Every day we know we’re lucky to have Austin.
As I’ve said before, I try hard not to hover over him, I push myself to let him be a normal kid, taking risks and falling down and all that. But sometimes, I let him go too far. On Wednesday, after Phyllis’ funeral, there was an “after party,” which is sort of an ironic name for the gathering: “Phyllis’ after party” indeed. But anyway, it was at a cabin on Lake Erie, a place where Dom’s family has gathered for years. Grassy field, tables of food, a steep dirt path down to the waterfront.
So, of course, the kids all head down there. The older ones were swimming, Austin playing in the sand, Braedan climbing on the huge rock formations that jut out over the water. He wanted to explore beyond where I could see, so Austin and I decided to climb up after him. We scrambled up and down, hopping from one rock to another and ended up out on a wide flat spot overlooking the lake. I turned the other way to check out the place Braedan to which was hoping to venture, which was much too steep and slippery for a five-year-old.
Did you read what I just wrote? I turned the other way. . . and not only that, but I lingered for a moment. “It is pretty,” I said to Braedan, looking at the trees dangling over the water. And then I heard a cry, a quick scream, and turned back to see Austin’s hands up over his head as he fell between two rocks. Slipping away from me, in an instant. A split second. That’s all it takes. I was there in two seconds and could see he’d only fallen three feet down so I could easily reach in and pull him up and out. He was scratched up, banged his chin on one rock and then bit his tongue, so there was blood and he was certainly crying, but it was nothing, nothing, compared to what flashed through my mind in thsoe two seconds when all I could see was his hands disappearing from my view.
We were probably twenty feet over the water, on a jigsaw puzzle of rocks, some jutting up over one another, some with dangerous gaps in between. That night, after we were home and everyone was safe in their beds, I could not stop my mind from imagining all the gory possibilities. What if he’d fallen all the way through, down to the water and smashed his pretty little head on a rock? Or what if he’d gotten stuck, actually trapped between two huge boulders? What would we have done? No emergency vehicle could have reached where we were except for a boat. How long would it have taken before a boat with a crane arrived to move these rocks out of place? Could a boat with a crane even move those rocks out of place? I was actually thinking, “Are you kidding me? After all we’ve been through, after all he’s been through, this is how it happens? This?!”
He was upset with me too. The rest of the day, he kept asking in an accusatory little voice, “Why Mommy not holding Awtin on rocks? I want Mommy to hold Awtin on rocks!” As I put him to sleep, I apologized yet again and said, “I’m just glad you’re okay.” He looked at me with horror, like “Hel-lo, do you not see the band-aid on my chin?”
Yet again, Austin, yet again, I’m just glad you’re okay.