During my two days in NYC last week, I stayed with my college friend Alan and his family, as I almost always do. I was a poor guest this time, taking advantage of their guest room and their hospitality when I had no time for a proper visit, but they were all as busy as I was this visit anyway. Last October I attended the bar mitzvah of Alan's younger son Gavin, which I wrote about in this journal -- at one point I included a picture of him taken at a bat mitvah a couple of weeks later.
I arrived at Alan's Wednesday afternoon to dump off my suitcase before heading out for my own evening. Alan was waiting for me so that we could drive across the Brooklyn Bridge to pick up Gavin from school, which seemed out of the ordinary (Gavin is now old enough to get himself home from school) but I didn't think about it. The guest room was oddly cleared of various bits of furnishings and the rug was gone. Alan said yeah, he'd explain in a minute, but we had to go. This was of course an odd comment. As we went off to his car he began his explanation of the emptied room with the "He's ok" disclaimer, followed by the announcement that Gavin was run over by a car in January. Yes, run over by a car. But he'll be ok, Alan assured me. He had been visiting friends from summer camp in New Jersey when he was knocked over by a car which subsequently ran him over. The miraculous thing is that there was no head injury, nor any injury to internal organs -- just broken bones. A lot of them. I got a few details here and there, but I really wasn't around enough to get all of the details such a story requires. The outline is that Gavin had been immobilized in a full body cast for a while, and they'd had to put a hospital bed in the guest room for him (thus the destruction of the room's rug). There were various dramatic stories -- all told by Alan and Gavin and Lynda and Gavin's brother Jeremy in a drama-free straightforward manner, in the few minutes I had with each of them. (When I said to Jeremy that I hadn't known about his family's great drama of recent months he seemed baffled until I said that I was talking about Gavin's accident -- to which he said that it was merely a subplot. Such a funny guy.)
The reason we had to pick Gavin up from school is that shortly after he was finally out of his body cast he broke his leg and was now on crutches -- bones get brittle when they are unused for a couple of months, so a trip on the stairs (while they were on a ski vacation, of all things) was all it took. His mother later told me that she had already told him to stop running up and down the stairs when this happened. The break is in a different place from all the previous breaks (and rods and other implements of bone healing).
Gavin was perfectly himself, chattering away, barely noticing me for a minute or two as he filled his father in on some school things. After a bit he told me that he had been reading my journal -- he was bored silly during his immobile months, but he was able to use a computer. His father said he was online all the time, IMing his friends and web-surfing. He found my journal by Googling his own name, which brought him to the picture of him I'd put there. He was wholly astounded at first, until he figured out whose journal it was. My gut response was worry about what I might have written here, although Gavin's father seemed unconcerned on that point. I explained to Gavin that I was little taken aback because when I envision who reads my journal I don't have him in the picture. It turns out he reads what he's interested in and nothing else (of course) -- he was particularly intrigued by Cheese Day. I remained a little weirded out for a while until I realized that what was concerning me was that in my head Gavin is still a boy, but he's not really -- he's 13. When I was 13 there certainly wasn't a topic I should have been shielded from reading about, as of course I was not.
Alan and Lynda may have been perfectly calm about the telling of all this, but I was not calm about the listening. "That's a parents worst nightmare!" I kept saying, and each of them agreed (I never actually saw them together this trip), but both of them pointed out that it was only the first few hours that were so horrible, that by midnight or so it was clear that the injuries were not life-threatening. (Um, so it was only 10 hours when this was not clear? How comforting.) Gavin was awake and alert after the accident -- which is good because the car ran over the cell phone in his pocket and he had to give people his parents' cell phone numbers. Who, I asked, who did you have to give the numbers to? Oh, somebody who was there. Lots of people were there. Nothing ever happens in that town, he said, so the accident was a big deal and everybody gathered around.
As I say, Gavin was perfectly Gavin. When I told him that for the rest of his life he gets to say, with dramatic intensity, "But that was before ... the accident" he laughed. So I'm not completely sure why the whole thing shakes me up so much. Lynda admitted that Gavin was in tremendous pain for a while, and that drugs don't really address pain of that level. Alan said that Gavin was pretty good about the whole thing -- noting that he's good about the really big issues, it's the small things that throw him. Again: Of course.
Still: Yikes. Yikes-a-Rooney.