Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Summer Day

This has felt like the year without a summer, to me. It's been too cold and rainy to go swimming on each of the three days we had a long enough uninterrupted span of time to do it. Both my kids will be at the high school this fall, so they had to schedule a summer gym class and now we're on to band and soccer practice before school starts (way too early) on August 21.

Part of the reason our schedule has been so relentless is that Walker, who is 13, is having "growing pains," and it's affected his soccer game and therefore our lives. I took him to see a sports medicine doctor in June, who prescribed physical therapy. Yesterday the initial course was finished, but we had to schedule another, because his pain when he runs has persisted, despite exercises and stretching. The physical therapist thinks that his patellar tendonitis (bones grow first and then muscles, ligaments and tendons have to catch up, so the tendon that goes over the kneecap can get over-stretched and irritated) has improved, but now he has pain right where the ligaments and tendons attach to the kneecap, which means the growth plates can be affected. That sounds scary to me, but so does telling a 13-year-old boy that he can't play sports for the next few years.

Doctors and therapists say he can play, but that it would be good for him to rest the knee for "a month or so." He's done that for several months since the pain started to affect his ability to run last April, and it hasn't yet made the inflammation go away. Also he's not likely to stop growing anytime soon (we're a tall family, and he's at the very start of the typical male growth pattern). So what can we do? Last night he went to the first of daily 3-hour practices for the high school soccer team, of which he will be the youngest member. At the end, everyone had to run a mile, except for Walker, who was allowed to run only 1/4 of a mile "so he wouldn't tear anything in his knee," the team captain said to him. He came home in pain, had aspirin and three applications of ice, and got up limping stiffly this morning.

So you see why I'm scheduling hour-long therapy appointments for him until school starts, despite the way it makes the rest of the summer all about driving around town and showing up for appointments on time.

I'm paying attention to where everyone has to be when during the day and wondering what else I should have done during the night, like the speaker in Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day":

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Having no chance to be "idle and blessed," I'm still second-guessing "what I have been doing all day." Don't most mothers? Isn't it almost too much sometimes to have to plan not only what you're going to do with your own "wild and precious life," but also how much you can allow others to do with theirs and still keep them safe and whole to decide for themselves later?


Anonymous said...

oh yeah. soccer and poetry. Boy does this sound familiar!! Thanks. I am not alone.

lemming said...

You chose not to be idle. You have chosen the more active path, albeit one with someone else's knees in the center.

That's the covenant you make with children, IMHO.

SFP said...

I remember growing pains, but nothing like what your son's going through. Poor guy. You're doing what needs to be done and that makes a summer.

Alison said...

One of the trickier aspects of parenthood, I'm finding, is that I can spend an day spectacularly busy, and yet get to the end of it and still not have any real sense of "what I have been doing all day."

Hope Walker's growing pains ease up soon.

Harriet M. Welsch said...

I am most sympathetic. I had terrible problems with that when I was 11-12 and could barely walk some days. I was doing ballet for many hours a week at that point and it was excruciating and it seems like it's never going to go away! Also, I love the poem. It was perfect for today. I hope our warm day is headed your way. It's actually only 83, but after the weather we've had, it feels sultry and summery. My favorite thing for summer: Listening to Samuel Barber's Summer Music turned up loud so I can hear it while lying on my back on the grass under the plum tree.

Anonymous said...

I love that poem. I think it may be the part of the summer where such questions occur. And I agree, it is tough after a certain point to know how much safeguarding to do and where to let go (although in this case, I don't think you have much choice). Pretty soon, though . . .

bermudaonion said...

Poor Walker! That sounds so painful.

Jeanne said...

Thank you all for your kind words. It is painful--to be, and to watch. We just sent the letters resigning him from hopes of the high school team and asking his traveling team to take him back for practices this fall. He had steroids put into his knee today by a process that didn't involve injection, and he'll keep working away at stretching and strengthening.

And resigning hopes of the high school team means a bit more free time this month, which is our silver lining.

FreshHell said...

I had very similar knee problems in high school which worsened in college. I was finally told never to ride a bike. Couldn't take aerobics classes, etc. So, finding exercise compatible with my bad knees has always been difficult.