When he's not ridin' the "ho magnet" pimp cycle up and down the driveway, Ethan enjoys a good swimming pool. What pimp doesn't. Luckily our neighbors have a really nice pool -- a gigantic above-ground model complete with neighbor-made deck (he'll say I helped him build it and I kinda did, but the truth is that I put about 2 hours into a 100-hour project, and most of those 2 hours were spent drinking his beer).
The only negative about this pool/deck combo (aside from the fact that it's not mine) is that the decking is pressure treated lumber. For those not versed in the forestreal arts, pressure treated lumber is essentially wood exposed to chemicals (until 2002, arsenic was one of the leading ingredients in the cocktail) under extreme pressure for long durations, then dried in extreme heat resulting in lumber that won't erode as quickly in outdoor applications. How safe is the stuff? Ask the guy at our Lowe's Home Improvement Center. I was in there last summer to buy some lumber to finish off the deck and playground in our backyard* and the lumber department guy's entire arm was covered with a ... dressing? cast? bandage? Let's just say it looked like somebody tried to stuff a ficus tree into a sausage casing. So I asked the guy what happened and he told me his hand became infected from a splinter he got while handling "that damn pressure treated." As the words left his mouth he sneered at the piles of evil wood like they had knocked up his little sister.
So back to Ethan. Our neighbors are hella cool and have extended an open invitation to enjoy their pool whenever the mood strikes. Well, the mood strikes Ethan a lot. So a few weeks ago we took them up on their offer and, guess what, Ethan got a splinter. It was in the soft part of the foot between the balls (stop snickering) and the big toe. There was much limping and whining, but after quick inspection and hedging by the patient, we agreed to wait until we got home to try to extract it -- miles from where anyone can hear you scream! Once home, Ethan resisted. Strongly protested. Kicked me in the nuts with his good foot. After 2 hours of threats ... I mean, textbook parenting, we abandoned rescue efforts and decided to go out for ice cream. But thoughts of lumber department guy were lingering: "Damn pressure treated. You turned my little sister into a whore!"
The next week we're back at the pool and Ethan gets another splinter in the same foot -- this time in the soft skin between the balls (STOP IT!) and the heel. This time we went straight out for ice cream. I'm no fool. My nuts were still sore from the week before. So now he has two ticking time bombs of death lodged in his foot and 2 parents who can't seem to muster the required bravery to deal with it. For the next week we kept an eye on the foot, looking for signs of anything. The only thing we observed was that Thomas threw up all over the couch one day. Not sure how, but I just know that damn pressure treated was behind it. Sister fucker!
Then yesterday opportunity reared its ugly head as Ethan awoke, reporting of a sore throat and sore leg. The leg thing ended up being a blister on his heel (lumber department guy in my head: "That's how it starts!"), but the sore throat seemed pretty real. So Sandi took him to the pediatrician who suggested it was probably nothing, but tested for strep blahblahblah get to the splinters. "Oh, those should really come out." Phew! Relief. Thank god a medical professional's here to take charge. Well, relief until Sandi found out exactly what "taking charge" entailed. She recalls they used a relatively gentle word like "immobilize." A few minutes later they entered the exam room with some Marquis de Sade thingy that bore the astonishingly misleading name "pappoose." Yes, and we "swaddle" violent mental patients.
Maybe we watch too much MSNBC in front of the lad and have exposed him to too many of our opinions on the treatment of Guantanamo detainees, because as soon as he saw this apparatus he went into 'HELL no' mode. I wasn't there, but Sandi's recounting -- albeit colored through a parent's disbelief -- brought to mind the holy water scene in The Exorcist: He screamed, he cried, he contorted, he raged against the machine and he pushed as fervently against his restraints as possible. And 23 seconds later the damn pressure treated was gone from beneath his skin. 20 seconds after that the tears were dry. By the time Sandi put him on the phone to talk to me some 10 minutes later he barely remembered anything had happened at all.
"Hey, baby. How are you feeling? Are you OK?"
"Did it hurt much?"
"Did what hurt?"
"You know, when they got your splinters out."
"Oh. No, I was really brave. Mommy said I can get a toy."
We spoke for about 3 minutes and when he handed the phone back to Sandi she was still in tears. Understandably. In fact, hours later at home when she and I talked more about it she became teary. I became teary. How is it that I know this story ended just fine and that our beautiful son is OK and unharmed -- either physically or emotionally -- and yet I'm breaking down? I wasn't even there and by Ethan's recollection the whole thing was no big deal, yet those damn ugly too-familiar thoughts surge unchecked through my head: "What if I'm not strong enough to see him through ear reconstruction?" "What if he IS eligible for atresia repair but I fold when I need to be at my bravest?" "Am I doing right by him?"
Hey, lumber department guy. I'll see your damn pressure treated and raise you one demon of irrational self doubt. Sister fucker.
"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother." -- Kahlil Gibran
*Women: Why do you get so aroused when your men build playgrounds, decks and such? Please explain this lust for guys who build stuff. Seriously, it's like foreplay with y'all.