Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Manly Man Room

The days following Angie's accident were horrible. I had taken off from work and we spent our days going back and forth to the hospital to have her bandages changed. After a couple days, one of the less politically correct doctors pulled me aside and whispered in my ear that Angie should be transferred to the special burn clinic in Ludwigshafen. She even called and lined up an appointment for the next morning.

After one look at her wounds, the doctors at the burn clinic immediately admitted her and explained that she would need skin grafts and that Angie would be staying for several weeks.

Angie is a tough puppy and she rallied the boys together for a group hug and assured them that everything would be okay. She then sent them off to the elevator and turned to me.

'You have to make it fun for them. I don't want pity and sadness. I'll be fine - you just take care of them.'

I love Angie for so many reasons, but her courage and resolve during the whole ordeal definitely made the list.

'Sure, I'll make it fun. Love you! Get some rest, we'll be back tomorrow.'

We left Angie for her first night at the clinic and my first attempt at fun was to take the boys to Pizza Hut.

It kinda worked for David and Tom, but more in a 'distracting' kind of way. For Peter, you might not be able to see the lump in his throat, but he was on the verge of tears and this is most definitely his 'forced smile' look.

As I put the boys to bed, Peter lost it. Bravery has its limits and Peter had pushed it as far as a nine-year old could take it. As I took him in my arms and tried to comfort him, David and Tom lost it. They look up to Peter as the rock and when the rock starts to crumble, the whole mountain starts to tumble.

I knew I had to take action, but my emotions were also swaying a bit. Luckily, my brain is as solid as squishy gray matter can be and doesn't give a rat's patootie about silly things like feelings. It immediately commanded me to race into the living room and push the sofas to the side. I then shoved our table out of the way and kicked all of the toys to the side of the room. My brain then strutted back to the bedroom of tears.

'All right, boys, listen up!'

For a change, they actually shut up. I was so shocked that for a moment, I lost my train of thought. Luckily, my brain likes trains.

'Okay! I need your help. Everyone grab your pillows.'

The sobbing paused, but it was obvious that they could switch to fast forward at any moment. Peter was the one who broke ranks.

'Why do we need our pillows?'

'Well, thanks for asking. Before I answer, help me with your mattress. Grab that end.'

A confused Peter and I then spent the next ten minutes moving three mattresses to the middle of our living room. The boys then got their pillows, their covers, their stuffed animals - pretty much whatever the hell they wanted to bring. Then I laid down the law.

'Listen! Mama is in the hospital. She's hurt badly and is going to be at the clinic for several weeks. She is being tough, though - we need to be super-mega tough for her. Until she is back, we are the men of the house. As such, we will sleep together. In this room, we are the Men. That means, no crying, no sobbing, no sniveling, no snot, no tears. Mama is being tough - we will be, too. Girly-girl boys can go back to their rooms now. This is now the Manly Man Room. Who's with me?'

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Luck is relative

I've been writing the blog for five years now. The goal has always been to capture the family's memories and over the years, I've wondered how I would handle a tragic event. It's not easy, but I doubt the boys will forget the night that their mother almost died. The least I can do is to explain how the events unfolded.

Today, David's first grade class had an overnight camping trip in Zwingenberg im Odenwald, which is about an hour away from Heidelberg. We were late, of course, but for a change we weren't the last family to show up.

We got the tents set up and Angie disappeared to search for snakes, beetles and other disgusting crap that totally impressed the kids. While she distracted future Fear Factor candidates, I snuck off to hide clues for a scavenger hunt we had organized.

The afternoon was great and the boys had a ball. Peter also had a ball until he kicked his into the river. Then he cried like a little girl until his unbashful father stripped to his boxers and jumped into the river to rescue his favorite soccer ball. I didn't make it that far, though. Another father had also gotten semi-naked and we were both wading into the river when an angry swan mama thought we were trying to eat her babies. She then freaked out all over me and the other dad used the feathery distraction to steal my thunder. At least Peter was so happy to have his ball back that he didn't dwell on the fact that his father was scared off by a bird.

In the evening we built a bonfire and roasted marshmallows. It was the text book end to a camping trip. As the sun went down, Angie went into the tent with the boys to read them a bedtime story. After a meal of chocolate and marshmallows, it was no surprise that it took quite a bit longer to render the animals restful.

After a few hours, Angie emerged looking frazzled, but still quite content with herself that she had succeeded in putting the boys to bed. I was impressed, too. I high-fived her and we sat down by the fire. We talked with the other parents until the bonfire had died down and then the adults started dropping like flies. 

After everyone turned in, Angie and I stayed behind to clean up. As we were just about to go to bed, Angie went to fetch her purse, which was next to the knee-high cement wall that enclosed the bonfire.

As Angie leaned down to pick up her purse, she twisted her ankle on a piece of firewood and essentially catapulted herself backwards into the bonfire pit.

Luckily, the fire had died down to embers.

Luckily, I was standing there and immediately raced over to yank Angie out of the bonfire pit.

Luckily, I was able to smother her shirt with my hand, which had caught on fire.

Luck is relative, though. In the few seconds that Angie was on the coals, she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns going up from the back of her knee to her shoulder blades.

Peter woke up from the screams and came racing out of his tent as I was calling the ambulance. Needless to say, he was more hysterical than Angie and I combined. Because we were out in the boonies, it took over an hour for the ambulance to arrive.

While waiting, Angie and I agreed that I would stay with the kids and meet her at the hospital the next morning. David and Tom were still asleep and we didn't think that waking them up would do anything other than traumatize them.

I've never felt more helpless than watching Angie getting loaded into the ambulance. As the flashing lights faded, I carried Peter back to the tent. I envied David and Tom's oblivious snoring and focused instead on calming Peter and reluctantly assuring him that everything would be okay.