It has been four weeks since we took Calvin to the emergency room, and three weeks since he had surgery to install three stainless steel screws into his femur which had been broken during a fall at school. He has spent the better part of every day since in bed recovering. It’s a good thing my husband is gainfully employed so I can stay home all day taking care of our son. A little over a week ago, with help from me to hold his hands on a walker, Calvin began taking a few baby steps each day from his bedroom to ours. It’s a bit of a struggle; he can’t go far—just partway across the carpeted room. Sometimes his little legs quiver. Is he in pain? Are his muscles fatigued? Both? Since he can’t tell me, I can’t be sure, and that just about kills me.
When I think about how long it took Calvin to get to the point where he could walk safely and somewhat independently (was it ten, twelve, fourteen years?) without a safety harness or a hand to hold, I could cry. He and I have worked so goddamn hard to get where he got before the fall, and it’s painful to think it was lost—at least temporarily—in a matter of seconds.
Last Friday, we brought Calvin back to see the orthopedic surgeon. They took more x-rays and the surgeon removed the dressing protecting Calvin’s incision. The surgeon said Calvin’s hip—the incision, femoral head, femur and three stainless steel cannulated screws—looked “good.” We went home and gave Calvin his first bath and shampoo in twenty-four days.
Thankfully, it seems our boy is on the mend, though he is still walking very tentatively and not for any significant distance, and he can’t do stairs for another two weeks, which means I have to scooch downstairs with him on our bums and carry his ninety-two pounds upstairs. What I worry about as much as anything is that Calvin will suffer the kind of hidden and chronic pain—like headaches or arthritis—that isn’t bad enough to cause him to limp or bring him to tears, but exists nonetheless. We can never know, for instance, if those steel screws will at some point cause him bone pain or if they’ll irritate the surrounding tissue. It’s miserable knowing my baby can’t tell us when he’s hurting, can’t get relief for what ails him. It’s the trouble with mothering him, which—though I’ve struggled at times in my life—may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.