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Accidents Happen

When I was 8 years old, my brother and I decided to go spend the dollar we had each conned out of our father and go across the street to the newly built strip mall. My brother, Stretch, was riding a bike and I was on foot, and we were racing one another, smack talking and laughing.

My brother was 9.

One moment our laughter was dancing on the wind and the next moment I was shrieking like a banshee. I'm sure if my father hadn't been inside the kitchen frying beef at that moment for the pot of chili he was making, he would have heard my screams.

In the push of a bicycle pedal, time slowed down and I saw my brother suddenly flip over the bike and land on the pavement teeth first as the bike flew up in the air and then landed on top of him. 

His bike had hit an unflagged wire supporting a newly planted tree. 

I've never forgotten that moment or what it felt like to watch in horror as time crawled to a stop and I was rendered motionless as my brother's face hit the ground.

Nor have I ever forgotten what my brother looked like after. 

If I could trade my front teeth for his I would. Maybe. Okay, probably not, but if you are reading this Stretch, I still feel really bad about it. And I'm sorry I ran off and abandoned you and didn't stop to help you find your teeth. It may not have been my finest hour. 

Time always slows when accidents happen.

This weekend, I was out with Knox and Ken and time stood still once again. 

For as long as I live, I'll never forget turning around to get Knox only to realize he wasn't there. He was just out of my arm's reach, slowly rolling towards a cement curb. My fingers were out stretched and almost around his handlebars when his tires bumped against the curb and flipped the chair.

As fast I could move it still wasn't fast enough. Time slowed down as I heard my daughter's screams and we watched her brother's face hit the ground. 

Like me, I'll know she will never forget what her brother looked like afterwards.

Like his uncle, he too was 9 when he kissed the pavement.

Toothy symmetry.

I may have developed a pathological pattern for the destruction of boy's smiles.

Accidents happen.

It was a combination of mechanical failure, bad luck and my stupidity and I could only be thankful Knox rolled toward the curb instead of towards traffic. Bright sides can always be found and perspective was needed, as I told myself, over and over again while holding my bleeding son against me. 

Nobody died. Teeth can be replaced.

Two hospitals and seven hours later, I held Knox in a dental chair, him on top of me, as I used all my strength and my body to restrain him as the emergency dentist tried to remove the fragments of his teeth that were choking hazards and rip out the nerves to deaden the pain for him.

That was the day I learned my son, with his paralyzed little vocal chords, sounds exactly like a lamb screaming when he cries. I didn't even know Knox could scream.

Clarice and I are forever haunted.

It was horrifying and hard, for everyone but most especially my son.

When it was all said and done, Knox had a broken nose, road rash and four cracked permanent teeth.

It could be worse. Nobody died. Teeth can be replaced.

I just kept telling myself that as I stood behind Knox's wheelchair, waiting for the elevator, as I tried to block out the memory of the day's nightmare. Knox's pain was finally managed but he was exhausted from his harrowing adventure and so he sat folded over in his chair, his face parallel with the ground, as he stared at his feet.

I didn't have the heart to tell him to sit up. Poor kid wants to drool on his toes, I'll let him, I thought.

A little old lady approached to wait for the elevator and she saw the back of Knox, folded over, with all his beautiful hair, scooped up into a ponytail on top of his head to keep it out of the carnage that was his face.

"Oh, your daughter has such beautiful hair," she remarked and I just gave her a weary smile, not caring to correct her about my son's gender. Screw it; he can be a girl until we get out of here, I thought to myself.

Knox started to make gurgling sounds, and the grey haired woman stepped closer to him and asked him, "And what's your name, beautiful?" 

As I was about to answer for Knox, time once again slowed down as my beautiful son suddenly decided to sit up as tall as possible and smile as wide as he could at that poor little old lady.

It was a beatific smile, filled with broken teeth shards and blood oozing around his pearly whites. A mixture of saliva and blood dripped down his face and his nose was crusted with dried blood. 

Knox looked at this old lady and I thought I saw him wink.

Of course he didn't, but upon seeing Knox the woman's face contorted in horror and she gasped loudly just as the elevator doors opened. Oddly enough she decided to take the stairs.

I burst into laughter. I couldn't help it. Knox has my sense of humour. God bless him.

A few hellish days later along with some emergency surgery and Knox is back to himself. He looks a little different but I'm still grateful he didn't lose more teeth. It could have been worse. 

It can always be worse.

Of course, I still can't close my eyes without seeing his face hit the cement and I can't stop hearing Knox's lamb-like screams ring in my ears, but I know this will pass.

Eventually I'll be able to look at my son, with his new toothless grin, and I'll be able to see the beauty in it once more.

I'll be honest; it won't be today. Every time he smiles and I see the gaping craters left in the absence of his teeth along with the stitches and his newly pointy side teeth, (chipped then filed and saved, yay!) I'm reminded just how quickly accidents can happen and just how slow time can move so that the brain can fully remember the horror.

Nobody died. Teeth can be replaced.

I will just keep telling myself that for the next 9 years of so until we can have his smile fixed.

Reader Comments (36)

Tanis, you are the best writer I have ever read. I felt every bit of pain and panic that you must have felt in both incidents. Knox is so damn cute, he doesn't need teeth. Either that, or he could always make a guest appearance on one of the many Vampy shows on TV these days....To Hollywood you must go!!!!!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

Oh Tanis! I'm so sorry. I too have had time slow done and I witness my child trip over my own leg, land on her very small arm and hear the accompanying crack that comes with a broken bone. Nothing can ever erase that sound, that moment, the look of absolute pain and the cries that followed. I think I cried as much as her that day. Huge hugs to you and Knox! And here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElda

As always, your heart and soul comes through in your writing. What a scary incident, but you are so amazing to have both come through it like you have. Knox is so blessed to have you as his mom. And teeth can be replaced, but that crazy one-of-a-kind smile will always be in your memory bank along with that fall. I choose to believe that your tragedy account has been paid in full.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Jenkins

Oh Tanis, as a Mother and a teacher, I have lived through some of those horrible and gruesome experiences :(. I feel for you, your son and your daughter. You're right, though, those accidents do happen, although it doesn't keep us from beating ourselves up about them.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Gleeson

You, my dear, are an AWESOME mother! I just can't begin to tell you how I admire you!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Oh ouch. I am so sorry for Knox, but also for you.

My middle kid was 8 when she decided to sneak up on me while I was hitting a tennis ball for our Labrador with a metal softball bat. She came behind me, and after I sent the ball flying, the bat came around and biffed her right in the face.

There was blood everywhere. Her gorgeous face was split open and I wanted to throw up from the guilt. Of course, running into the ER with her, both of us covered in blood, and having her sob, "It's all my fault!" to the triage nurse nearly got me reported to DCFS.

6 stitches in her eyebrow, 8 stitches under her eye. No eye damage, no orbital fracture. I demanded a plastic surgeon, and she has no scar unless you look really close in bright light. We were so, so lucky.

It may not mean much, but please know that we're sending love from North Carolina to you and Knox.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKel

As someone who went over the handlebars at 11, it cost me teeth, and a few days in the hospital, but I'm fine. Given how you love him, how your sense of humor keeps you looking for a bright side, Knox will be fine too. His having the your sense of humor is most likely one of the best things he could have gotten from you. Keep laughing!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Awwww poor little guy! And poor you! That's awful. Sending love to you all. Xo

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Aw man, poor little man, poor mom, poor horrified sister. Glad there's a happy ending but, yikes, who needed that extra nightmare. Love to all of you!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKizz

Eeeek! How traumatic for the both of you! You are right to cling to the thought that it could have been worse....but that doesn't take away from the fact that at the time your child is screaming - that's the worst. Always. No matter what is going on and how bad the injury is. Don't be too hard on yourself. Sounds like you had it hard enough!!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Oh my gosh...when we lived in Germany my youngest decided to take off down a very steep hill on his bike during a family outing. Time slowed down so much I swear I could see the individual dust motes flying off his back wheel as he lost control of the front wheel and catapulted head first over his handlebars. Face first into the ground. Thankfully we insist on helmets. He ended up loosening his two front teeth which turned a lovely shade of brown over the next month, splitting both lips, ripping his fenulum (again), shredding both knees and elbows, skinning his sweet little 6 year old face, and bruising his ribs and forehead. As I scrubbed the dirt and gravel from his little body...well I knows that lamb sound too. My husband still gets all choked up at the memory. Accidents do happen but that doesn't make them any less devastating. Hoping Knox and the family feel better soon!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Poor kid. Poor you. Glad he's ok and all that jazz. (seriously - though I kid much, I'm glad the kid's ok)

Let's get to the good part: the part where the poor old lady asks his name. The image this brings to mind, seeing her face change as she was clearly expecting a sleepy looking young girl, to be greeted by Knox's bloody smile.... HA! Priceless.

Whoever said you must head to Hollywood - I agree! Knox in front of the cameras, and you writing & directing the show :)

Seriously though - it would have been worse. hugs.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngele @shoeboxbegone

Oh I'm so sorry. What an awful day.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKorinthia

Oh, I've been there. My 6.5 year old took a header onto a tile floor, and lost a permanent tooth (front top), fractured his jaw in two places, and had multiple stitches inside his mouth and on his lower lip. He had his tooth removed in the Pediatric ER, and then spent 2 more nights in the hospital because he wouldn't drink anything until he was allowed to use a straw again. :-(

You aren't doing anything for his teeth yet? Our dentist recommended a semi-permanent space maintainer, and then a bridge to hold him until he's an adult and can have an implant... maybe that's not an option, though, when you lose more than one.

I'm sorry this happened. Regardless of physical abilities, little boys sure are scary!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephen's Mom

Aw, this sucks. Sorry this happened to Knox, and to you. My daughter had her two front teeth broken on a potted plant when she was younger. She went so long without front teeth that I had almost forgotten she was supposed to have them. They look fine now. But there is a scar on her lip. Most of the time I don't notice, but when I do, I feel a tinge of sickness ... like I failed her. But has anyone ever escaped childhood without scars? I know that I had my face split open and 22 stitches under my nose when I was a kid. I can only imagine how my mother felt about that one. It healed up fine. No one ever notices it, except her maybe. I certainly don't.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCoffee with Julie

Oh jeez! I cringed while I read, but at the same time I just can't get over how freaking cute he is! Seriously!

I'm so sorry you all went through such a rough time, but we all have you in our thoughts! <3!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I like toothless grins and that hair too! I am sorry you all had such a rough week and I wish I could erase that sound from your memory. Big hugs T and one for Ken and a big one for Knox too!

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

It sucks so bad when your children get hurt...hope tomorrow is a better day and yay for the elavator giggle. :) He is just so adorable...

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Redneck Princess

Cringing at the thought of him hitting the pavement, but also of having to hold him down. But then smiling at the thought of knowing you can handle it and that you got a laugh out of it (because horrifying old people is fun, it's just true).

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArnebya

Oh my gosh. I do understand. I can still see my mom, holding my 8 month old son face out, as she tripped and started to fall. And she did...both of their faces hit the cement, but she had turned my son slightly to her shoulder and she took the brunt of it.

I just read (nerd alert) that the whole time slowing down during an accident is very scientific. Apparently (by the way, I'm a history teacher so you know...I could be making this stuff up) the brain is able to process in EXTREME FAST FORWARD (like a dvd) and as a result, your eyes don't keep up. So while time is actually NOT standing still nor slowing down, your brain is in overdrive attempting to come up with a solution for the situation.

You probably already knew that and I've just annoyed you :-)

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

The whole time my heart broke a little more for you and him. I laughed out loud when you told about the old lady at the elevator.
That much of been hard to go through, but you told it so beautifully.
You are such an amazing writer and inspirational.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlma

Poor Knox! It must have been horrifying to watch it happen and know that you couldn't stop it. You're right, though, it could have been so much worse. Teeth can be fixed/replaced and bumps and bruises will heal.

I (almost) feel bad for the old lady but that was definitely funny :)

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKat


Just a few short months ago my son with Autism came home after an afternoon with his respite worker- she had taken him to her farm to play with her teens and ride horses and have a great time. They walked in the door and my son's face was covered in scrapes and his front permanent tooth was broken off and his lip was very broken and poofy. His dear sweet respite worker had been crying and said "do you want the good news or bad news first?". The good news? He was ok. The bad news? Her teenage son had taken my son on a sled behind the snowmobile without her permission and crashed the sled resulting in my son bashing his face on the sled and breaking off his tooth.

Her son was waiting to apologize to me for disobeying his mother and injuring my son and I just said "accidents happen" because I am fairly certain that boy is never going to forget the blood and tooth bits all over my sons face!

My poor son was in so much pain. And it was horrible holding him down while our local dentist gave him a cap on his tooth because waiting to get into a paediatric dentist in the city just wasn't an option with the nerve exposed. Autism & the dentist are NOT a good combination as I am sure you know.

My son still hates his fake tooth. It feels funny and looks "wrong" and the dentist told him it would "die" and need to be replaced because it is only temporary and it hurt so bad that he is now even MORE terrified of dentists...

the whole thing was a nightmare.

BUT he survived a snowmobile incident where he was not wearing a helmet (!!!) with only a broken tooth!

I am very very thankful. Just like Knox rolled to the curb and not traffic. These things can be so so so much worse.

But I still have nightmares and my stomach still clenches just a bit every time I see his tooth.


July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTarasview

Nothing but love. Glad everyone is ok...or will be soon. Mama hearts are slow to scab. xo

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Get well soon, both of you.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPete

Poor you, poor Stretch, poor Knox. So relieved he didn't roll into traffic.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRita Arens

I have 3 kids and have been there with all of them. I remember when my then 8 year old fell through the second story floor to the ground floor below (long story - renovations). Later I told friends that I "flew down the stairs" expecting to find a broken and crumpled little body. Fortunately he had only (!) broken his arm. The 2 younger kids took this literally and, in recounting the story, would always tell people "and Mummy FLEW down the stairs."

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Reading about what happened to Knox brought tears to my eyes. I am the mother of 3 awesome boys. My youngest is son is 7 yeas old and he is special needs. He, like Knox is non verbal, and when you wrote about him sitting on your lap in the dentist chair it reminded me so much of how my son and I see the doctor. Accidents happen(especially it seems to boys!) and I hope for a quick recovery for Knox!! and some peace for his great mom Tanis!!

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCristi

I'd seen your tweets about the accident. That is so horrifying. I mean the moment of the accident of your brother as well as Knox's. Knowing how minor things that happened to my children would replay in front of my eye at least a 1,000 a day before they started to fade away, I can't imagine how heartbreaking it must be to relive that moment.

Again, we always say, it could be worse. It still hurts, not only him but the parents and siblings.

I hope his nose and teeth will be better soon.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPractical Mama

I just feel rotten for poor Knox.

When we were kids, my sister and I, along with a lot of neighborhood kids were playing "chase" on the wet, dewy grass. My sister came running towards our concrete front porch and slipped. She hit the concrete with her face. Her face was pulverized. She did not lose any teeth, but she crushed the bones in her face into tiny bits. At seven, in the 1970's, they put it together in surgery and covered it with a cast at our local hospital. It was not pretty, but it was all they could do until she stopped growing. In the 80's, when she was 16, she had it all redone by a plastic surgeon. She now has a perfect button nose and high cheekbones. Alas, I do not. I have the family fat cheeks and big nose. (Later in college, she fell through some stairs drunk on Spring Break and knocked out a permanent front tooth. She has some crazy bad luck.)

I hope Knox is doing better!!

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIdaho Fruitcake

I have been there, and it is as close to impossible as it can ever be, to forgive yourself as a parent. I have pushed my children into curbs when they were in strollers, thinking I had bucked them in. I have placed them on hammocks for a cute picture only to have them fall backwards and out. It's a terrible pause in time... and it all slows and you run but it's never ever quick enough. SO sorry, but the perspective is the only way to save your sanity... it can always be worse, it can always be worse. Much love to you all.

July 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralexandra

He shows once again that he is a fighter! What a smile! People have got to be blind to not see how brave your son is, Tanis!

July 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPallavi

ohgodohgodohgod I know we're in for some of these moments ahead, and I really dread them. You are amazing, lady, and amazing in your storytelling.

July 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Oh, Tanis...been there done that and you are right...it could have been so much worse. Taylor at age eight went headfirst off his skateboard and smacked his two front teeth on the sidewalk. Popped his two front teeth in half...he ran home screaming (did I mention he has a phobia about blood?!) like he was dying. When I asked him about his missing tooth parts he took me back to where he had fallen and there was two little straight dents in the sidewalk...nothing more...no teeth could be found.. nothing! He had to have his teeth capped since they were permanent teeth and luckily he had no other damage to his face! I'm sorry Knox had to go through all the trauma to 'fix' his teeth but I'm so glad he had you with him. You have a good attitude when you say 'it could have been worse and teeth can be fixed'! You are so right about the damage, but your philosophy goes a long way to calm down a child who has been hurt! That doesn't mean that the whole episode wasn't horrible or that your family won't remember what happened...but in time the 'guilt' etc. will heal too. Wish you were my neighbor... our sense of humors are very similar! P.S. Just thought you'd get a good laugh when I tell you I have 5 very active boys and 3 active girls...how many times do you think I've been in an ER or Insta-care facility?!!!!

July 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAuntie B

Oh bugger, what a nightmare for you and for your daughter. So glad Knox is okay xx

July 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Hannah

Yup, "Slayer" is definitely his new nome de school and playlot...

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Kind
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