If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting
Time after time
“Oh, her arm.”
I didn’t see the arm. All I saw was my little girl, back flat to the floor. The man eating his French fries at the table — just inches from where she fell — didn’t break his rhythmic chewing of salt, sweet, and crunch. The ends of my daughter’s long black hair was now grazing his shoe, as she lay shocked and still on the linoleum.
I saw the wheels of her roller skates still spinning.
“Her arm,” repeated the mother next to me. Only minutes before the fall, the woman introduced herself as the mother of one of Joli’s classmates. Our children were here for the same birthday party, and we were walking towards the food area for pizza and cake.
“Oooh, Joli, are you okay?” I calmly walked over.
She had fallen before. Only her second time on skates, Joli had been doing an incredible job. She was still walking/skating her way around the rink, and after an hour she was moving fast enough that her hair – recently blow dried and flat-ironed for the special occasion – was swaying behind her.
I walked towards her, slowly lifted her back off of the floor and got her to standing. “My arm, Mom. I can’t feel my arm,” she whispered to me. Tears began to fall down her tiny face.
I gently pushed her to a carpeted area of the rink, sat her down, and reminded her to breathe. “In and out, Joli. Just breathe in and out.”
I lifted the corner of her sleeve – her favorite pink and brown shirt with the playful white pony on the front. Just an inch past her wrist, her arm was bent at a 90 degree angle.
My brain screamed, “Holy shit!”
My voice whispered, “Okay, honey.” I met her eyes. I wiped her tears. I breathed in. Then out. I could feel the corner of my mouth smile. Both out of pity and comfort. Oh, God. Why Joli?
Pity and comfort moved to action, and things moved quickly from there.
Breathe in. Breathe Out. Comfort Joli.
If you fall, I will catch you. Time after Time.
The next few hours would be spent in the emergency room. Then another ambulance ride. Then another emergency room. Waking her up from anesthesia with a red popsicle, sitting on my husband’s lap as we leaned gently on the metal rail that protected her from us, felt like PTSD. The last time we were leaning into her bed, she was just waking up from surgery to remove her eye.
Suitcase of memories, time after some time.
But, that day, each time, each doctor, each nurse and each moment that passed, I couldn’t help but feel like the luckiest person in the world. Joli was so kind, gracious, and strong. She cried when she needed to. She was helpful when she had to. And, she kept the entire day in perspective. As she was being loaded into the second ambulance, and I was going to drive behind her, she must have sensed I was scared. There was talk of surgery, pins, IV’s, and overnight stays in the hospitals. Though our family has done this all (okay, maybe not the “pins” part), I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. Again.
“Mom, I’ll be okay,” she said, strapped into the gurney, thick black seatbelts fastened over her knees, thighs and chest. “I’ll be okay. Cancer taught me to be strong, right, Mom? So, you know, this is nothing compared to cancer. I’ll see you at the next hospital.” I kissed her and walked away as a tear hit the top of her head. “Oh, and bring me my teddy bear if you go home, okay? The one with the dress!” she yelled.
It was then that I realized, it was never about me catching her. She has always been the one catching me.
If you fall, I will catch you.
Peace, love, and carrying a suitcase of memories,