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The Crutch Master’s Lament

Sam, our younger son, recently injured his hip. Nothing terrible, but enough to land him on crutches for ten days. As parents, Dena and I have had to manage the requisite injuries one might expect in a household with two boys. Sam has had several rounds of stitches. Ben broke his arm and his nose (possibly more than once, in a story that might or might not involve some or all of the following elements: seesaws, horse chases, chain fights, inflatable moonwalks, Michael Jackson moonwalks, and one very questionable vacation Bible school). We’ve had bumps, bruises, twists, and sprains, but this was our first experience with crutches.

I’ve done a lot of things and seen even more things, but nothing quite prepared me for the thing known as the thirteen-year-old boy crutcher. (Hereafter abbreviated 13YOBC.) As a public service, I would like to pass along some observations about the 13YOBC. Please read carefully. I feel certain this information will save lives.

Observation number one: Crutching is not an organic extension of walking.

At my advanced age, after numerous childhood injuries and two knee surgeries, I’m a crutch master. I can crutch forwards, backwards, and serpentine. I can pirouette, do-si-do, and even loop-de-loop. If you’ve ever been out on a run and caught a glint of metal out of the corner of your eye at the same time you felt a whoosh of passing air, that was me. I’m one fast mother crutcher. So I had forgotten that the young crutcher is like a sparrow learning how to manage its downy wings.

Actually, the 13YOBC is nothing like a fledging sparrow stretching its wings. The 13YOBC is more like a gin drunk with twin jackhammers. If a crutch master moves like a gracefully choreographed ballet, a 13YOBC is a street riot. If the sound of a crutch master in action has the snappy percussive hook of a drummer keeping time in a pop song, a 13YOBC has the seismic signature of tectonic subduction.

Observation number two: Crutching can be hazardous to your health. (And by yours, I mean mine.)

This is ironic, right? Because the tools provided to assist Sam through his injury are themselves weapons of mass des-crutch-ion. You know those hurricane infographics that show how far hurricane- and tropical-force winds extend from the storm’s eye? The destructive radius of the 13YOBC should be measured in similar terms. They are a category-5 threat to life and property. Toes and shins aren’t the only potential targets of the 13YOBC in motion. Furniture, vases, windows, and ceiling fans are all in danger. Pets are especially vulnerable. As Sam careened about with his new metal appendages, our dogs looked on with a mixture of fear and pity. Four legs, their eyes seemed to say, harder than it looks.

And that’s just ground-level crutching. Ascending and descending stairs amps up the danger. I worked patiently with Sam on the proper procedures for navigating stairs on crutches, and yet there he was, zipping around the corner, hitting the stairwell full-tilt, catching the edge of
his crutch, and nearly tumbling down the steps.

“Did you not listen to a word I said?”
I cried. “You would have broken your neck if it weren’t for the handrail.”

He looked at me with the patient respect all 13-year-olds have in such bountiful abundance and said, “Why, yes. That’s the purpose of the handrail.”

Observation number three: A crutch is not just a mobility assistant.

It is a brother poker, a dog petter, a blanket hooker, a door closer, a lightswitch flipper, a father tripper, a back scratcher, a fly swatter, a brother poker, a ball retriever, a ceiling pounder, a golf putter, a jacket holder, a channel changer, a mother annoyer, a baseball batter, a bed maker, a toilet flusher, and, did I mention? – a brother poker.

Observation number four: Relativity is real.

When the doctor released Sam from his crutches, the calendar indicated that only ten days had passed, but in terms of impact, it felt like years. Certainly, my hair contained several birthdays of additional gray, but the house told the full story. I could swear we had painted recently, but rubber skid marks lined the walls. Drywall was chipped and gouged up and down the stairway. The floor, which only days ago had looked shiny and new, bore the scars of hard living. The dogs displayed symptoms of PTSD.

I had the feeling that if I turned around I would, somewhere in the distance, see us all as we were, as we would have been, shining bright and unencumbered, had it not been for the 13YOBC.

Only Sam was the same as before. In fact, he was better. Not only was his hip healing up nicely, he had used his time off his feet to whip me in precisely forty-eight games of Monopoly, thirty-four games of Connect Four, and a few random hands of Kings in the Corner. And then there was the daily ration of pity ice cream he had managed to con out of his soft-hearted parents.

It’s been a few days since I stashed his crutches deep in a closet from whence I hope they will never emerge, and some semblance of normalcy is returning to our household. Sam is back to dunking on his Nerf hoop. The dogs have emerged from their undisclosed bunkers. Dena has stopped weeping every time she discovers an additional chunk of drywall gone. And as for me, I’ll be fine just as soon as I complete this homeowner’s
insurance request.

Reason for claim: 13YOBC.

A writer and photographer, Chris Moore lives in the West End with his wife and their two sons. A regular contributor to RFM, he writes features, contributes photo essays, and for six years, chronicled true stories of parenting in the DadZone.
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