I'd like to think I helped, but I'm no match for two salves and a sock.
I'm not sure if it's a phenomenon that affects both dads and moms, or if it's just a dad/male thing, or if I'm the only weird enough dad on the planet who experiences it, but when I witness our sons narrowly avoid tremendous peril, or actually crash on their bike or get nailed hard in a hockey game, I get a quick jolt of pain in my groin region.
You probably don't need or want any details beyond that.
I'm sure it's just a quick muscle-contraction thing that has something to do with my whole body rapidly yet briefly tensing up when I see something bad happen to one of our kids, or almost happen. But the specific location on my body that happens to send a pain signal, via a nerve of some sort, in lightning-fast fashion to my brain seems worthy of a joke or two in a comedy monologue. You know, something like, "Forget the notion that kids are a pain in the neck or the butt..."
For the first time the other day, however, I experienced the fleeting discomfort without even actually observing something painful happen to one of our sons. Arriving at home, I was greeted at the door by our oldest son and one of his friends. Our son was holding up his arm in a fashion that seemed sort of strange, and then he announced with a fair amount of urgency that he was in need of "emergency medical care."
Considering he'd been to the emergency room twice during the summer of 2011 – the second visit for a broken arm – and that his little brother had been there twice this summer – for, first, falling on a log at the lake and having a shard of wood puncture his leg and, second, for being involved in a pile-up in a hockey game and having his leg sliced by a skate blade – I didn't take our oldest son's announcement lightly.
Turns out, he was kidding. But that didn't mean he wasn't hurt. While riding his bike he'd hit a gravel-y patch on a corner and bit it, big time. His elbow had a shiny-red raw meat look to it - major road rash - and his upper arm was scratched and scraped in a major way.
Strangely, it all looked wet. Turns out, our son and his friend had tried to treat the wounds by spraying on every can of anti-sting or anti-burn treatment they could find in the house. The combination of all the sprays apparently did more harm than good, and the kid was in agony. Plus, I think his arm was highly flammable.
At that point, though, fully in the midst of my mid-afternoon stupor brought on by too much to do at work and not enough time to eat, I had trouble shifting my focus from the Tostitos and salsa waiting for me in the kitchen to our son's arm. So I said something about the need for him to be more careful on his bike, then ventured upstairs for a calorie-infested jolt.
But I'd barely dunked one white-corn tostada chip in salsa when the first pang of guilt hit. I thought of how my wife would have swooped into action to help our son if she'd been in my place, or how both my mom and her mom are retired nurses, and how they'd gone above and beyond the call of duty on multiple occasions to make sure their grandsons were OK whenever they'd been sick or gotten hurt.
So I headed to the closet near the bathroom down the hall, where various bandages, gauze and other related items are kept. I found what I thought would work best and directed a shout down the basement steps.
"Come on up! The doctor is in!" I said.
"Who's the doctor?" came his voice from the lower level.
"Who's the doctor?!" I replied. "Me!"
When I saw how dirty portions of his wounds were, before I began my amateur attempts at treating his wounds I sent him to the shower to get his arm wet and see if the water would clean things up a bit.
Moments later, in a medical strategy that would make his grandmas proud, I was dabbing the wounds with hydrogen peroxide, while he bit down on a towel to muffle his screams. (I think he was kind of playing up the moment a bit, for dramatic effect.) Then I utilized a combination of butterfly bandages, medical tape, a role of gauze and some gauze pads to cover the wounds. (I believe you're supposed to let abrasions air out, but he had football practice in less than an hour, and I figured he'd be better off if they were covered up.)
So had I missed my calling? Was there a medical care provider inside me, just waiting for an opportunity to show himself?
Probably not. By the time he returned from football practice, our son had removed the bandages and reported that his arm was, relatively speaking, fine. But my wife, after shrieking at the sight of his wounds, was hearing none of that. In a matter of around 90 seconds, she'd applied two types of salve to his arm. (I think she procured one from some Native American tribe somewhere, and the other, I believe, is meant to soothe cow udders...you gotta love a dairy farmer's daughter.) Then she found a spare sock, cut off the closed end, and pulled it onto our son's arm until it covered his wounds.
Two salves and a sock? What dad would ever think of that? I guess I'll stick to writing, and chips and salsa, too.