Final Thought


By Sonny Rhodes



t has been quite a school year for Team Rhodes.

Abby, the youngest of three siblings, is a high school senior, so we’ve all experienced a number of firsts and lasts this year. The firsts include her driving a car unattended, opening a college acceptance notice, and receiving a scholarship offer. The lasts include a high school open house, a football game, and my last time to drive her to school.

Each of the things I’ve just mentioned would make a pretty good story in itself, but before I get too longwinded, here’s a very brief profile of Little Miss and an account of an anxious night in late November, just four days before her 18th birthday.

Abby works hard at everything. She loves to learn, especially when it comes to math. She also loves to dance and has danced competitively for 10 years, all over this part of the country. I’ve never known anyone who spends as much time hitting the books and the boards.

Further, she loves diversity, her friends representing an array of ethnicities and religions.

She wants to attend a college or university that has strong math and dance programs, plus a diverse student body. (By contrast, my college choice was based on the institution’s purported 4-1 female-to-male ratio.)

Wherever she goes, I believe she will do well because she has a great can-do spirit.

Now for that anxious time in November. It happened late on a Monday night. Abby had been studying for hours in her usual place, the den. Julie and I were in the living room, thinking about going to bed, when we heard music and singing. I remarked to Julie how pleasant it was to hear our daughter singing. I felt warm and content.

Then there was a thud. It’s not unusual to hear thuds coming from the den. When taking breaks from her studies, Abby practices dance moves. Sometimes she loses her footing and falls.

Invariably, a thud is followed by a reassuring, “I’m OK!” This one wasn’t.

Julie called out to see if she was all right. No reply. She went to check.

Then, after hearing only low, indecipherable voices, I went in, too.

I found Julie holding our daughter, who was quietly moaning. All her weight was on her right foot, the left one raised behind her.

The injured ankle was bulging, the knot looking to be nearly the size of a tennis ball. We sat her down for a close examination.

It didn’t look good.

I said, “Let’s get to the emergency room.”

After helping Abby into the car, I sped to the hospital while trying to banish any thoughts of a dislocated ankle or broken bone.

An hour or so later, after paperwork and various vital signs checks, plus X-rays and ibuprofen, we waited quietly and anxiously to hear from the doctor. I was leaning against a wall, thinking about how, just a few days earlier, Abby had started excitedly preparing for a big Christmas dance production. I tried not to imagine her disappointment if the doctor said she’d be out of commission for a while. Don’t anticipate, I told myself. I must have looked pretty grim.

Abby broke the silence.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” she said. She then apologized to us both for disrupting our evening. I thought, here’s a young woman in a lot of pain, facing who knows what sort of challenges, and she’s concerned about her parents’ welfare.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “These things happen. When you’re active, you take chances. We could play it safe and just sit around and watch TV all the time, but life would be pretty boring that way.”

I may not have said it quite that succinctly, but that’s the gist.

Soon we got as good a news as we could have hoped for. No break. No dislocation. It was a sprain. We received crutches, an air splint, and instructions on what to do in the days ahead.

I drove Abby to school earlier than usual the rest of the week, giving her time to retrieve the crutches from the backseat and embark on a long trek to class. She was much better by Friday, her birthday, but to be on the safe side she still used her crutches.

I stayed parked in front of the school and watched through the rearview mirror until my youngest child, now legally an adult, hobbled out of sight.

Somehow, I knew, everything would be all right.

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