In case anyone is keeping score, my son Patrick has taken me to the emergency room more times than I have taken him.
For his end: A rusty bolt through the shin at age 2; and a cracked skull at age 8. I’m not sure the second case counts as the school took him, but let’s call it two.
For my end: The night my foot got broken in a freak electric wheelchair accident; the time I knocked a hole in my head leaning back in a rolling chair; at least two asthma attacks; and a fall in the street that resulted in a broken hand. That’s five, and there could be a few breathing episodes that I’ve forgotten.
He set the bar high for emergency room companions in the hole-in-my-head incident. After an hour or more of waiting, blood spilling through my hair onto my jacket, Patrick approached the admissions desk and tried to persuade the lady to take me back. She resisted and he said, loudly, My mom has a head injury, she’s on blood thinners, and she’s AN ATTORNEY. Or words to that effect. Needless to say, I got wheeled to an examining room without further ado.
A year or so before that, when he drove me to the ER for the broken foot, he patiently watched as the lab technician tried to get blood from my difficult veins. He finally spoke, quietly: They usually use a butterfly needle in her hand.
He was just sixteen, the ink on his driver’s license barely dry. The technician followed his advice and got what he needed from me.
My son started life six weeks before his due date and entered laughing. He had the usual childhood highs and lows, some worse than they ought to have been, some better than I expected. The details of his life remain his to tell, though I have chosen a few to recount in my weekly blog and elsewhere. Suffice it to say, that as with any child, his survival both thrilled and astonished me, not so much because of any deficiency on his part but due to my own lack of parenting skills and a few curve balls thrown by a universe with a wicked sense of humor.
Patrick surprised me by choosing a small Indiana university, and surprised the school itself by moving into his dorm room with an amplifier and three guitars. He pledged a fraternity, found booze, immersed himself in literature, and engaged in some coming-of-age skirmishes which caused the grey in my hair to multiply. But he made it, with a decent GPA and no arrests. He walked across the stage to receive his diploma, albeit wearing dark glasses which I assume hid the bloodshot eyes of his last DPU hangover.
He came back to Kansas City uncertain and a bit lost. But he found a job, secretly applied to graduate school, and a year after commencement, packed fewer belongings than I would have expected into his little Kia and headed for Evanston, Illinois and an MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen.
He is in LA now, managing two summer internships and learning even more about life as an adult.
Except for his very first “real” job, Patrick found every job he’s had with no help from me. He bought and paid for the Kia he drives and the little Toyota he had before that. For an only child of an essentially single mother, he has managed to become surprisingly independent in most of the critical ways. I’ve been accused of doing too much for him, and sometimes I plead guilty to that charge. But then I look at the ER tally, and I realize that the truth is not so simple. He’s done as much for me as I have for him.
When I told a colleague’s wife that I was pregnant, in the winter of 1990, she looked at me with pity. You’re going to raise a child on your own? That’s going to be really really difficult. Your life will be so hard. I sighed. Not the reaction I wanted. But I had a come-back ready: Really difficult? So hard? Great! The first thirty-five years were sheer hell. “Really difficult” will be an improvement!
I thought of that friend two years later, in December of 1992 when Patrick stood in front of the door to our apartment in his little baby blue jeans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sweatshirt. He shook his hands at me and said, I get the paper for you Mommy! Your legs don’t work so good! And he proceeded to open the door, toddle into the hall, and grab the Sunday newspaper by the edge to drag it into the living room.
Life has been challenging over the last couple of decades, and I’ve lost some critical battles. But I’m not complaining about anything related to my status as Patrick Corley’s mother.
At 1:50 p.m. today, Patrick will have been in this world for twenty-four years.
Happy birthday, Buddy. I could not be more proud of you, nor more glad that I chose to have you. You’ve done well. And I’ve not forgotten my promise to live to be 103 and nag you every day of your life, nor your rejoinder to annoy me every day of mine! I’m holding us both to our pledges!
Thank you for letting me bear witness to the man you have become.
Celebrate, my son. You’ve earned it. Rock on.
Patrick Charles Corley, Christmas 2014