Dominic Update #9

When you are just being you, an object in space, your body is doing a hundred hundred thousand things you’re probably not aware of. Things that only become apparent when something disturbs the natural order. It wasn’t until Dominic’s surgery that I learned that the growth plates in bones extend from the ends, so that even though he is very much a growing boy, the titanium rod holding his right femur steady won’t affect its growth. But that in turn led me to ponder in amazement just how leg bones work when they haven’t been broken: there’s these two bones, not at all connected, and they grow at the exact same rate so that your legs stay the same length, all through your childhood. How the heck does that happen?

Or think about walking. When you do it, your feet land on the ground naturally, back to front, heel to toe. Your toes are pointed forward, more or less. Your legs stay under your hips. An intricate dance, performed unconsciously — until something throws it off, at which point you have to get it all back again. That’s where Dominic is. Physical therapy, three times a week, all about stretching, strengthening the right knee and leg, and restoring his natural stride. He is still using one crutch, when he has to walk for a bit, though at this point its function could be replaced by a cane or walking stick or the like. That function probably has a psychological component, though it’s hard to say how much. Every day I sound like a broken record –“Toes forward! Heel to toe!” — and I wonder how much of it is that his leg still isn’t steady enough, and how much of it is that he just needs to learn to trust it again. The trajectory of his recovery is good, the outlook is all good, but I won’t be fully at ease until the limp is gone.

In the middle of all this, we went to Michigan for a week and a half to see family and friends. It had originally been planned for earlier in the summer, but we decided to push it back until a time when Dominic was a little more mobile, which proved to be a good choice. His daily stretches and exercises and his nutrition regime may have suffered a little, but after we got back his physical therapist was pleased with his progress, so we did all right. After Michigan, he and I took a detour on the way home and went to Gencon. This was a plan from long before the accident, so it doesn’t strictly have to do with his recovery — and yet it was recovery, for his mind and soul if not his body. It felt like a closing chapter, a last stop on the long road that started to on May 17.

Gencon is a gaming convention, sixty thousand people filling up the convention center in Indianapolis, all the surrounding hotels, and the neighboring football stadium. Board games, roleplaying games, card games, miniatures — if you’re familiar with that scene you can probably picture it (though it’s way bigger than you’re picturing), and if you’re not, nothing could possibly prepare you. That first day in the exhibit hall, Dominic was like a kid in a candy store, hardly knowing where to go or what to see first. Most people show a little bit of extra deference and caution when they see a kid with a crutch, but, oblivious to the attention, he just used the extra space people afforded him to cut through the crowds that much faster. I was the one who had to hurry to keep up with him.

His main reason for wanting to go to Gencon was to attend a live taping of The Letters Page, his favorite podcast, in front of a studio audience. It consists of two guys, Christopher Badell and Adam Rebottaro, discussing and answering questions about a superhero universe of their own invention, which got its start in a card game they made but has spread to a variety of other games and books. Dominic has listened to every single episode of that podcast, and wanted nothing more than to see a live taping and hopefully ask the guys a couple questions in person.

As a lifelong geek I’d be the last one to look askance at somebody else’s quirky niche interest. But it’s fair to say that before I took him to the taping, I didn’t “get” it — didn’t understand why this particular corner of geeky-gamerdom appealed to him so. Christopher and Adam are masters, though. The world is overfull of dudes chatting into mics about some bullshit and calling it a podcast, but these guys have it all — the wit, the delivery, the banter, the chemistry, the passionate fans. I enjoyed being there just for myself, but it was an incredible seeing Dominic there. He was one hundred and ten percent engaged, laughing at all the jokes, enjoying being among fellow fans, getting to ask his questions, thrilled at their attention — it was literally everything he dreamed it would be.

When you have kids it extends your vulnerability — when they get hurt, it hurts you too. It’s just one of many prices they exact upon you. But the converse is true as well — when they find the thing that gives them deep joy, you get a part of that joy — seeing them happy makes you happy in a way that is deep and real. Seeing Dominic so whole in that moment almost made me believe he might toss his crutch aside and not walk, but run out the room and down the hall — even strides, toes forward — pumping his fist in the air victoriously. That didn’t happen, of course. But maybe he walked out of there a little straighter. And it made me say to myself, once again, believing it a little more each time: Dominic is going to be OK.

Some pictures:

With Christopher and Adam after the podcast. This is a kid who cannot smile naturally for photos 99.9% of the time.
Obligatory escape photo from the trash compactor on the Death Star.
Waiting for the bus, tired and pensive after a long Gencon day.