Those are the words that every parent fears. And for a split-second after MattieBoo uttered them in my ear this past Thursday evening, the world went dark.
He continued, “We got rear-ended on the way to the game.”
I snapped back to reality when I realized that, since he was calling me from his cell phone, he was obviously conscious and coherent.
“Are you hurt? Where are you? How are the other guys? How did it happen? How long ago?” I’m a litigator so I’m an expert at asking questions. I was rapid-firing them at the poor kid as I sought to understand what had happened, how it occurred and, most importantly, whether he was all right.
“Well, at first I told Mr. Williams I was o.k., but now my back and stomach hurt, so he canceled the game.”
That was all I needed to hear. “Put Mr. Williams on the phone.”
At that point, I was the Mom-in-Charge, directing the coach to my office so that I could collect my son and take him to the emergency room to be evaluated. The accident had occurred at the height of Sacramento’s evening rush hour.
“I’m going to pull my car out of the parking garage and I will wait for you on the corner where you can’t miss me,” I told the coach.
I shut down my computer, straightened my desk, walked to the parking lot and steered my car to the nearest corner where it would be readily visible. Then I sat in it for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for the basketball coach to turn the car around, traverse the busy freeway to the exit I told him to take and then travel the remaining few blocks to the spot where I was stationed.
MattieBoo had been riding in the seat situated in the very back of the SUV so he experienced the brunt of the impact from a car that was following too closely when traffic slowed and the basketball coach had to hit the brakes. Fortunately, he heard the squealing brakes and turned to see the car veering toward the back of the vehicle in which he was riding. He leaned forward and grabbed his knees, head down. The doctor was impressed by his quick instincts that allowed him to avoid a whiplash-type injury.
His fellow members of the basketball team were in the car — they were en route to a game — so he kept up a brave front. That is, until the coach left him with me and drove off.
Mothers know their children better than anyone else, so the instant I saw him, I could tell that he was not all right. He was understandably shaken, having never experienced a motor vehicle accident before.
Ordinarily, he would be justifiably mortified if I tried to hold his hand, but he let me take his hands in my right hand as I drove with my left. When, about halfway back to Lodi, he said, “For some reason, now I’m really tired,” I assured him that was a normal reaction. His body was returning to normal after the earlier adrenaline rush he had experienced. He was in too much pain to sleep, but he did relax as we made our way south on Interstate 5, leaving the Capitol traffic behind.
BigBob met us at the hospital. With one look at MattieBoo, he succinctly, but profoundly, summed up the evening’s events: “Oh, thank God it wasn’t worse.”
After more than four hours, most of them spent waiting for the doctor to arrive and examine him, MattieBoo was pronounced healthy but for the musculo-skeletal strain and sprain, and ready to go home to take it easy for a couple of days.
By that time, his wacky sense of humor and off-the-wall view of the world had been restored. After the young blonde doctor finished examining him and left the room to order lab tests, he looked at his father and declared, “Hey, Dad, that doctor’s kinda cute, don’t you think?” BigBob gave me the “That’s my boy” look that every woman recognizes. I just rolled my eyes at the two of them.
I silently marveled at how much we have to be grateful for when, as we were walking back to the car, he announced that he was hungry. Since the accident had occurred just after 5:00 p.m., we had all missed dinner, of course.
“Mom, can we go by Taco Bell on the way home and get some boo-ritos?” That’s what burritos are called in the Siess household because MattieBoo is a boo-rito-eating machine.
BigBob looked over at me and smiled. Although he didn’t say anything until later that night when we were alone, it was a familiar smile. The one that all parents share from time to time. The one that says, “Our kid is o.k. so all is right with the world.”