When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out. – Erma Bombeck
What ya gonna do?
We played on the day serious injury, perhaps death reached out for my grandson. Without warning, my past was on a collision course towards my present.
“I don’t know how his head will stand it!” My Mom sobbed, holding me tight to her bosom and rocking my little frame. I remember gripping the fabric of her blouse as I came around.
I’d fallen down the stone steps from the garden into the courtyard and bashed my head. Blood everywhere. Dad staunched the bleeding. Next stop the doctor and a later diagnosis of a comminuted fracture to the back of my head.
Some people land on their feet …
A year later, driving with Dad in his old Morris 8, standing on the front seat (what’s a seat belt?)
I saw a friend as we turned a corner in Arbroath, a small town on the north-east coast of Scotland. I opened the door and stepped out to say hi – what price safety seats and child-proof locks?
My head slammed into the road at about fifteen miles an hour. Blackness. Next, I came to on a couch surrounded by anxious faces: Mom red-eyed – hanky in hand, Dad pale and sombre faced, a doctor close by holding my wrist and a police officer providing support. Strange to say it’s a good memory: unconditional love and sincere concern are wonderful when you’re the focus.
A ghost from the past – live or die?
Two generations on, danger sneaked over the horizon and zeroed in on a special little boy like a Cruise Missile. A wee-man in my care.
Late on a Sunday morning, we arrived at the play area in a village on the north shore of the Forth, west of the three Bridges.
Mom and big brother played on an energy-sapping climbing frame about forty yards away, laughing and making happy noises. The wee-man and I rushed around playing on swings, roundabouts and rocking animals on springs.
Laughter, energy and pure joy burst from us. We played tag, hide and seek, chases and boo! Our cheeks glowed from the cold air, eyes bright.
After a while we arrived at a playing structure suitable for an agile toddler. At one end of an exciting pipe lay a pretend ship’s bridge and platform. Both attracted the little person’s interest.
Transition at play
An intrepid adventurer entered the plastic pipe and a crusty navigator exited – heading for the helm of a “pirate ship”. Grandpa stood by, attention drawn towards a panoramic and sparkling expanse of water. Trees bent and flexed in a gusting breeze.
The tiny blond-haired skipper gripped the wheel while his view-distracted protector, about six feet away, paid no attention. Then it happened.
At about four feet high, the platform seemed innocuous. The bridge of the boat, a floored metal frame with no sides, was a simple standing space. The wheel, at the left of the structure, looked innocent enough and more than adequate to steer a man o’ war. Danger stalked.
I looked at the wee fellow with complacent absent-mindedness. He grabbed the wheel with his left hand. He didn’t use his right, maybe he held a stick or something.
He leaned his weight on the helm. Neither of us expected it to move, but it did … all the way. He started to swing out and down over the end of the frame. He tipped past the horizontal in complete silence … and let go the wheel. A tiny squeal tore into my ear as I watched him try to recover. No chance. He fell.
In an instant, he hurtled downwards. He didn’t even put his hands out to protect himself. Gravity seized him, accelerating his fall.
In terrible slow motion I watched the fragile little cranium plunge towards a bolted steel foot supporting a metal framework. Even now I see him passing the edge of the platform, head vertical like an olympic diver, but without extended arms.
His chest passed the flooring as he fell, no sense of danger –a look of quizzical interest on an angelic face. His little skull accelerated towards a an almost certain connection with hard metal and untold damage …
I can’t explain how it happened. I must’ve moved at the speed of light. Somehow, my hand gripped a little ankle. I caught and held him inches from disaster. He shrieked with laughter as he swung up into a relieved hug.
Again?! no !***!! way. I embraced an unscathed toddler and released a gigantic sigh, in a plume of winter-breath.
As I write, I think of my Mom and the twice-battered, bleeding, unconscious child she had to nurse as shock and terrible fear tore at her with cruel talons. If you’re a parent, I bet you’ll relate to this.
“Where’s Mom?” I said, placing a happy toddler feet-first on to the ground. He thought for a moment.
“Momeeee,” He ran off up the playground. I smiled, waved my fist in the air with exuberant, relieved happiness and loped after him.
© Mac Logan