Aspen on the Hill: A stitch in time
October 16, 2018
My head is full of holes.
As a kid I got stitches early, as a toddler, and then often as I managed to bust my head open in a variety of clumsy ways: I took a baseball bat to the forehead during a backyard baseball game; I split my chin tumbling during a schoolyard foot race on the first day of first grade; I got matching stitches just above each of my ears after two crashes in the span of a week from playing an ingenious game where a neighbor and I bombed down a steep hill on Big Wheels and attempted to skid out on a gravel driveway; I lost a chunk of the back of my skull when a friend pulled a cafeteria chair out from behind me as I sat; and so on.
So this fall, when my 1-year-old daughter began to walk — and then to run — and I called my mom to share the big news, it was no surprise that she responded with a knowing laugh, "Well, next come the stitches and the E.R. visits."
Her grandmotherly intuition was on point. Just a few hours later, the kid went scampering across the floor, tripped on one toy and smacked her forehead on another. With a wail and a terrifying spurt of blood, my wife and I knew we had to make our first parental emergency room trip.
We were freaked out, but this toddler was over it pretty quickly. By the time we'd put pressure on the cut, wiped the blood from her face and strapped her in her carseat, she was done crying. And by the time we got to Aspen Valley Hospital, she was running laps around the E.R. nurses' station, making the rounds waving "hi" in the observation rooms and pressing the up-down buttons on the hospital beds.
Apparently these things are more psychologically harrowing for parent than for child — I'm sitting there gut-sick, wondering if I've already failed as a father and she's all smiles, just stoked to be playing with a stethoscope and vital-signs monitor.
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We swaddled her, burrito-like, in a blanket while a kindly nurse threaded three little stitches in the middle of the baby's forehead and we went on our way. I'm hoping the kid inherited more of her mother's grace than my klutziness, and that we won't be back in the E.R. anytime soon.
Living in the mountains and doing Colorado mountain stuff, we get used to spilling some blood and enduring the occasional injury. We've all got scars and stories to tell about them. But I can't imagine you ever get comfortable watching your kid live those stories.