It was an accident. Ex had been drinking.
Yesterday afternoon, my phone rang. It was Ex. “I have a situation.”
“What has happened? Where are you?”
Ex told me that they had been playing carnival games at the state fair, that my son got too close, and “got a cut above his eye.” I think that is what one might call lying by omission.
Readers, I said something regrettable. (Goodbye Zen.) I called him an incompetent clod. I then asked to speak with the attending physician and with the boys.
From them I pieced together a clearer story. I learned that Ex was impressing the boys with his superior strength on a high striker carnival game, the one where you try to ring a bell at the top. (After beers over lunch.) He lifted the heavy mallet over his head and didn’t look to see where the children were. The result: a deep four centimeter gash requiring twenty stitches in four layers above my youngest son’s right eyebrow. We count ourselves fortunate that Ex missed the eye and that there appears to be no brain injury.
My friend and I arrived at the hospital half-way across the state two hours later. I was shown to the room where we spent the next three and a half hours as my son’s wound was numbed, cleaned, numbed again, and meticulously stitched. Ex was also in the room for much of this, gushing affection and comfort, and appearing every bit a concerned father. I said nothing. I was impeccably polite. The hysterical boy was restrained, then sedated. He clung to me and cried.
The injured child left the hospital in my care, while my other son returned with Ex. I had spoken with my attorney en route to the hospital who advised “imminent harm” as the standard by which I could take the both boys and leave. Is this imminent harm? Is twenty stitches enough? Listening to my son whimpering in his sleep before the Tylenol kicked in, I was thinking ‘yes.’
The worst part? My eight-year-old son will now bear the scar of his father’s alcoholism on his own face forever.