"I bet I can run faster than you can go on that scooter, Mom."
A thrown gauntlet, for sure.
My daughter Suzahn's double-dog dare in no way influences my judgment.
In a flash of metal and narrowed eyes, we're off. I zip ahead of my running preteen on a silver Razor scooter. "Woo-hoo! I'm smokin' a 12-year-old!" my endorphin-stoked inner child shrieks. I dash down the flat road, a flat road that suddenly becomes a steeply downhill road. Instantly, I morph into a human bullet, flash-frozen in fear. All my college physics knowledge regarding Newton's laws about bodies in motion coalesce: This is really gonna hurt.
"USE THE BRAKE, MOM!!" screeches Suzahn. I squeeze the handlebars. Not working. Why? Because the brake on a Razor scooter is on the back fender. Critical information I know but can't retrieve, and so, I strangle the handlebars in vain.
As I approach 900 mph, the thought "steer onto the grass" penetrates my fear-soaked mind. Contusions likely, but I'll survive. But, no! Murphy and his law park cars between the earth and me.
Another panicked second passes. I try one last idea, proving unequivocally that TV is bad for children: skidding my left foot on the ground to slow down a la Fred Flintstone.
I now know why "Kids, don't try this at home" was coined. Fred apparently bent his knee slightly when using his "foot" brake. I know this to be true, because if your leg is too straight you will catapult over the top of the scooter. On impact you will hallucinate a gong sound, tolling disaster. You will hit the asphalt, still surging forward, for an impromptu exfoliation. Later, at the hospital, you will learn that you've cleaved off a knob -- the outer condyle -- at the top of your left thighbone, and that the force of landing with hands outstretched will have sprained your left wrist and shimmied up your elbow for a radial head fracture. The only part you won't hit is your head -- too bad, because you surely need some sense knocked into you.
"Mom! Are you all right?" Suzahn calls from another planet. "You sure said a lot of swear words!" She giggles, tries to pull me up. "Get Aunt Kathy," I croak. Her grin fades into staring shock; then she sprints uphill to fetch my sister.
Nausea rolls through my guts and out my eye sockets. I resume hugging the warm, non-moving downhill road, head lower than body. Is my left leg on backwards now? I'm afraid to look. Instead, I ponder the fact that I live in Maryland, but I'm sprawled on a road in Lansdale, Pa., ostensibly visiting my younger sister, Carrie, and family. Now they can visit me, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., in the hospital.
The nausea recedes.
Kathy arrives, alarmed. We laugh, cry, laugh some more. What have you done, heehee, I don't know but it's real bad, snort, ow, haha, you need an ambulance, no, no ambulance, you drive me, giggle, sob.
She races for the minivan. At the North Penn Hospital emergency room, a hot orderly pushes my wheelchair, but me not exactly looking my best, sigh. Hours later, after X-rays, CT scans and a lot more swearing, the on-call orthopedist decrees surgery. Tears flow.
Four days later, I'm released: two titanium screws buttress my knee, a "Star Trek" Borg-ian black brace from hip to ankle, 22 staples, left elbow in a cast, four road-rashed joints heavily bandaged, and golden stomach and thigh bruises from countless shots of morphine and blood thinners. Percocet becomes my best friend for two straight weeks; then the creep doctor won't give me any more.
Back in Maryland, I cry because I can't get out of the car. Shower or toilet? Help, please. With this, Kathy reaps the rewards of her caring with angled views of my body that no sister should have to see. I spend eight weeks in a wheelchair. Gain 15 pounds. Endure a summer of physical therapy. Sleep downstairs. Seven weeks post-crash I crawl backward upstairs with one hand and leg, crabbing down the hall so I can tuck my kids in bed. Their rooms are incredible pigsties.
Sympathy from friends changes quickly to smirking eye rolls. My friend, Richard, is the worst. "Tell me the story again," he begs. "I just gotta hear it. Exactly how did you fly through the air?"
Three years later, a six-inch scar embellishes my knee, which aches sometimes. My leg is minutely crooked now, but hey, I can walk. I've abandoned all hope that Playboy will contact me for a photo shoot. Not that I would ever do such a thing. After all, I'm a mature, thinking adult. A sensible mother of three.