By John Jericiau
I don’t know if it’s because I have a minivan packed with boys, now that our third son is here. (Happy 4-week Birthday, Dustin!) Or maybe I really have been watching too much late night TV drama and disaster shows while living through all nighters since the birth. For whatever reason, as I’m speeding down the 405 in the carpool lane trying to get the boys safely home from wherever we’ve just been to enjoy life, I can’t help but think about the “what ifs”. What if a car from the other direction lost control, broke through the median, and flipped into our lane? It does happen. What if the driver next to me fell asleep at the wheel and came into our lane, forcing me off the road? You hear about these things going on all the time, with traffic reports every 10 minutes on the radio sharing the horrifying details of a car wreck and you think to yourself that someone just lived their last day. How would my beautiful partner go on with life if that ever happened? How could I ever survive if that happened to me?
My partner, I’m sure, is right at this moment horrified as he reads this, because Armenian culture dictates that you are not to speak the unspeakable. But I have to get it out of me. The worrying. The paranoia. It’s bottled up inside of me and growing as we add to our family. And it’s not just the cars that scare me. It’s people. What if bad people cross their paths? The bus driver that takes your children from here to there. The teacher that is with them for most of the day. The Boy Scout leader that shares a campsite with them. The priest that you trust. I’ve read the newspaper. I’ve watched CNN. I’ve seen the crime stories. People are out there waiting for their chance to rip the happiness right out of your hands. Now that we have three boys, I don’t even have enough hands to grip them or eyes to watch them all at the same time.
Those are just the majorly scary things. There are the endless other what ifs. Like injuries. They are three boys, after all. I know first hand, since I was a boy, after all. Just on my own body I’ve lived through stitches on top of stitches. Stitches on my forehead from a missed baseball. Stitches two years later on the exact same location thanks to a cousin’s golf club swing in our basement during a holiday visit. Stitches on my leg from a bicycle accident. Nothing glamorous,I was on my bicycle during a training ride, waiting for a red light to turn green, when I suddenly lost my balance and landed on the bicycle next to me, and subsequently breaking that bike’s spoke as it entered my thigh. Another time I was playing Tarzan in the backyard and ripped my hand open about 8 stitches wide while trying to swing on a rope (vine) from one tree to another. As I grabbed the branch at the far tree (as I’ve seen Tarzan do a million times), I happened to grab where the branch had a thorn, and I watched my hand rip open.
Some broken bones too. A broken ankle when a bully threw me across the locker room in high school (I was very skinny at the time). A broken thumb while bicycling up to my graduate school (USC) for summer session. As I made a right hand turn at an oily intersection, a Cadillac was simultaneously making the same right hand turn. Seconds later I found my bike and myself under the still moving Cadillac. I instinctively grabbed for the undercarriage of the Cadillac so that I would not get squished by the rear tires of the Cadillac (I watched my bicycle suffer that fate), but as the Cadillac kept making that turn I felt my thumb snap apart from the torque. The Cadillac came to a stop when the 85-year-old driver heard my mangled bicycle hit the trunk of his car as it was spit out from underneath like dusty exhaust.
The point is that things happen, and as you add to your family, first with a partner and then with children, your odds go up that you’ll be spending time at the hospital. Our oldest son spent a week at the hospital with a bad fever in his first month of life, which turned out to be, happily enough, just a fever. Our second son was more dramatic. On the day Michael Jackson died, he chose to dive without warning from the sofa to the coffee table, sustaining a laceration above his right eye that appeared to be a third eye until the plastic surgeon sewed it closed. The thin line that remains reminds me every day of what has become my mantra.