I went with JoBug and her Mom to Andrews to have her hand x-rayed. She'd started having a sharp pain after a particular move during practice the day before. Her Mom didn't think anything was broken, but better to be sure. Josie wasn't too concerned about the pain, but there was a competition coming up in two days that she did not want to miss. Dr. Miner was superb -- working with a doctor who understands young athletes makes a world of difference. When she came into the examining room she sat down and talked directly to Josie first. The x-ray showed nothing broken -- most likely an irritated tendon. Ice it, have the trainer wrap it if need be, but nothing to prevent her from competing. That's what we wanted to hear.
When I tell people about Josie and her passion for gymnastics and the 20 hours a week she spends in the gym, someone will inevitably ask, "But aren't you afraid she'll get hurt?" "No," I say, as gently as I can. "I assume that she'll get hurt." I certainly hope she doesn't get seriously injured, but the odds are good that there'll be some broken bones along the way.
In just a few weeks she'll be ten. The big One-Oh, as Alejandro Escovedo would have it. During her first year there were times it seemed that I was the only one of us that could settle her when she was colicky. I'd hold her close, rocking her gently, pacing around the living room mumbling nonsense to her and she'd sleep and snore gently. I was fifty years old and for the first time I understood the deep terror that accompanies being a parent. For the rest of my life, I now knew, I'd have to carry the worry about what she would have to deal with.
And the knowledge of how little I could do about it.
Perhaps, if I'd become a parent at twenty, I'd've imagined I could protect my child from harm. But much of my adult life has been growing to appreciate my own helplessness and by the time I held the little critter in my arms I knew that I could protect her from very little.
More than that, though. Hasn't it, after all, been my own sorrows and heartaches and mistakes that have formed me just as much as the moments when the best of me has had the good fortune to shine? Why would I want to keep her from the fullness of a messily wondrous human life?
She was beautiful as a baby, and is growing into an even more beautiful young girl. Already, when friends see pictures, I get the jokey comments about having the shotgun ready when the boys start coming around. But I'm not going to be that guy. Her magnificent mother is making sure that I won't need to be. She will be able to stand on her own, with a strong moral sense. She is kind and gentle and coming to understand that what is right and what is easy are often very different things. I don't think she will give her heart foolishly, but she will give it completely. So inevitably she will have her heart broken.
Without a doubt, she will make decisions that she will come to regret. It makes my stomach turn over to acknowledge these things. I can't protect myself from that hurt either.
Bones, hearts, the aches of disappointment and failing to live up to one's own standards. No wonder parents go crazy.
Walking her around the living room ten years ago I knew I could protect her from almost nothing. Now watching her twirl through the air and catching my breath while I watch for her hand or foot to slip and send her crashing to the mat, I know that the breaks are likely coming. I can't stop it.
What I can be is part of the safe harbor. That when the inevitable happens she will never have to face it alone. Her Mom, Nonni & me, the people that she populates her planet with. Keeping her safe isn't the goal, helping her to be strong and open to the world is what I hope to contribute to. It would be foolish in the extreme to think we have the power to do anything more.