gray hairs, helmets, and motherhood

Posted: October 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

“So…you’re going to grow a few new gray hairs,” said my son.  This was the extension of a many-years-old joke I’ve made with the boy, about the number of gray hairs on my head he owns, having caused them.  “I’ve changed my opinion about helmets.”

I sucked in a breath.  His to hell with helmets attitude has always worried me.  Do I think EVERYONE on a bicycle is in terrible danger without a helmet?  Probably not.  But the boy rides fast and hard, as most any fit 23-year-old male would do, I suppose.  We’ve gone around about it, but only a little – life taught me long ago (before he became an adult, even) that I’m not going to arm wrestle him into my perspectives.  So the conversation has been good-natured and necessarily brief, so as to avoid my nagging him into unnecessary resistance.  At some point, you gotta trust people with their own journeys – even your kids – and trust the One who loves them more than you do, eh?  He has felt strongly about this, redirecting me and others to studies that show why requiring helmets reduces ridership, creates unnecessary fear in the non-riding public, and might not even be all that helpful in saving lives.  His was a thought-through viewpoint, not just stubborn anarchy or youthful arrogance.

For his view on helmets to change…well, that almost had to be a near-death experience, I reckoned.  I steeled myself to hear the story. 

It seems he was hustling down the bike path to class – not even out in traffic – and rounded a blind corner created by construction work, only to encounter another cyclist coming at him, head on.  She was on the wrong side of the path.  There was no time to react.  He estimates their combined speed upon impact was around 30 mph. 

He described to me how eerily quiet the impact was –  just the click of the two bikes meeting, nothing at all like the screech and explosive noise of cars crashing. 

He told me both of their bikes somehow flew through the air and got hung up in the nearby construction chain-link. 

He talked about lying there on the ground for what felt like a long time, unable to get up.  Only able to think how glad he was to be on my health insurance.

And then he started counting out the damages.  His:  concussion, displaced jaw, and shoulder, along with some lesser stuff.  Hers:  cracked ribs, bruised ribs, massive black eye, shoulder injury, broken eyeglasses, broken cell phone, and more damage to her light bike than he had to his.  No shortage of blood. 

His military training has made him sharp about this kind of stuff.  He knew how to assess himself for the head injury, and was able to talk her through that as well.  He helped her find her missing lens for her glasses, her broken cell phone.  Fixed their bikes.  It was the bike path on a weekday, so no one happened along to help them as they gathered themselves up. 

All of this bothered me, hearing it.  But it didn’t bother me as much as his description of the rest of the bike ride to class, when he discovered that the head injury had stolen his balance.  Gentle turns at 5 mph made him fall over, more than once.  THIS was seen by others on campus, who stopped to make sure he was okay.  Define okay.  “I’m concussed but I’ll be fine,” or something along that lines was his reply.  He got to class late, but bloody enough to avoid chastisement for the lateness. 

I wondered how many times the other rider fell over, finishing her ride.  I was relieved to hear that she had followed his instructions to call him later and let him know how she was. 

His jaw was too far out of whack and too painful for much eating, for days.  He lost his ability to finish stories he had started to tell.  He patiently followed all the advice he knew a doctor would give. 

I am relieved to say that by the time he got to me, he was healed enough to not be scary-for-a-mom.  No signs of permanent loss of cognition or mobility.  Our bodies are wondrous, amazing, self-repairing machines and this will never stop surprising me. 

I can remember when my kids were babies, how I thought parenting was an 18 year gig (who but an 18-year-old can think such a thing?!)  How it never occurred to me that I would worry over them as adults.  How I never supposed that fear would be any part the my-kids-are-grown part of life.  How I imagined that it was somehow a “lesser” thing, being a parent to an adult, than toting a toddler around. 

Today I am awfully grateful that my son is whole and well.  That he is in good enough shape to weather such an impact remarkably well.  That he had the training necessary to know what to do.  That he had the integrity to watch out for the other rider. 

And that his view on helmets had changed.  Yeah, that too.




(This was my Friday blog.  Stay tuned…)


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