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