Readers of this blog (both of you) will note by now my penchant for orthopedic insult. That is, doctors trained in the fine art of examining deficient skeletal systems and then mending them tend to have a field day with yours truly. Scratch that – most bone docs hear my name and look for the nearest window out of which to leap headlong.
We could start, of course, with the traumatic injuries suffered when I was thrown from a burning building at the age of 4. I’m sorry, I’m just taking in that last sentence and realizing how awesome that makes me sound. Seriously, it could well be a source of great sorrow and the wellspring of a thousand phobias but I look upon it like a phenomenal story to tell at a bar. “Hey Harvey, what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?” Me (thinking for a moment): “Well, let’s begin…”
That fall resulted in hundreds of microfractures which eventually manifested themselves in degenerative disc disease. This led to my first spinal fusion at the age of 23. And another spinal fusion at 36. Together these two surgeries accounted for the complete removal of two discs from my spine, an autologous bone graft from my hip, countless titanium rods and screw that sometimes set off airport magnetometers, and the delightful fact that inside my body right this minute can be found 1) cadaver bone, 2) my brother-in-law’s blood, and 3) a bovine bone “donation”. I know you’re all caught on that last bit too. Yes, there’s a freakin cow bone in my spine. Moove on. Modern medicine is udderly fascinating.
Along the way and since then I’ve broken several ribs, a collarbone, the wrist on my dominant right hand (even though I’m naturally left-handed), and every toe on both feet. Come to think of it, I guess I’m a pretty tough dude. For instance, just three weeks ago I broke a toe on my left foot while jumping out of bed one morning to answer the phone. I lost my balance and slammed it into the leg of a table. Ironic that I’d break a toe on a leg… At this point, though, I don’t even bother to get stuff like this checked out. They’d just slap a boot on me, place me under all kinds of restrictions for six weeks, and NOT even give me a decent painkiller. No thank you. I’ll take my chances with sufficient rest and Motrin. Harvey doesn’t have time for such things as six weeks off from jumping rope and lifting weights.
Also, I really can’t afford to be taking it easy when the school year is only two days off. Recall that I am a high school teacher and the vice principal of our school. This school year is especially exciting for me as my precious daughter will be coming to school with me as our newest fourth grade student. Let’s refresh for the occasional reader who isn’t one of my two kids.
Although I do have a twin sister, I also share my birthday to the exact minute with my little girl. This is great fun considering my twin died when we were young. What fun is celebrating your birthday with someone who isn’t even living anymore? I mean, I made the best of it but when God decided to give me another young lady to share the birthday with that was about the coolest thing ever. Factor in that said little girl appears to have received way more than 23 of my chromosomes and things get really fun. We’re looking forward to our drive to school every morning and having Daddy visit her on the playground at recess, and all the fun things that come along with your father being the guy all the other students love but you get the special knowledge that he loves you a little bit more for a whole lot of reasons.
One of the reasons I love my daughter is that she seems to want to be just like me. There was the time she started playing the piano when she was 4 (like me) or the time she mastered roller skates at 6 (like me) or the time she distilled her own blend of botanicals into bathtub gin (like m… OK, you get that point. What I don’t love is when she tries to copy the dumb things like breaking bones. With her it seems to be a straight up thugfight to the death. It’s like “Hey old man, I WILL dominate in this so step off or I will cut you.” Such a sweet girl.
Remember when I mentioned breaking my wrist as a child? Well that was just one wrist. She matched that last Christmas when she fell off her scooter and snapped the left one. Today I had her with me up at school setting up some things in my office. We had just swapped the 7th and 8th grade classroom signs (no it wasn’t a prank) and I asked her help mounting a whiteboard across from my desk. “Sweetheart, can you hand me that screwdriver?” I asked. But instead of a “yes, Daddy” I heard the sound of tears. And it was the hard, painful tears of a “oh no, something’s horribly wrong” variety not the “I’m hungry and bored” variety. I’m a Dad; I know the difference.
I turned around to find my baby girl on the ground. Seems someone had decided to wear a pair of (let’s see if I’ve got this right) wedge heels? You see Mommy had already told her not to wear these shoes she had found from her aunt but someone opted to let human nature put on a great big show and disobeyed Mommy. How did Daddy not see this when they left the house together? Dude, Daddy can’t find a giant can of coffee in my pantry when it’s in the same spot for 8 years running. You think guys – even dads – pay attention to shoes? In any event, my genetic minion, unsteady on her feet in these clod-hopping death traps, tripped over herself and landed on her backside. In the process she put her hands out to soften the landing and incurred what’s known as a “buckle fracture”. She’s getting good at this. Once she stopped crying she said very calmly “Daddy, it’s broken. My symptoms are identical to when I broke the other one.” A trip to the orthopedic urgent care confirmed her claim. So I brought her home to rest with her pretty new pink cast that stretches almost to her shoulder. Five weeks from now and at least $600 later perhaps she will have learned her lesson on obedience. Meanwhile I have to be both discipline dad (instilling the lesson that she really should have listened to her mother) and kind and sympathetic dad (trying to comfort her and console her that the first few weeks of a new school won’t suck because of this). In fact tonight at Parent Night her new teacher already told me that she would be fine with my daughter dictating her homework to me if writing is too difficult. What contest in hell did I just win? I don’t want to do 4th grade homework!
On our ride home from the doctor’s office my daughter asked me to run down all of my broken bones with her. “But you did break your wrist, right Daddy?” I replied: “Yes I did,” and told her that fun tale. I was just at the point where my mom threatened to “demolish” my older brother Sean for goading me into taking a shot at him and then jumping out of the way so I’d slam my fist into a brick wall possibly leaving me unable to play the piano again when my daughter cut me off.
“So wait, Daddy… You just broke the one wrist? Then I WIN!”
Yes, sweetness, you win. For now.
Talk to me when the few strands left on your scalp are all white because your kid decided he wanted to be just… like… you.