Monday, May 17, 2010

right on time

ed note .. It's after 7pm as I hit publish on this post. Until a couple of hours ago when I received an e-mail from a friend wondering why she hadn't seen me on Hopeful Parents today, I'd managed to completely and utterly forget the date. Doh! I had nothing ready for prime time, but I couldn't live with falling down on the job. 

Therefore, what follows is the mostly raw, largely unedited version of what was meant to be tomorrow's post on Diary of a Mom. I hope you'll forgive me if it's a bit rough. Like life, my writing's not always pretty, but it's real. 



When I was thirteen, I broke my leg while doing gymnastics. My mom had brought me to practice that night, just as she always did, and my dad was due to come three hours later for pick-up time, just as he always was. I broke my leg right in the middle of practice.

As soon as I felt the flat of my shin crack against the balance beam, I knew. This wasn't a run-of-the-mill, put some ice on it and quit your belly achin' injury. Something was really wrong.

As my coach lifted my head, our team trainer created a foam splint and rigged up some support under my leg. As the trainer tried to calm me down, I yelled to the nearest gymnast.

"Darci, go get my dad!' Everyone looked at me sympathetically. They assumed I was in shock as I obviously wasn't making sense. It was my coach who spoke.

"Honey, your dad's not here. He won't be for a couple of hours. We're going to try your house and see if we can reach him."

I understood why they thought I was losing it, but I simply knew I was right.

"Darci, please just go out into the waiting area and get my dad, OK?"

"Just go," I added emphatically, "He'll be there."

Moments later, much to the surprise of everyone but the girl with the broken leg, Darci walked back across the floor with my dad.

He never could explain why he was there. He just was. Love - particularly the love of a parent for a child who is hurting - sometimes defies all reason.

Sometimes, it just shows up when you need it.


Last night, we went out to dinner as a family. Or at least we tried. Halfway through our meal, Brooke and I pulled the ripcord. Despite the familiarity of our favorite (and only) haunt, despite the usually soothing music coming through her headphones, despite the presence of our favorite waitress, despite the crayons and a favorite meal, she simply couldn't handle it.

The restaurant was busier than usual and much to our dismay, was filled with young children. One little boy within spitting distance of our table had a cough. Fight it as she might, Brooke finally couldn't handle it anymore. I watched her little body tense. I watched her face contort into a pained cry. I watched helplessly as she screamed a blood-curdling shriek. I brought her onto my lap and tried to soothe her. I gave her the long, slow squeezes that sometimes help. I rubbed her back. I stage-whispered in her ear, just loudly enough to be heard through her headphones.

She shrieked again and looked to me for help. "I WANT TO GO WALK!" she yelled loudly enough to be heard three states to the south. And so we walked.

Luau and Katie stayed behind to finish their dinners. Winnie packed up my meal along with Brooke's and gave them to Luau on their way out. I came home and wrote the following in my Facebook status:

Just as over time the ocean's waves insidiously claim its shore, so it is that watching one's child continually struggle slowly erodes the spirit of the parent.

Yeah, it's ludicrously poetic. It's that or throw something. 


This afternoon, I found an e-mail from my dad waiting in my inbox. Its tag line read, What Love means to a child. The body of the e-mail explained that what followed were children's answers to the question, What is love? I read through the quotes and, not surprisingly, got teary at a few, like .. 

'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.' ~ Rebecca- age 8

and ..

'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.' ~ Bobby - age 7

I laughed at others, like .. 

'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' ~ Lauren - age 4

and ..

'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.' ~ Danny - age 7

But it was the story at the end of the e-mail that did me in. And oddly enough, it brought me right back to that day at the gym - the day that without knowing why, my dad showed up - almost two hours early and right on time.

The best quote of all came from a four year-old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.'


Love can't always make things better. Or even different. I can't fix the world for my little girl any more than my dad could unbreak my leg.

I can't keep her demons at bay. I can't find a way to convince her nervous system that she isn't under attack when a little boy coughs.

And it hurts like hell when I can't make it right.

But I swear I could hear my dad's voice in the e-mail. Maybe just because after all these years, I know what he'd say.

You walked with her, Jessie. You held her hand and rubbed her back, You took her AWAY. You were THERE.

You helped her cry. 

My dad isn't on Facebook. He couldn't have seen my status. I haven't spoken to him in a few days. He had no way to know.

But he did. He showed up right on time.

He was there.  

And simply by being there, he reminded me that sometimes that's enough.


Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom


  1. OMHOG! Those quotes from those kids! We often say that Rojo "holds space" which is just another way of saying he helps people cry (or feel whatever they're feeling).
    Great post!

  2. What an amazing and wonderful connection you have with your dad. It's not at all surprising that your children have the same with you. Love.

  3. I'm so glad you forgot and I'm so glad Carrie reminded you and I'm so glad that you ended up with this impossibly perfect post.
    Things have a funny way of showing up. Of presenting themselves.
    I've long been a fan of your dad's. I dunno. He always just seems to be around.

  4. You always make my heart ache with my love for you, always.

  5. No accidents, eh? Thanks to you (and your awesome dad!) for giving ME just what I needed, right on time.

  6. Right on time, lovey, right on time.

  7. I love your connection with your Dad. I envy it. And I LOVE the message of be there for them when they cry. I LOVE it. And I know why you've learned it. The hard way.

  8. I'm sorry she had a hard time.
    : (

  9. Just the encouragement I needed to hear today. Thanks!

  10. Your story about breaking your leg reminded me of the day I dislocated my knee (again) while playing soccer. I was playing defense and kicking the ball away from our goal as hard as I could with my right leg. Meanwhile my left leg crumpled beneath me and I went down in a heap. My dad, who was watching from the long way across the soccer field in our family car, reached my side long before the coach (or anyone else) even knew I was down for the count. He knew immediately what was wrong and took me directly to the ER about 5 minutes away. I often think of that day as Father's day approaches. I have always wanted to be there for my kids the same way. It looks different, but I can see that you are doing it.
    And if this is raw and unfinished...all I can say is wow!

  11. I'm new to this community, and wanted to say hello. Your post moved me in so many ways: your amazing facebook status update (yes, very poetic, and so true) that wonderful list of kids' quotes, and the feelings about your Dad. You are so lucky to have such a wonderful father and to still have him in your life. as the parent of a special needs child you need more support than most grown children, and it's great that you have it. I recently lost my father, and for years leading up to that have been taking care of my parents as if they were an extra set of children, so I haven't had that support for some time. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I read your post.