It was Christmas day. 2003 or so. Give or take a year. We had just finished up our holiday visit at my in-laws and were heading out to another engagement. My wife’s sister and her family had arrived after us and, in doing so, had parked their SUV behind us, so my brother-in-law was going to move it while we said our goodbyes to everyone.
My 4-year-old nephew was down on the sidewalk on the other end of the house away from the driveway. My wife, her sister, and her mother were up near the house and I was standing next to them waiting to say my farewells when my nephew noticed that his parent’s vehicle was pulling out. My assumption is that he thought his parents were leaving him and he started racing toward the SUV.
All the women folk started yelling at my nephew and my brother-in-law to stop. My brother-in-law couldn’t hear them and his head was turned in the opposite direction as from where my nephew was coming from. Even so, I’m not so sure he would have been able to see him running toward the moving vehicle because of how high it sat and how small my nephew was. My nephew remained oblivious to the shouts, only knowing that his parents were leaving him and not wanting to be left.
The distance closed as his little body hurtled toward the SUV. I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran. I ran as fast as I could toward my nephew. He was only 5 to 10 feet away and was well over 50 but I was only hoping that my age and size would be enough to get to him before the front wheel did. I honestly don’t think I have ever moved that fast in my life.
I reached him just at the corner of where the driveway met the sidewalk, literally inches away from the SUV. My body was bent, arms stretched out, ready to scoop him up and away from harm. Only problem, as I made my last step, my foot caught the grass at the corner.
And time froze.
For the briefest portion of a nanosecond, as I looked at my nephew, his small frame weighing 40 pounds, I played out the scenario in my head of my 220 pounds coming crashing down on top of him. I would crush him and cause him some serious harm, and I knew that was what was about to happen as my body lurched forward, almost lawn darting head first into the grass on the other side of the sidewalk. So, I did the only thing I knew to do.
I twisted my body in mid-air. I honestly don’t know how I did it. I just know that I twisted to the left as we fell, and as we landed, him in my outstretched arms as far away from my body as I could get him, I felt my left shoulder slam into the ground followed by the side of my head, then my body following suit. Somehow I had twisted just enough to keep him from being under me and with the momentum of my speed accompanied by the sudden shift of forces from my impact into the grass, I started to roll from the left side of my body to the right. I kept him in my outstretched arms as I did, trying my best to hold him, at least until I got him closer to the ground. About three-quarters of the way around, now almost on my right side, my body just gave out and I dropped him onto the grass.
He started crying and all the women folk rushed forward and started calling his name, asking if he was ok, making sure he wasn’t hurt, and just generally doting over him. I on the other hand… I just lay there, grass stuck into my glasses and my shoulder starting to throb. After about 10 seconds, someone remembered I was part of this foray and I saw my wife’s face come into view as she asked me, quite gingerly I might add, “Are you ok?”
I gave the only response I knew she would understand that wouldn’t send up alarm bells to everyone. “Don’t touch me.” She knew exactly what that meant. It meant that I was, in fact, not fine and I just needed a minute to let my mind catch up to the events that just took place. My heart was beating fast, my breathing was rapid, and my shoulder… my shoulder felt like someone just hit it with a sledgehammer.
My shoulder still hurts to this day and today it is especially being grumpy. But, when I think back to this moment in time, when I think about the choices I made and how wrong all of it could have gone, I smile through the pain. My nephew is a teenager these days and for as much I would like for my life not to include shoulder pain, I’m ok with not having to live with the opposite outcome.
After all, I can always take aspirin.