How is your summer going? Have a good 4th of July? I have always loved summers. It’s not my favorite time of the year necessarily. It’s just so . . . I don’t know . . . summerish. There is freedom and warmth and watermelon and well . . . just summer stuff. We look forward to it where I live because spring and summer is a four-month respite from winter weather.
So it really sucks when you whole summer comes crashing down on you. We had grand plans of camping trips and day-camps for the boys with lots of summer sports. It hasn’t been a Titanic-level disaster or anything like New Coke or “Ishtar” or anything, but it has really gone south on us.
It started in early May for us. Up here that is early spring. A few days before Mother’s Day Charlie was riding his bike. He slipped and fell, landing on his right hand. He complained that his right arm was sore and it was a little swollen. I took him to the emergency room just to be sure, but I was convinced it was a bruise or sprain. Every broken bone I have ever seen involved pain-induced hysterics and more than a little swelling. Until this one, that is. Sure enough Charlie had a buckle fracture about two inches up from his right wrist. A few days later the orthopedist put a cast on it, ending PE for the rest of the year and cutting into summer soccer.
Just after Mother’s Day I came down with bubonic plague. I am pretty sure it was plaque anyway. What ever it was it kept me from fully enjoying a road trip with my aunt and uncle to Anchorage. They drove up for my college graduation from Nebraska. They are retired and love to drive apparently. We left midweek and I hacked and sneezed my way down the Parks Highway. Charlie and I rode the Denali Star back to Fairbanks on the Alaska Railroad. My sinuses drained and Charlie complained that his iPad was out of power.
Several hours before Charlie and I got back, my wife and Eli, our youngest, set off on a cross-continent drive to Florida. Her mom was moving and my wife and Eli were along to help with the driving. Not so much Eli helping with the drive, but you knew what I meant. That meant Lefty and I were on our own until his mom and brother got back in early June. Time with Charlie was great, but two guys can only eat so much pizza in their underwear and leave the toilet seat up so many times and burp the alphabet so many times before they miss mom and Eli. We were glad to see them when they got back. That’s when all the summer fun was supposed to start. We scheduled horseback riding lessons for the boys but Charlie couldn’t participate with a cast. About a week after Eli and his mom got back Charlie was scheduled to get his cast off. He was stoked for horseback riding and soccer. He even went to have his cast removed wearing his soccer uniform. Much to my surprise and his dismay, the orthopedist said nothing fun like that for another two weeks while the bone strengthened.
Soccer went on hold for a few more weeks. Charlie couldn’t ride a horse, but he could get to know his horse, Romeo. He cheerfully cleaned mud out of Romeo’s hoofs and learned how to brush him and talk softly to him. He is a natural around horses, apparently. The two weeks went fast . . . and then the smoke rolled in. The problem with having a warm, sunny spring and early summer here is that the fire season can be bad. I won’t make light of a very serious condition that, in some areas, still continues. Something like two thousand wild fires erupted in Alaska early this summer and most of the state was covered in a blanket of smoke. We were lucky, the only real effect outside of red eyes and itchy throats for my family was that many soccer games were cancelled. When you are ten years old, it’s hard to see the bright side. Charlie took it well, but he still wanted to play.
Charlie was finally able to ride Romeo when his two weeks were up. He got rave reviews from the instructors. Like I said, the kid is a natural. Just after that, the smoke let up and Charlie got his chance to play soccer. He started the game and played well considering he got no practice before his first game. In the second half another player fell on Charlie’s left ankle. Charlie got up limping. His coach took him out. From across the field he looked at me and pointed to a his left foot. His left foot has bothered him off and on for two years since he hurt it in a playground accident. Most of the time it was fine, but sometimes it was not. After the game we iced it and gave him some ibuprofen. The next morning he said it was fine, but he was limping.
About this time, the plague resurfaced in our house. This time my wife was the victim. I have learned that if my wife says she is sick, I should probably take her to the doctor. She has an amazing tolerance. She self-medicated and toughed it out and decided to accompany us on our annual 4th of July camping trip to Denali. For you people outside of Alaska, Denali is the real name of Mt. McKinley (that’s right, I said ‘real name’) and it is surrounded by a National Park. Near that park is a great RV park and camp ground that we like to go to. I took off with the boys in the motorhome on Wednesday and my wife drove her car down after work. It’s only about two or two and half hours away, so we like the mobility of having the car there.
Did I mention that Wednesday was the day that the heavens opened and delivered a deluge of much needed rain? Oh . . . well it did. My wife pulled into our spot all sick and sniffly in a downpour. The rain continued all night Wednesday and all day Thursday. My wife said ‘uncle’. She is as tough as they come, but it was cold and wet and she was sick. She took Eli with her and made the drive home. Eli is a ‘mama’s’ boy with no apologies. He begged to go with her. After she left, of course, the rain stopped and the clouds started to lift. Friday dawned golden and beautiful. It’s Alaska so it dawned at like 2:30 am, but the point is the rain stopped and the weather got all gorgeous after she left.
Charlie and I stayed until Saturday morning. We missed Eli and mommy, so we packed up and headed home to spend the 4th of July at our house. We got home and decided to take our neighbor up on his offer to join in their 4th of July party. A whole pig was on the barbecue and since I am a pork type of guy (stop it, you know what I mean), it was a no-brainer. We were having a great time until Charlie decided to take a crack at golf. His backswing caught Eli in the forehead about an inch over his left eye. Ever see a head wound bleed? I didn’t know there was that much blood in a person. Especially a little person.
We took Eli to the ER. In the heat of battle, we put a dressing on his wound and secured it with tape. The nurse admitting Eli removed the dressing. I am not the least bit queasy. I have field dressed moose while eating a PB&J. I have seen blood and broken bones. Between sports and 20 odd years on Air Force flight lines, I have seen head injuries. When the nurse exposed the wound on my baby’s forehead, the world got all gray and squishy. It was just so sad and he was being so brave. He asked if it was ok. I decided I should probably man up. Five hours and two stitches later we were in the car and I was telling Eli how chicks dig scars. Eli was sad because he ruined the party and missed the pig.
Sunday seemed a little better. Eli didn’t have a black eye and my wife seemed to be getting over the plague. It was nice, even though it was a little smoky outside. My wife dropped Charlie and I at our local walk-in clinic. We are regulars. Charlie needed a physical for football practice that starts today; Monday. It was busy and we sat down. It took awhile, but we were called back and the nurse took vital signs and checked Charlie’s vision. The doctor came in and did a quick exam. Things looked fine. We mentioned that Charlie’s foot was bothering him since the soccer game. The doctor felt Charlie’s foot and frowned a little. He ordered X-rays and said he would talk to us soon.
“I’m going to need that approved physical form back,” he said when he walked in. The X-ray shows a clearly-defined fracture in his left foot near the little toe joint. POOF! No football, no more soccer, no more horseback riding, no day camps in the hills and woods, probably no camping . . . no anything. They put him in a boot and on crutches with no weight-bearing. The orthopedist will call in the next few days.
So that’s our summer. Now that I read it back, it could come across a little whiny. That’s not what I was going for. We aren’t really feeling sorry for ourselves, just a little bit snake-bit at the point. We kind of have to stay healthy. I didn’t mention that I took a tumble down the stairs and ended up with a concussion in April. My insurance providers are starting to lose their sense of humor. However, even with this run of luck we are fortunate. The fires here are far enough away that smoke is the only problem for us. Eli’s cut will heal; it could have been worse. Finding the fracture in Charlie’s foot now is much better than waiting for it to get worse. The problem is that summer is short here and we savor every moment. We have a saying here that goes something like this: “Summer in Fairbanks is gorgeous and if it falls on a weekend, we have a barbecue.”
Thanks for reading. We’ll see you again soon on This Side of the Diaper.