The phone goes at 5pm last Sunday night.
“Don’t worry,” says my daughter. “It’s all right but…”
Don’t you just hate it when they start the sentence like that? You know there is something to worry about and sure enough, there was.
The four of them had gone out for a lovely family walk through some local woods. George was running about a foot in front (I’m not a metric girl) and tripped. As he did so, he sliced his little right ear lobe against a low wooden bench that he was running past.
The result? It’s virtually hanging off. The ear lobe, that is. Not the bench.
“We’re in A & E,” says my daughter, “waiting to be seen. Hang on. They’re calling us in now.”
My mind is all over the place…
Should I drive in? Is it really all right or is my daughter trying to protect me? (She’s very thoughtful like that.)
“What’s happened?” asks my husband and eldest son.
I try to explain but the words come out all over the place. Meanwhile, I’ve already grabbed the car keys.
It’s a fifty-minute drive to the hospital and there aren’t any free parking spaces. At last I find one. My son-in-law and little Rose are waiting outside the main doors. Because of Covid, they weren’t allowed to go with George and my daughter.
“Thank you so much,” he says gratefully. My heart goes out to them. It’s horrid when these things just come up out of the blue, isn’t it?
As we drive back to their place, we try to reassure little Rose. “It’s fine,” we say. “George just has to be seen by the doctors.”
But then the phone goes again. It’s my daughter. There’s a catch in her voice.
“The doctors think they might need to stitch him under general anaesthetic.”
We’re on another level of worry now. No one likes the idea of a little one going to theatre. I know the risk is small but we don’t want any risk at all, do we?
It had been such a lovely day up to now. In the morning, I’d had George and Rose over to make chocolate crispies and also try out the new paint pens I bought them. (They’re brilliant! You just use them like crayons and the paint doesn’t make such a mess!)
Then they’d gone off on their family outing so full of beans. And now this. The Covid makes it worse because if it wasn’t for restrictions, my son-in-law could have stayed with them. (George is asking for Daddy as we speak.)
“Try not to worry too much,” I tell my son-in-law. “I remember when your wife was three and she had to have a general for grommets.”
What I don’t tell him is that the doctor had given her the anesthetic while she was on my lap to comfort her. I’ll never forget her slumping in my arms as it took immediate effect. In fact, this haunts me now even though the operation was successful.
I need to distract myself
I offer to bathe little Rose while my son-in-law gets her tea ready. “I miss George,” she says, looking round at her rubber ducks and boats which she usually shares with her brother.
Then the phone goes again. It’s my daughter. “They’re going to try gluing it instead and see how that goes. If it doesn’t work, they’ll operate tomorrow.”
“Glue ear?” says my husband when I get home. “I’ve heard of that.”
“You’re thinking of the kind with gunk in it,” I say. “They’re going to glue the torn parts of the ear lobe.”
“Oh,” he says wincing. “You mean they’re going to weld it?”
“Poor little chap. Still, I’m glad it didn’t happen on our watch.”
I know what he means. Freak accidents can happen at any time but as a grandparent, I feel even more responsible for my grandchildren than I did for my own children. Do you agree?
Later in the evening we get another call…
The hospital isn’t keeping George in overnight to reduce infection risks (Covid again). He’s glued and bandaged up and coming home!
Goodness me. He looks like a 1940s’ factory girl with one of those cute bandage hats.
“I was a brave boy,” he says.
My daughter is looking very pale and relieved. “It’s pretty bad but they’re going to check us on Tuesday.”
Fortunately, the glue seems to be doing its bit. But it’s shaken us all up. I know it’s small fry compared with everything that’s happening in the world right now. But once more, it’s a reminder that anything can happen when you least expect it.
It takes me back to some of the scrapes that my own children had. There was the time that my then three-year-old got concussion from falling off a sofa and the day my daughter was fell off a bike and had a really bad knee injury. But the worst was when my eldest son was rushed to hospital aged 12, after someone collided with him during a cricket game. I arrived just in time to see his cheek being stitched up and then promptly fainted. They put us in neighbouring beds on the same ward!
Still, it’s all right now. Or is it? A couple of days later, my daughter drops off George so I can take him to nursery. His face is covered with big blue marks.
“What happened?” I say.
My daughter rolls her eyes. “Permanent marker,” she says. “It got mixed up with their crayons.”
“How’s it going to come off?” I ask.
“Don’t worry. It will, eventually.”
So now we have a child with a bandage round his head and blue spots on his face! I’m rather aware of this when we take him to nursery a couple of days later.
My husband usually comes with me on the school run. It feels safer just in case we break down. A year ago, I would never have worried about this but Covid has made me a bit more nervous.
Besides, my husband (who hasn’t had children of his own) loves talking to the children as though they were adults.
“Now, George,” he says. “Do you know who Einstein is?”
“No,” says George shaking his head from the back.
“He was a very clever man who liked numbers.”
And off they go playing one of their number games in the car. (Perhaps I should say here that numbers are not my strength. In fact, I have to check and double-check the timelines in my novels!)
“You know,” my husband says to me as if I’ve never had children of my own, “it’s very important to stimulate their brains.”
It’s also important to have fun and let your imagination go. Which reminds me. The following day, when my daughter was collecting Rose from school, the church clock struck three.
Little George obviously took this in because when my daughter took him with her to pick up Rose the following day, he stared up at the clock and said, “Play it again, Alexa!”
I’d also like to share two more stories with you from the week…
The first is about Barbara Windsor. When I was a young mum, I was asked to interview her by a magazine. My youngest was only 18 months at the time and I didn’t have anyone to leave him with. But Barbara suggested I brought him with me.
She was lovely and made a wonderful fuss of him. What a lovely lady!
The second story was sent in by a reader called Julie. She has given me permission to tell you about it.
Julie’s granddaughters, now aged six and four, tragically lost their daddy in a car crash in 2018. Since then, it has become a tradition that they post him a card on his birthday and also Christmas.
“This year, they wrote their Christmas cards to him from my house,” says Julie. “I posted them and was about to ask a friend of mine to send a reply. But then they got a card from their ‘daddy in heaven’ from the local Royal Mail centre. They also received a card from Santa, reminding them to hang up their stockings! We’d like to say a big thank you to the staff. They made two little girls very happy.”
If you’ve got a Christmas story to share with us – either past or present – please send it to me at email@example.com.
See you next week!
Jane Corry is the author of five top ten best-sellers. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. Published by Penguin, £7.99 in paperback and also available as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830