In my study, hanging from an old plastic coated hook, screwed into the timber ceiling, hangs: a stem, handlebars, and from the bars, is my track wheel set. My study doubles as our spare room, and Grandy (a.k.a. Dad) is a regular lodger.
On 23 September I had minor off at the track. I felt my rear tubular doing something weird, and so I dropped down out of the paceline and started to concentrate (read: worry). A slight tick, tick, tick, turned into a genuine whump-whump-whump and very shortly afterwards there was a very loud bang, followed by sounds of breaking carbon, and pain. I had blown the rear tub and lost the rear of the bike to the lower side of the track, high-sided, and landed on the bike. It was track burn and bruising, not a lot more, but I broke my bike. And I haven’t exactly been working hard or fast to get it back together…
Dad: “I see your bike parts are still in the pieces.” Me: “Yup.” Dad: “So you haven’t finished putting the bike back together?” Me: “Nope.” Dad: “Are you a bit scared?”
Well, now I never. I hadn’t considered it, but perhaps, just maybe I am. I certainly don’t like a $500 repair bill, and I was pretty worried I’d take someone down with me… So perhaps Dad has a point.
But potential subconscious fear of a velodrome is nothing compared to the out and out terror of Wednesday night.
And I’ll get there.
I’m pretty useful in ‘crisis’ situations. I have a functional knowledge of basic first aid, I am well aware of the bystander effect, and I have had important role models and influences in my life from the emergency services, military, and scary trades and workplaces. When arriving at the scene of an accident, or seeing a major whoopsie I am programmed to assess the scene/environment, risks, people, and pretty quickly develop a plan and bloody well make sure it’s followed.
I am utterly useless after ‘crises’. I am a dithering and wandering idiot, giggly or bawling, and probably at major risk to and of myself and people. As soon as I am no longer ‘in charge’ or even if the crisis has resolved to nothing much…, a power of emotions hit me and I’m done.
So, Wednesday. In the minute or so it took me to gather the compost pail from the kitchen and walk to the compost bin at the back fence and back, Mlle. F. had deteriorated from happy boddler to (what I reasonably assumed at the time) were full blown shock symptoms: cold extremities, difficulty breathing, elevated heart rate, shaking, unresponsiveness. (Queue: get shit done Clive). I immediately had Mme. L. call an ambulance while I checked airways, palpated Mlle. F. and (whilst furiously changing a weapons-grade-nappy) hatched a plan.
The ambulance was here within minutes and Mme. L. disappeared into it with Mlle. F. The paramedics were in charge, my job was done.
…and the crying.
I knew I should pack a bag and switch the oven off and tidy the house a little and be ready to follow the ambulance to the emergency department.
I made it as far as Mlle. F.’s bedroom before it hit. And there I froze, a quivering, shaking, bawling, useless, mess.
I’ve been in motor vehicle accidents, air travel incidents, conflict situations, domestic violence interventions, bike accidents, workplace accidents, I’ve watched people die, I’ve seen a teeny bit of stuff. More than some people, far less than most, but enough that I thought I would have, by now, experienced fear.
Oh, fuck, no,
There is no fear like that instilled by the ignorance and impuissance of actually not knowing whether your first and only born is …o.k.
So I cried in her bedroom. I cried on the stairs. I cried in the kitchen. I cried down the hall. I cried and cried and cried. I managed to switch the oven off, and as soon as I reached out to some friends I realised what I had to do. Get my shit together! And get it together I did. I got a bag for 3 packed. I got to in the truck and drove in extreme safe mode to hospital. I parked sensibly and navigated the emergency department, found F. and L., and got to be hands on Dad. And in the end, when the hospital assured us the “rigors” were relatively common, got the fever under control, after a long night, sent us home - I realised how glad I was to be hospital Dad.
But gosh, golly, goodness me. Great grief galore. I don’t really want to ever feel that again. I’m not a helicopter Dad, nor a cottonwool parent, but… just, be careful Mlle., be careful.
A side note: Mme. L. tells me how funny I am in hospitals. Funny = happy and relaxed. She notes that the order and normality of it all suits me. That I understand the order and routine and can ‘operate’ a hospital. That she sees me settle into a rhythm, knowing what’s normal and good and when to push back and control. Huh.
I’m hoping that I can add hospital Dad to the list of little things I’ve seen and done and that I can be ever so more useful should I need to again.
An end note: My. Poor. Parents. From losing half a thumb at 18 months old to the four times I needed face and head stitches before 5 y.o., to the 9 fractures across 3 incidences of my right arm, to the pool gate gash… Dear lord. I hope and pray I’m not being repaid for the terror I caused them.