched it all. And yes, it was completely in slow motion horror. I do not know how the car did not hit her. Wow! I am grateful for the people who were there to help her. I am grateful for sweet priest on the bike. I am grateful Dave, Kyle and Eli were there to help me up. And when I needed it most, Eli quietly put his arm around me. Then as Dave ran ahead to pay the meter, both boys slowly and sweetly walked me to the car. (By the way, we did not get a parking ticket.)
Bonus: The day was not a complete dark hole of awfulness. After my fall and the bike crash, the boys rose up and regrouped. Then they patiently sat with me in an Oxford hospital as we tried to figure out what to do. They did not complain. They kindly waited and laughed when all we had to pay is 6 dollars US. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped for 3 GBP meals and enjoyed the rest of our night. We are lucky.
And of course there is an obvious moral to our story: If we remember to stop and pause, maybe we would not miss appointments, break our bones, or hurt so many others. I hope it will stick.