Late Spring 2007
Several months ago, we had our Chinaberry company picnic, which required that a few hearty souls camp out at the park before daybreak to ensure a good spot. Brad, single dad and our warehouse manager, and Shain, his 13-year-old son, were 2 of the good folks who gave up their sleep to be there nice and early.
By the time everyone else started to arrive, the Frisbees, soccer balls, and baseball paraphernalia had appeared and those inclined toward sports were gearing up to make a morning of it -- Shain included. He'd picked up a baseball bat and began warming up with a few practice swings when (some of us saw this happen in slow motion) his dad, schlepping some stuff from the truck, walked from behind Shain, directly into one of his swings and got smacked right in the mouth. As blood poured from Brad's mouth, we rushed to his side and quickly decided to get him to the hospital. Nearby, Shain stood stunned and shaken, devastated that he'd hurt his dad, who did indeed look to be in pretty bad shape.
Now, the parents in the group had an instinctual reaction to tend immediately to Shain, who, we all could imagine, was feeling helpless and truly awful. He was in tears as Brad stumbled to a waiting car. At the last minute, though, Brad yelled for him to come with them to the hospital, and they sped off, not returning for several hours.
Later in the day, I spoke to Brad, who, understandably, wasn't able to speak to me very well, considering the stitches and bruising. He did manage to tell me that the only 2 things that went through his mind as the lightning of pain flashed in his eyes and the sound of cracking jaw filled his ears were 1) are all my teeth still in my mouth? and 2) Oh God! Shain! Is he OK?
It struck me right then, and some of us have talked about it since, that being a parent changes so much of what we think and the order in which we think it. That Shain's well-being was what Brad thought of in the first nanosecond of his dramatic injury is fairly amazing -- unless you're a parent. For most of us, something just clicks from the moment you see your baby for the first time and sets something in motion that will, over time, change us radically and irrevocably. The parenting journey takes us on a ride that leaves us selfless in ways we would never have imagined. Whether or not Brad already knew this before being smacked in the face by his own son's baseball bat, he surely knows it now and would be the first to agree that it's awesome, humbling, and really, quite wonderful.