I wasn't there this time when the occupational therapists at NYU set him up with it. I came home and found him already armed and ready for battle. He was happily clobbering his toys with loud pronounced karate chops. He was soon clobbering me with the same delight and force.
"Whack! Chop! Smash!" He sounded more like a junior member of the cast to Enter the Dragon than a boy in therapy. It was a relief to see him having some fun.
As much as I dread these sessions, it wasn't as hard for me as it was last summer when I waited in the office at NYU with my wife while they heated up the material and formed it to his arm. That initial visit reminded me of when my own broken arm had been put in a cast. It reminded me of all the adult feelings I associated with his experience: restraint, frustration, weakness. It made me feel lousy to watch that little cast go onto my baby son; I just wanted to grab the boy and run.
And I like that cast very little more now, even now, when I know how much good I've seen come from it. When I had to put it on his arm after a bath and he resisted it and twisted and cried I felt awful. When he wanted to pick something up with his arm and could only nudge it with the hard cast and looked up at me for help I hated it. When he went to rub his nose or his eyes and forgot he had the cast on and wumped himself on the forehead, I cringed. It is a lousy necessity.
But these moments of frustration are just that, moments. During his therapy, my son constantly reminded me how quickly we adapt; he reminded me how adept we can be when we're forced to work with less than all our faculties. He reminded me of the captain of a hockey team with a man down in the penalty box who somehow rallies his remaining squad to score. No matter what the obstacle, the boy just manned up to it and plowed through. I was (and am) wonderfully proud.
Just the same, I don't know quite what to do with these little relics of his constraint experience. I don't know and can't fathom what the boy will want when he's grown. It may be that he'll want to have them and know about this time in his life. I suppose I should save them against that possibility. The little cast is innocuous enough by itself and it doesn't take up much space.
But for me, each time I look at it, I feel as if it might still be trouble. I know I'll never want to find it in an old trunk or box or storage closet and confront it suddenly like the scales from a great red dragon that might suddenly call their old owner back into existence to billow smoke and snort dangerously at us again. I look at it and know that as much as it's helped us, I will never be friends with that little piece of plastic.
I'll keep it just the same. I suppose I could be wrong.