Sunday, April 4, 2010

Road Rash

My father is a fan of war wounds. When we were young, my sister and I encountered the occasional, inevitable injury. Neither one of us ever broke a bone but we sure had our fair share of bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes.

When either one of us did get hurt, my father would cheer. It sounds hideous, I'm sure, but it was never in jest or to make light of our pain. It was a loving expression of how impressed he was with our toughness as we encountered adversity. He would whoop and with a smile on his face, acknowledge our pain with a sharp intake of breath through his teeth and say, "Ouch, that was a good one!" He'd give us a loving hug and then go with us as he encouraged us to "walk it off."

Then he'd analyze the type of mark or scar it was going to leave. Pretty soon, he'd be exposing his shin to reveal some representative scar of his own and be sharing with enthusiasm the story of how the mark came to be. We'd engage in a weird, father-daughter dance of battle scar one-upmanship. I remember that we'd be smiling, snuggled up together, and talk wistfully of how I'd share my most recent pratfall with my future children.

The story telling would then ensue. With fatherly admiration, he'd tell my mother or anyone else he could find, how fast I was going or how high I had climbed or how bravely I had approached something right before I received my wound.

My father's bizarre behavior served two purposes. First it removed the fear and much of the pain associated with the injury. It also instilled a desire to go farther and work harder the next time.

He views wounds, I believe, as trophies from life. They are the evidence that we engaged ourselves in our world and didn't hide or shrink from what experience was laid at our feet. Scars are the marks of courage in the eyes of my father. And while I believe he felt each scrape I got as a child, he found it also a source of fatherly pride at having a wild, tough, amazing daughter.

I find myself having the same reaction with my children. I know how it feels when they fall. Owwww! I wince as I share that moment of breathlessness. And then I immediately swell with pride as I think how tough they were being right before the moment of impact and how, with my encouragement they will square up and look life right back in the face and do it again shortly afterward. I find I have an irresistible urge to bare an odd knee and tell my story. I also find myself saying, "Your Grandpa is going to be so impressed with that one."

This weekend John had one of those moments. He had been rocking our cul-de-sac with his scooter. Wind whipped through his hair. He was smiling and full of life as he experienced the fun and freedom of riding after practicing for over a year to get to this point. He rode to a spot high on the hill and zoomed downward at top speeds. He rounded the corner and popped up onto our driveway before he spilled into a magnificent tumble of knees and elbows.

It hurt. But it was the hurt of one embracing life. He put the scooter away for the day but he will be back out there again to face that driveway with Olympic determination worthy of the scars he now bears. He did tell me that it hurt like crazy this morning in the shower because the scrape was so deep the water was actually hitting flesh. That's my son! He is amazing and tough. And I'm proud of him. You should have seen how fast he was going!

Oh, by the way, since he's always been relatively slow (not faster than walking) on his scooter before, we've never required a helmet at home. He'll be wearing one now. We're about going higher, faster, further but we are about doing it safely.

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