Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Amidst this crazy week...

I have talked with a fascinating older couple. He is in his seventies and is kindly employing my sons and my nephew to prepare his soil for a new lawn. The mention of his grove of olive trees brings stories of the aged olive trees in Bethlehem where he was raised, of the dream of making olive oil ("We will need a good rain before we can use the olives for oil") and the joy of canned pickled olives throughout the year. The preparation for the lawn reminds him of stories of clear-weather Pascha celebrations in their backyard, with the priest pulling up his cassock in order to play football with the children. The mention of homeschooling has him asking delightful questions of my children. "Do you like your teacher? Is she tough? Ah, that is good. Tough is good, children." Stories of education in Bethlehem with the Franciscans, the very meaning of the word tough, brought smiles to our faces and gave us a hint as to where this lovely man has learned to be so disciplined.

There is no hurrying at this house. The boys get right to work, as their available hours are short, but I have the great privilege of lingering. The white stucco walls and the hills covered with olive trees and grape vines are enough to put me in the Mediterranean, except for the breathtaking view of the American River canyon we can admire as we visit. There is a complete lack of American (perhaps even more so Californian) rushed productivity. There is time for a smile and a demitasse cup of their dark, beloved coffee. And there is time for stories. For connecting. It is a gift to me.

Especially this week. Amidst the regular week, we are preparing for good friends to visit on Friday. Or, we would have been preparing if my boys hadn't had injuries serious enough to visit the doctor. The guilty parties: My youngest son fell from a swing and got hit in the face with a board, resulting in a wound to the side of his eye that makes me praise God's design of the zygomatic bone. That one bone protected the eye itself from being injured. He can easily pretend to be a pirate this week (or a prize fighter, or .... a nine year old boy.)

In addition, son #2 has had a sore thumb since his brother's birthday party a month ago. He does not complain. I like that quality in him, but this is not the first time it has back-fired for us. He finally asked me on Monday night, after carrying heavy boxes to and from the Boy Scout meeting, if he could go to the doctor. Since we needed to have his brother's eye checked out (it was swollen shut, with bruising and blood as design elements) I just added him in to the appointment. The eye made the biggest stir, but it was the thumb that became the real deal. An x-ray brought the confirmation that he had torn his ligament. A month ago. And this is a month that has included a couple of football games, hauling heavy boxes and trash cans, and the above-mentioned lawn prep; is it any wonder that it still hurts? We're hoping that with a few weeks of rest, he won't have to have it surgically repaired.

The name of this injury is "Game Keeper's Thumb." I thought it was a reference to video game use, and I was about to go on and on (and on and on) about how he doesn't play video games, but I was wrong about the game.

"The name comes from the European gamekeepers who would kill their game by grasping the head of the animal between their thumb and index finger to break its neck." (Information found here.)

Okay. Not really in our realm either. But, the modern, sports-related injury is exactly what we have here.

This part caused me a little pause: Surgery is usually most effective when performed within the first few weeks following injury. Oops. There is a reason for pain, and that reason is not always to show how quiet and tough we can be. Well, it is NEVER to show how quiet and tough I can be. But, for my thumb-aching son, this is his M.O. When he was five, and his front teeth became abscessed, he didn't complain. As his face began to swell, and I wondered why he looked funny, he didn't complain. As I called the advice nurse, and she finally figured out that it was a problem with his teeth, and the urgency kicked in, he still was not complaining. Dentist immediately. Emergency. And then the dental assistant told him, "Oh, sweetie. You have to tell Mommy when it hurts." The look on that five-year-old's face told me more about the future than I knew at the time. He really did not get it. Why talk about pain if it can just be happily endured? Well, you could DIE, son! Or have a thumb that never works right. The big motivator this time? He's left-handed. How in the world will he write his notes during a debate round if he can't write? Aha. Maybe that will be the motivation he's needed to talk about the pain. Or he'll just learn to write with his right hand, which is what I have seen him doing since we got home from the doctor yesterday.

These aren't the only crazy parts of this week. I am The Driver for five children and my mother, until my son gets his license. Some weeks that is minimal. This week it is nuts. If you need me, I'll be in the van.

That is why the gift of thick coffee and stories told with an accent and the olive groves with their dreamed of olive oil harvest have been so transporting. Completely. I drive away, needing to get to the next stop in my day. But it is not the same, harried drive. The kindness of new friends stays with me as I drive on. Thank you.

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