As I sat at the dinner table Thursday night with my wife and two grandsons — one almost 2 years old and the other 4 — I reflected on a long week of relatively minor issues, albeit a big pile of them. I let out the 56th long sigh of the week.
On one side of the table, the 4-year-old was complaining that he had to eat food when he could be doing something more productive like playing at the park down the street. We usually cook the boys a decent meal with multiple vegetables, but the multitude of tiny issues such as a dead car battery, website malfunctions and my wife being sick but too busy at work to stay home, we had broken down and grabbed some pizza. We couldn’t even get the boys to eat pizza! This was supposed to be a treat!
At least the 22-month-old was pretending to eat and was mimicking his Pop by dipping his pizza slice in garlic sauce. Wait! Garlic sauce? Where’d you get a cup of … SPLAT! All over the floor.
My wife grumbled something that was indecipherable, which was good because it probably wasn’t something the boys need in their vocabulary anytime soon — at least not until they start driving.
I, however, grabbed my phone and put on our office calendar that I would be taking a personal day the next day. I’d had enough and needed a very quiet day with no problems or even minor issues, such as a kitchen that now smelled like an Italian restaurant.
We put the boys in a bubble bath and then began to get them into their Batman pajamas so that we could take them home to their parents. This part of the evening always is an adventure because they like being at Nana and Pop’s and begin delaying their trip home with evasive maneuvers such as jumping around the bed in their underwear. We were too tired and too slow to catch them, but we knew the night would soon be end- …
… um, continuing. WHAP! The 22-month-old smacked his head on the headboard, and when he pulled back, I saw a huge gash over his left eye. I knew it would need stitches, so we went to one of those quick-care places down the street. They said they couldn’t take care of him because he was under 2 years old, but they took a look and agreed he needed stitches — just not from their office. In fact, every nurse and medical professional in the place came out to take a look, say “awww” and give him plenty of suckers. They couldn’t treat him, but they showed empathy. It’s something I’ve seen a lot from nurses, doctors and others over the past year — putting empathy ahead of rules even as they’ve struggled to maintain their physical, mental and emotional health through the trials of this pandemic.
Granted, the boy is cute, and that doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting a bunch of ladies to come out from the back of the building to express sympathy. If it had been just me there with a gash in my head, they might have said, “Sorry, you’re 50. We only treat 49 and under or 51 and over. And, ewwww.” But I’m going to take it at face value that they were just a bunch of empathetic folks, and we need more of that.
Fortunately, the emergency room was not crowded, and he and I got in fairly quickly while Nana waited outside with a very worried and distraught older brother who, through tears, asked if the doctor was going to hurt his brother and said, “I hope he’s OK because brothers are special.” Considering how many times he’s fussed about his little brother being in the way or touching his stuff, it was reassuring to see he kinda liked the kid. I’ve always been a little afraid he might trade the boy in for a bicycle or something.
The 22-month-old clung mighty tight to Pop while getting his head cleaned, glued and patched up. Whew! No stitches. There were a few times in my boyhood when I would have preferred glue instead of stitches! Then again, if my dad had known you could glue a head gash back together, he probably would have skipped the doctor and told me, “Go get my caulking gun and a tube of liquid nails.”
I had been ready to throw away a rotten week even before we had that “no more monkeys jumping on the bed” incident. Still, I’m thankful that I was able to hold Pop’s little boy through his first little medical adventure. He and Pop have always been close, and now we’re even closer.
And I’m thankful for folks who go out of the way to show empathy when it might even be technically against the rules. It’s inspired me to be more empathetic and to continue breaking stupid rules myself — just in case you’re wondering what kind of person would risk arrest by handing out water to thirsty voters in long lines in the 2022 elections (now against the law in Georgia thanks to Rep. Jim Crow — pathetic, not empathetic).
I’ll proudly be that empathetic rule-breaker. And if anyone tries to stop me, I’ll encourage them to fix their ensuing wounds with glue instead of stitches.