Got the kind of phone call last night that, for a few moments anyway, makes a parent sick in the pit of his or her stomach:
"Hi, Dad. Unfortunately, this isn't a good call. I was in an accident."
The caller was my 22-year-old son, Ben, who immediately followed up with: "But don't worry ... I'm OK."
Ben manages a small restaurant in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. Every so often, he needs to do a bike delivery, which he usually doesn't mind because it gets him some fresh air. He was on such an assignment early last night when a car cut him off. Ben swerved, hit his brakes and went flying. He instinctively put out his left hand to brace his fall.
He said one of his knuckles had swollen to "five times" its normal size. Even allowing for a little exaggeration, that didn't sound good. He also had pain elsewhere on his hand as well as his wrist (which he had broken twice as a kid).
It's an hour later here in Charlotte, so it was about 10:30 p.m. when Ben called. My wife, who has to be up early to go to work, was sleeping. But I decided to wake her because she's a nurse and has a better feel for which questions to ask in medical situations. She listened to Ben's description of injuries and told him to go to a certain hospital close to where he lives.
Ben did just that, and X-rays determined that he had a fracture. They put him in a cast and referred him to a specialist.
All will be well, I'm sure. Ben writes and eats left-handed but he is pretty close to ambidextrous, so he'll get by. He should be able to work. And he'll come out of this as good as new, just as he did the last two times.
Still, I like it a lot better when he calls to complain about the Cubbies.
Ben never used to wear a helmet because "it's not cool," but earlier this year he started wearing one. Maybe he was influenced by the couple of bike accidents and several close calls experienced by my wife on those crazy Chicago streets. Or maybe he's just growing up.
"All I know is that I'm glad I was wearing a helmet," Ben said.
The first time Ben had to be in a cast was when he broke his left wrist as a 9-year-old. It was harrowing at the time but it now makes for one of my favorite family stories.
My father always hated when I played football way back in the leather-helmet era, so he was none too pleased to hear that Ben was getting ready to play the kiddie version of tackle football. A couple of weeks after practice had begun but before the games had started, Ben was fooling around at a nearby playground, fell, and suffered his very painful injury.
The next day, I called my dad to tell him and he immediately said: "Damn it! I hate that stupid football!"
To which I responded: "Well, he broke his wrist when he fell off the monkey bars at the playground, if that makes you feel any better."