“Don’t worry, I’m fine”

My son called me Saturday night. He and his girlfriend were at the beach for the weekend so I was surprised to hear from him.

“Hey,” I said, “What’s up?”

“Not much.”

This is how ALL our phone conversations start. Every. Single. One. Comforting in its predictability. But frustrating, because this kid never calls just to chat for no reason.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Just driving back from urgent care in Morehead City.”

“Urgent care?” This is not nothing. “What happened?”

My imagination has kicked straight into hyper-drive. He sounds calm, so I’m automatically eliminating things like evisceration and dismemberment by shark or boat propeller and have moved on to the lesser circles of hell. Maybe sunburn. Dehydration. Food poisoning. Even so, I’m already halfway off the couch, ready to drive two hours to the beach.

“Yeah, so I got stung by a stingray.”

“WHAT?!” My brain has now stopped working. Well, except for the part that vaguely remembers Steve Irwin died after being attacked by a stingray. And Steve Irwin was fucking invincible.

“Bastard got me on the ankle,” he said. “It bled like crazy. But don’t worry, I’m fine.”

Don’t worry? Right. Never mind that he’s an adult and can take care of himself, I’ve been reduced to stammering incoherence between spikes of adrenaline. “But– you– what? Stung by– ohmygod– stingray– blood– holy fu– you sure you’re okay?”

“Mom. I’m fine. It hurt like hell for about an hour. Like an 8 out of 10.”

Okay, now I’m remembering Allie Brosh’s revised chart of pain and freaking out. I think #8 had something to do with imminent death but was just short of Ebola and being mauled by BEARS.

Allie Brosh’s chart of pain:

I’m trying to remember whether there’s enough gas in my car to make it to the beach without stopping to refuel.

But I’m doing my best to stay calm. Taking deep breaths. I remind myself that I am the mother of two kids who survived each other and childhood. And college. I’ve had lots of practice with near disaster.

Still. An 8 on the pain scale?

“That sounds bad.” I am the master of understatement with underlying tones of panic.

“Yeah, it was pretty intense. But it didn’t leave a barb, so that’s good.”

“A barb?” I think I might pass out.

“Nope, no barb. They cleaned the gash and put a band-aid on it and I’m fine now.”

Gash?” My voice emerged as a squeak. “A band-aid?”

My kid could have DIED and they put a freaking band-aid on it? I’m now incapable of speech and reduced to emitting high-pitched sounds of distress. But like any good dolphin child, my son is tuned to the frequency.

“Mom. Really, I’m fine. I just thought you’d want to know.”

And then I heard it. The voice of the kid who went flying off his bike while doing stunts and scraped the hell out of his palms and knees but didn’t cry. The same kid who sliced open his hand on a sharp rock and bled all over the place but was totally calm about it. So his mom wouldn’t freak out and worry. Not that I would have. Probably.

Okay, fine then. I wouldn’t freak out now either. Seemed the least I could do. If he could be all calm and collected IN THE FACE OF CERTAIN DEATH– ahem, so could I.

“Thanks for letting me know,” I said, with Oscar-worthy insouciance. “I’m sorry it messed up your weekend. And so relieved that you’re okay.”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “I guess I won’t be going in the ocean again this trip.”

“You’d damn well better not even think about it.”

He laughed again and it had the sound of indulgence. And love. “Don’t worry, mom. I won’t.”

I’m sure he’ll wait until at least next weekend.


Filed under parenting

11 responses to ““Don’t worry, I’m fine”

  1. It’s so funny, hearing a story like that from Mom’s point of view. I remember making phone calls like that. Once, heading to college, a friend and I were making a tiny convey. She was behind me, didn’t pay attention, and ended up hitting the back of my car when I stopped for a red light. It was minor, but I had my bike back there and it screwed up the wheel on the bike. I was understandably distressed, as it was my first car accident and…darn it, my BIKE! So I call my mother. But, knowing it was my mother after all, when she picked up the phone the first words out of my mouth were “don’t worry, I’m fine, the car’s fine, Heather’s fine.” hehehe. So then she knew something has happened but….our bodies were fine lol. I can only image the thoughts running through her head. Probably a lot like yours 😀

    I don’t have children, but I’m guessing you never stop being a parent, do you? There’s never a moment when you don’t worry. Talk about a life sentence!


  2. rssasrb

    Glad he’s ok and it didn’t leave a barb. (Imagine my eyes rolling at his downplayed account) Your account is so funny and brings back memories from when the boys were younger. Like the time I had the youngest at swimming lessons and I get a call from the oldest. “Mom, I think I might need to go to the ER.”
    “I was showing my girlfriend how I jumped off the roof during the fire and kind of sliced my hand on a nail.”
    “Ok, I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”
    “Thanks. And mom…”
    “How do you stop bleeding?”


  3. Ugh! I so know this feeling and you aren’t very comforting imparting to me that it will continue forever and ever and ever…my 9 year old (when he was four) cut his finger off. In a folding chair while with his Dad. Here was the call to me “You know Adams finger?” Me: “Yes. Why am I afriad of what you’re about to say?” Him “Well, it’s shorter.” WTF!!? As I drive like a literal mad woman I spoke to my son “Hey, Mom! I’m ok, they can put it back. I promise. Did you know I can see my bone? It’s awesome.” Jesus. Fing. Christ. Same one has had stitches, several times. Another day two of my eldest had concussions within 24 hours of each other (one hit a tree and the other had a horse-shoe mishap.) Super fun interview in the ER from social services was my bonus on top of about 100 new grey hairs. Boys.


  4. Did you let him watch Monty Python in his youth???

    King Arthur: Now, stand aside, worthy adversary!
    Black Knight: ‘Tis but a scratch!
    King Arthur: A scratch? Your arm’s off!
    Black Knight: No, it isn’t!
    King Arthur: Well, what’s that then?
    King Arthur: I’ve had worse.


  5. Merry, he and his sister can quote entire scenes from Monty Python. They’re hysterical.

    Yes, hearing one of your kids say “don’t worry” is code for “something bad just happened.” And no, I don’t think the worry ever stops. But that might just be me.


  6. Lou

    Just so you know, Steve Irwin got stabbed in the heart by that stingray. And speculation was he would have survived if he hadn’t pulled it back out – surgery could possibly have removed it without doing the damage he did… unfortunately.

    Glad your DS is OK, and I really enjoy the way you tell these snippits of life!


  7. Oh, I do know that, Lou. I remember everyone saying at the time how unusual it was for a stingray to cause death. Such a tragic event.

    But still . . . your head plays tricks on you with word association in times of unexpected stress. Especially when it’s something you didn’t even realize you should worry about. Stingray > pain > blood > my child > OMG DEATH BY SEA CREATURE!


  8. Gram of 4

    Oh yes, the ” Mom just thought you ought to know” calls. Mine was the ER for his appendix. And he’s an entire country away.
    If you haven’t taken to strong drink, or gone under your bed in horror, it’s all good.
    ” high pitched ‘Dolphin’ sounds of distress” So aptly put for Mothers!!
    Soooo glad that he’s ok.


  9. gatorperson

    You knew he was reasonably ok because he was doing the talking. A screaming 10 out of 10 is when the girlfriend calls. And, really, he didn’t need to call to ease your concern because you didn’t know. He called because he needed his mommy to kiss the booboo and make it better, even a virtual kiss. Kids. They really never grow up when it comes to mommy things.


  10. GP, yeah, I agree. But he also probably suspected it wouldn’t be good if I heard about his misadventure from someone else at a later time.

    Wapak, I went through the appendectomy crisis with my DD when she was little. It’s not much fun when you’re right there in person, either.


  11. Scene: a fine day last week. Elder kid was walking home from school via the downtown with a friend, younger kid and I to the grocery store. We get out of the store to find a massive storm has blown in; text message from elder that he’s at friend’s mom’s work; discussion with younger about the phrase “beat the rain.”

    I start the car, the rain starts. Or rather pelts. On the radio, they’re trundling out weather alerts and ball sizes for the hail. I decide that rather than hitting the beltway, we’ll stay in the parking lot. After all, we now have potato chips. We see one irregular chunk of hail (racquetball chomped by a dog!) and the wind dies down, so we pull onto the road. Elder phones, younger answers.

    “You’re in the basement of a parking garage?” younger echoes.

    What??? They’re a couple of miles away–what the heck is going on? I do not swerve, however; I do not grab the phone. More info is relayed–turns out the other mom was right there, heard that sentence and started coaching on what needed to be said next. They’d left for home via car when the hail started, so pulled into the garage to wait it out. Everyone got home safe and even dry. (And yes, I made a couple of those calls to my mom, too. 😉