Friday, May 13, 2011

ACL Diary: The Ugly, The Bad and The Good

Willow’s dad—the true videographer in the family—was out of town during the game when she tore her ACL. This is why I was behind the camera.

I was recording for two reasons. One, so her dad could watch the game later, and two, because I was putting together college recruitment videos for Willow and another girl on the team, and I was hungry for highlights. Instead, however, I captured what can only be called a career lowlight.

There was nothing pretty about watching through the focused lens of the camera as my daughter collapsed. My immediate reaction, captured on the audio, was to distinctly breathe out my go-to ugly word: “shit.”

So, this whole ordeal—in spite of her good play leading up to this day—started with the ugly.

It’s obvious that Willow is a very pretty young woman; however, she was also a beautiful baby. At birth, this 6 lb. 12 oz newborn didn’t have a single mark on her body. No freckles, moles, spots or storkbites. We searched for birthmarks of any kind and found none. That’s changed, of course, over the past 16 years and I, for one, know that she has earned every spot, scar, nick and bruise. A majority of these marks, including the substantial slide strawberries on each hip, have come from soccer.

Three days after the ACL replacement surgery, we held our breath as we removed Willow’s dressings. Bracing ourselves for the big reveal—once we exposed her naked knee and laid eyes upon all the little patches of royal blue stitches marking the procedure, we didn’t know whether to crinkle our noses and utter a series of “ewwwwwwwwwwws,” OR purse our lips and say, “well, this isn’t so bad.”

The bad part, aside from the fact that it happened, was the timing of the surgery. Initially we thought it was good in that it coincided with Willow’s Spring break, however, it just so happened we had company at this time—planned long in advance—and our house was like a circus with non-stop commotion. Willow was so drugged out at first, that she didn’t notice; however, on Good Friday, the day after her surgery, she tried to join us for the annual Easter ritual of dying eggs.

Poor kid, she lasted only long enough to dip one egg in the blue dye before the clamor of the room was too much for her and she had to crutch her way back to her room.

Suffice it to say, one can usually find a way to express that the timing of an injury like this is just plain bad. It’s so distruptive to immediate and even longer-term plans. We cancelled our team’s participation in a college showcase event and we had to cancel soccer camp in July. There went that deposit up in smoke. An injury requiring months of rehab makes priorities change whether you like it or not.

Aah, but there was good. The good that came from the days following surgery was primarily from Willow’s BFF, Megan. She truly showed what a good friend she is. Megan and I were in touch via text from the moment Willow was in the recovery room, and once she knew we were on our way home, she wasted no time in getting to Willow’s bedside.

She remained there for most of their Spring break.

We already considered this darling young woman a part of our family; however, during this chaotic time, Megan added to the laughter in the room. She helped us eat our leftovers and dye our Easter eggs. She assisted Willow in every way she could, including putting on her bathing suit and getting Willow through her first traumatic shower on Saturday, which was shortly after we removed the bandages.

Megan wasn’t the only friend who showed her true colors at this time. Many, many friends and moms and members of Willow’s team came by with cards, balloons, candy, ice cream (lemon sorbet!) Easter baskets, Purple Heart proclamations, and poetry (in the form of rap—you KNOW who you are MAC), an ice machine, and a truckload of moral support. They held her hand, patted her head, kissed her cheek and offered their smiles. They made her laugh, and they made her feel very loved.

It was a pretty extreme way to find out who her good friends are; however, we know Willow was as grateful for the company and well wishes, as we were for the distractions to what we’d all just experienced.

Thanks everyone. You’re good friends and we love you.

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