A list of 41 things I love about Clay, on his 41st birthday.

I watch the obliviously mortal

One day, when I was six, I was playing on the swings at recess. I was swinging high, an exhilarating swoop with a stomach-lurching hop at the top of the arc. As I soared forward through the air, the bell rang to signal the end of recess. And so, as I reached the apex of my swing, I leaped.

Because the bell rang.

I landed flat out on my stomach on the blacktop of the ball court. My head bounced off my left forearm and there bloomed a spidery crack in one of the bones and an impressive concussion in my foolish little girl head.

This afternoon I sat in a park, my folding chair planted in soft green grass. The sun warmed my back and slid away as puffy clouds took their appropriate place in an appropriately springlike sky (but hey, Colorado, THANKS A FREAKING BUNCH for all that snow on Easter. Lovely). Raphael was having his T-ball practice – racing around, scooping up balls, sprinting between bases like he was getting graded on it. The child loves him some T-ball. I’m not sure how that happened. I leafed through a magazine and tried not to think about all the ways Tre and Max could seriously injure themselves on the playground.

I spent that night in the hospital, when I was six. Nurses woke me up regularly to see if I was coherent. I was bewildered by them. No, seriously, WHAT? Why are you waking me up again? And why can’t you remember my name? It wasn’t until I was 22 and had my second concussion from a car accident that I realized what that was all about. That time it was my cousin Melyssa who had the privilege of waking me up every few hours – “What’s your name? What year is it?” – and I finally realized that the nurses weren’t just being mean, they were making sure I wasn’t dying of brain swelling.

Max shimmied up the side of the monkey bars and climbed up on top of them. He twined his legs around one of the cross bars and hung down, his hair fanning out and catching the afternoon light. He swayed, laughing at whatever Tre was doing on the platform. I sat very still, looking at his legs, calculating their strength and how long they would hold him, pondering the cushioning abilities of the rocks below.

The next morning was another little girl in my hospital room, a few years older than me. She’d also fallen on the playground. She’d been playing on those parallel metal bars and slipped. Just slipped.

“I hit this metal plate thing on the ground – the thing that the bars were fastened to?” I nodded, even though I had no idea what she meant. It didn’t matter, because she was immobilized in a brace and couldn’t see me. She stared at the ceiling and told me about it.

“And then I passed out, and when I woke up here they told me I broke a bone in my back.” Her voice shook. “Do you think that means I won’t be able to walk?”

“Oh no,” I said, “of course not.”

What I thought, though, was duh. You broke your back and so you are going to be stuck in a wheelchair forever and maybe you’ll have to live here, and that is really terrible, because the nurses wake you up all the time.

Now, thinking back, I bet she was fine. I’m sure she’d have been in intensive care if she’d had a spinal cord injury…right?

Coach Tom called the boys into a huddle and gave them instructions for Wednesday’s game. He waved them away, and they scattered, racing off toward their parents. I called to Tre and Max and they abandoned their game of tag and jogged over to me.

I watched them go out of their way so they had to clamber over a fence, to sprint as hard as they could, jostling each other as they ran, and arrive at the van out of breath, sweaty and unharmed.

Accidents happen, you may have heard.

And when you know that’s true, it’s even sweeter to realize that usually…most days…accidents don’t happen.



You SCARED me. I thought something bad had happened to one of your boys.


Terrorists. From the moment of conception.

I remember how by the next morning you were playing games with the controls of the hospital bed (up, down, head and feet up, etc)and discovered that they would bring you a can of coke whenever you wanted. I remember how wrong it felt to be home in my own bed, while you stayed in the hospital. What a terrifying delight you were.

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