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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Elf's Ear

 I wrote this a little while back. It's never had a home so I'm going to send it out into the ether. Peewee has died since it was written. Tucker just made his high school soccer team. I guess the combination of those two events and a long hot work day brought it all to mind.

  I'm extra proud of Tucker today ... not so much just because he made the team. He decided about a year ago that he wanted to play soccer. He has sacrificed and worked. He has gone to bed early and exercised above and beyond the call of duty. He has practiced and practiced. In other words he has shown his mettle once again.

  They say sports can help build character. This young man was born with character. Sports just continues to "sharpen the knife".

  I didn't ask him if I could do this. My guess is he might say no. This is one of those times when it'll be better to apologise later than to explain now. So here goes ...


“I’m concerned we’re putting him through more pain and bother unnecessarily, but I guess we’ve got to try. They want to do everything we possibly can to save his ear.”

“Maybe since he’s so young and the ear’s still growing it will take hold.”

“ I have my doubts but we’ll try.”

Earlier that day, prior to overhearing this conversation, I had received a frantic call from my wife. I was busy at work, multi-tasking as usual. Immediately I detected the alarm in her voice. Our sons were just toddlers at the time.

“Minerva has bitten Tucker’s ear off. I heard Corson (Tucker's fraternal twin) shout and when I looked, there lay part of an ear on the kitchen floor. I’ve put it on ice in a plastic bag. There’s blood everywhere. What do I do?”

“Load Tucker up and take him to Presbyterian on 51. I’m coming to kill that dog. I’ll meet you there afterward. I TOLD you to get rid of it.”

Minerva was our 100 pound black lab that I’m sure was bi-polar. She was nothing but trouble from day one. I grabbed my pistol, jumped in a car and squalled out of my car lot headed for the house. I was planning to run the light at highway 51 but suddenly there was Kimberly directly in front of me. You couldn’t miss that big black Hummer. She turned left at the light and I had to follow. We raced down the road to the emergency room.

When we arrived we found out there was no plastic surgeon so we all took off in the Hummer for Presbyterian downtown. It was the one of the craziest rides of my life. I bounded over the median, ran red lights and laid on the horn the whole way with flashers going. It had to be an insane sight in folk’s rear view mirror.

The whole way Tucker is telling Kimberly “It’s ok Mom. It doesn’t hurt. It’s just the gooey that bothers me.” Once there I jogged into the emergency room carrying Tucker and the wide-eyed nurses waved us on back. They laid him on a gurney where a nurse looked at him briefly She had to call a plastic surgeon.

It took him two hours to get there. I’ll never forget my beautiful, flawless child lying in the harsh emergency room light .The bloody pulp of his ear contrasted violently with the stark white pillowcase. My job was to talk calmly while looking him in the eye like everything was just rosy. He was flushed yet smiling. The thing he was most concerned with was that dog. He was scared I was going to kill it. He made me promise not to.

When the young surgeon finally showed up he was professional and obviously good with kids. “Tuck”, as usual was a real trooper. The doctor mumbled,

“Excuse me a minute please”,

and signaled for the nurse to follow him out. I was pacing when I heard them speaking quietly around the corner of a hallway wall. I must have looked a little crazed because everybody behind the nurse’s station was cutting eyes at me kind of nervous like. So I turned on my heels and strode back into the room. The doctor and nurse were close behind.

The next few months were tough. It was daily bandaging with lots of pain. My wife would often cry afterward. He had to wear a big old cup on his ear and it really cramped his style. The ear turned black as coal. At one point he developed a nervous facial tick, which really scared us. We thought he was developing something akin to Tourette’s syndrome.

The stupid dog had been spirited off to the cousin’s farm. I’ve never laid eyes on it again except in pictures. To this day my heart jumps and I grit my teeth every time I see one of the pictures. The wife and kids go visit her every now and then.

So today Tucker’s got what we call and “elf ear”. When he’s watching television he’ll rub on it sometimes. He grew his hair long to slow down all the questions. Recently he had the hair cut shorter for soccer though. It doesn’t seem to bother him.

It turns out the dog was eating the cat’s food for the nine millionth time and Tuck went to stop it. He stumbled and fell, landing on the dog’s back. The dog had a hurt leg so nipped at the source of pain. One of the dog’s canines caught the soft tissue of Tucker’s ear and when he pulled back it just snatched it right off.

I hate to say it but it slowed Tuck down a little. He had always been a “no fear”, wide-open kind of little guy. This sort of stuck though. Maybe it’s a good thing in a way. Our Dalmatian Peewee, that we rescued, lies on the den floor with him most nights cuddled up like a girlfriend. I don’t think she’d bite him if he tried to extract one of her teeth with a dull spoon.

After all this settled down and his pain was gone I began to look back on it with some regularity. Never has vanity seemed to be a single drop of an issue with Tucker. Deep down it was always one of my main worries. Each concern he had during it all was for someone else.

Even today when I ask him does he want to get it fixed he says “Naw … not really Dad. It’ll keep me from being able to do stuff for a while if I have the surgery. It doesn’t really bother me. It just itches sometimes, so I rub it.”

He loves Minerva and doesn’t blame her a bit even though she’d always been “nippy”. He’s still crazy about animals and they like him as much as he likes them. For a while after ... my heart was broken. I was afraid that the accident had taken something away from my son. As it turns out the whole mess probably gave him much more than it took away.

It’s funny how we think we know so much and insist that our children pay attention to us. The next thing you know, the going gets tough and they’re the ones teaching you.


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  2. When we open our hearts and minds and close our mouths, there is much we can learn from our children. I sometimes thought (when my two were growing up) that they were, by far, smarter than I will ever be... then, I realized we all learned from each other along the way. And, that is one of the best parts of being a family (and a parent)!!