I only saw the crash happen, and not any of the events that lead up to it. It all occurred in slow motion as I turned to watch the boy slam down to the ground. Was it a slip, a misstep, at trip? None of that mattered. It was the next few seconds that made all the difference in the world. My son and I stood frozen and watched as the boy’s father bent down to his son.
At the same moment, the policewoman who was directing this busy corner at the 4th of July parade rushed over to the boy. Within seconds each adult uttered almost the exact same words, and I noticed the difference like a misplaced black tile on a perfectly patterned floor.
As the dad attempted to pick the crumpled boy up from the cement he said, “You’re alright.”
Seconds later, the boy now standing, the policewoman reached a loving arm to the boy and said, “Are you alright?”
The 5’8” tall preteen boy, awkward, out of shape and a tad flabby faceplanted his head into his father’s chest and bawled like a little child. Again both my gentle giant of a son and me along with the other 20 some strangers of all ages that were there stood frozen.
The father looked annoyed. The policewoman looked concerned.
Unsure if it was the skinned knee, the humiliation of such a public guffaw, or the thoughts of a holiday ruined that caused such a deep response from the boy; I stopped the live feed, and traveled into a deep awareness of myself.
How many times had I been THAT father to my children? The one that was so casual about such an event. The one that seemed more cold than caring. The one that was annoyed that this “event” happened. The one that blew off the feelings the child had because this was just a simple skinned knee. The one who felt this child is older now, and shouldn’t react so dramatically to a simple fall.
How many times was I the policewoman to my children? The one who’s first thought was care and wonder about how they truly were. The one who reached out lovingly with no thought of themselves, what it looked like, or who was around. The one who was in that moment only for the child and their need, with no care other than to aid and comfort.
I was that boy. My son is just coming out of being that boy. Too tall for our own coordination, lanky, overweight, naive and not understanding our own sensitivity, we both have been there. At times, we are still there. I wonder if the reason I rarely cry as an adult, whether it be tears of joy, tears of pain, or tears of sorrow is because I was that boy so long ago.
The father took out a water bottle soaked a spare t-shirt and began to heal the boys wound. The policewoman assured the boy that she would find a special spot for them to watch the parade. The crowd unfroze and began their frenzied swarming to gain a spot along the route.
I looked up into my sons eyes (yes, at 13 he is taller than me now) and paused. I waited for his eyes to acknowledge mine and I said deeply, “I love you buddy.” I saw in his eyes that he understood why I chose to say that right then. He too had seen and felt all the feels of that moment. “I love you too dad.” Both satisfied in our recognition of the circumstances we went about our day, and it was a good day.