Back when I was somewhere around the age of 10, I made this decision to head down to the basement and play around on my brother’s weight bench. I was too small and too weak to lift any of them. I tried though. I tried to lift his weight bar that went across the bench. I pushed as hard as I could. I clenched my teeth; my arms reached upwards with hopes to push and lift the bar and weighted plates from the rack, bringing the weight bar down to my chest, and then pumping out a few quick reps.
Unsuccessful withthe bench press, I tried to lift my brother’s dumbbells. With no success, I began doing sit-ups on the bench. My next move was crawling out from under the weight bar and out through the back of the bench. I cannot say why I chose to do this. I suppose this is just something 10 year-old boys do. But anyway –
Crawling through, I leaned down, my hands extended outward while I stretched my body as straight and stiff as possible. Suddenly, I felt a curious shake occur on my brother’s equipment. As quick as I felt the bench shake, the bench flipped backwards and landed on me. Perhaps with all the weight propped on the weight bar and the additional weight as well as the leverage of my body weighing the top half of the bench—the equipment flipped back. The sound was loud and terrible. It was loud enough for my mother to hear from the upstairs living room.
I was in shock. I could not move nor could I scream. When the bench flipped back, the weight bar fell across the middle of my spine and laid on me. I lacked the air in my lungs to speak loud enough to call out for help. Fortunately, mothers have exceptional hearing.
Standing at the top of the steps, my mother called down to me.
“Are you okay,” she asked nervously.
“No,” I gassed to the best of my ability.
Within seconds, my mother rushed down the steps. I could hear the sound of my mother’s feet running down the wooden stiarcase. I could not turn to see her. I could not move—not with the weights on me. All I could do was lay there helplessly.
My mother was not overly strong or large in size. She was small and pleasantly mannered. She was the type of mom that needed my father or older brother to twist off the caps to jars of peanut butter or pasta sauce. In this case, however, my mother ran down the steps. She approached me as I lay on the floor. Then my mother crouched down, grapping one side of the weight bar with large plates and all—and as if she grew super powers, my mother lifted the weight bar from my back. She moved the bar away and helped me crawl away. I was hurt but not terribly. I was more frightened than anything else
Interestingly enough, if my mother tried to lift that weight bar for any reason other than the motivation to save her son; my mother would not be able to budge the heavy weights. In this case; adrenaline took over. That means true strength comes in times when we need it most.
It’s tough being a kid.
I cut my forehead when I was 9 and took stitches above my left eyebrow. I was hospitalized several times as a young boy. I broke my ankle when I was 12. I broke my collar bone when I was 15. That was a bad one. I broke my collarbone in a motorcycle accident. And worse, I was not wearing a helmet. I was in the hospital for two weeks. Only, I don’t remember it. I was in traction. I had a concussion and to the best of my recollection, the only thing I remember is getting on the bike and telling my friends “See ya later.”
Since I was less than innocent, I found myself on the wrong side of trouble. I found myself on the wrong side of caged doors with the wrong kind of people. I nearly died a few times. I understood what it meant to look down the barrel of a gun that aimed at my forehead. I knew what a gunshot sounded like. As well, I knew what kind of “Thud,” a body makes after a getting shot and bouncing against a car.
Through it all, and at my worst, I admit to feeling powerless. I admit to the pain and confess to the scars I have. There were times when I thought I felt helpless. But helplessness is a relative feeling.
Mid-winter and decades later, I was no longer a young delinquent. I was sober minded and somewhat responsible. I was married and also a father to a beautiful baby girl. She was small and fit perfectly in my arm. She looked at me when I came in the room, as if instinctively, my little girl knew I was her father.
She fell once when she was two. She cut her chin open. This followed with a trip to the emergency room where I felt a feeling I never knew I would have.
This is what helplessness feels like. I wanted to take away my little girl’s pain. At that point, I would have willingly given my life if it meant my daughter would never feel or go through another second of pain. If cutting my entire face off and living the rest of my days as a freak without a face meant that my daughter would have stopped crying—I would have done it.
I never felt so powerless or helpless in my life. I never felt so weak and humbled. As my daughter received stitches in her chin, she called for me.
“Daddy, help me please.”
I could not help.
All I could do was cry
I cried because I could not stop the process. I wept because nothing I could do would stop her pain. There was no way to undo the cut the opened the bottom of her chin. There was no way to stop her fear or keep her from crying.
At that moment, and as irrational as it may seem, if my little girl told me to get the doctor; I would have done this without any hesitation. Without any regard for anyone; without regard for the other patients, nurses, my child’s mother, or anyone else in the hospital; if my little girl told me to get the doctor—I would have snapped violently at him without any hesitation.
There is a line from a movie with Matt Damon speaking to his fiancé that was about to leave him.
He told her, “If we’re not gonna make it; it’s gotta be you that gets out because I’m not capable. I’m Irish. I’ll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life.”
As a man, I understand this. When I was hurt and down—I dealt with it. When I went broke; I dealt with it. I put myself out there. I earned what I could and did what I needed to do. I can absorb pain. In some cases; I can eat pain like candy. I can accept it. I can accept sadness and tolerate desperation. When it comes to me, I can deal with something being wrong. But not when it comes to my family. No, when it comes to something being wrong with them—the pain I feel is excruciating.
I understand now how my mother was able to lift the weights from my back that day. I understand that love is actually stronger than muscle. This is fact. It is also fact that all moms are superheroes.
I know my mom was
As parents, it is our job to protect and care for our children. It is up to us to teach our children—to show them right from wrong. Along the way, we learn about ourselves. Along the way, we understand more about our purpose and our feelings. As our children grow—so do we.
I cannot tell you why bad things happen to children. I cannot answer why doctor visits happen or explain the feelings I have as anything more than helpless when it comes to hospitals, needles, nurses and doctors. I cannot say why any of this happens
Similarly, I cannot tell you why a beautiful little girl named Olivia has stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I cannot explain if this is God’s will. And if it is, I cannot understand why God would will this to be.
All I can tell you is love is stronger than muscle. Love can pick up the world and move the weight from our children’s back.
To the LaSpina family, since your love is insurmountable . . . the strength you have is immeasurable.
Use your strength wisely. And when you need to rest, understand that you have each other and the rest of your family to lean on.
And if you need anything else . . .
That’s where we (your friends) come in
My prayers are on your side