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?”
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.