To Break Oneself Again . . .

Taylor watched his mom and dad come toward him with trepidation. They had made it explicitly clear that if he hurt himself skateboarding again, he would pay for the medical expenses. His dad he figured he could work around to his point of view, but his mom was a dead-wringer for what she called “follow through” and “logical consequences.”

It really wasn’t his fault. The park was not kept up to standard and the edge of his board had caught on the ragged lip of the incline when he tried to jump.

“Hey,” he called weakly, torn between relief and anxiety.

He searched his mom’s face for any indication of anger and decided that if she was angry, she was hiding it well. She sighed as she sat down beside him and observed, “You’re bleeding. Did the  . . . “

“No, mom,” he hastily interjected. “The bone is not poking through.”

Taylor had had enough broken bones to know, and then he gasped as his mom gently cupped his hand under hers and raised it closer to look. Her face remained still, as she searched his, giving no indication of what she was thinking or feeling.

“Stop!” he said. “That hurts.”

“I imagine it does,” she responded. “Can you walk to the car?”

“Well, duh,” Taylor carefully stood up, grimacing as pain shot up his arm. His dad hovered, finally turning to walk beside Taylor as they carefully picked their way across the wet lawn.

“Which hospital?” his dad inquired mildly.

This was going to be bad, Taylor groaned inwardly. Usually, he could count on some sort of reaction from his parents, but so far they were staying more collected than he could ever recall.

“Let’s just go see my regular doctor,” Taylor suggested. “It’ll cost less,” he continued, hoping that his thinking ahead to cost would score at least one or two points with his parents.

“They aren’t open on Saturdays, I don’t think,” his mom replied, sliding he van door open and carefully latching the seat belt around Taylor. He gasped when his hand was slightly jostled, and she climbed in next to him.

“Call and find out,” he said.

His mom shrugged and dialed the number on her cell phone. After a pause, she said, “Nope,” and leaned forward to his dad. “Let’s just go to the closest one.”

“All right,” his dad agreed and started backed out of the parking spot.

As far as Taylor could tell on the drive over, his dad was deliberately hitting every bump he could and taking corners sharply. Taylor opened his mouth to complain and hastily shut it again when he caught the expression on his dad’s face.

“Slow down, dear,” Taylor’s mom said sharply. “You’re not an ambulance and every bump and corner is causing pain.”

Taylor’s dad grunted, and tapped on the brakes.

Taylor felt tears spring to his eyes. His dad was really upset. Taylor couldn’t imagine why else the man would drive so chaotically when his son was hurt.

“I hope the hospital is back on the preferred provider list,” he heard his mom remark to his dad. “The last time Taylor broke something, it cost several thousand after the insurance paid their portion. Don’t worry, Taylor,” she added. Taylor hoped he heard a note of kindness in her voice  . . . and then slumped in defeat as she went on, “Your dad and I will allow you to make payments to us until the bill is paid off.”

His dad harrumphed up front. “Seems logical to me.”

“A perfectly natural consequence,” Taylor’s mom added, “especially when Taylor was clearly told unwise decisions about his activities resulting in hospital visits would mean he paid.”

Taylor could feel a sinking sensation inside. His parents meant it, and with his dad agreeing with his mom, he could foresee months and years of slowly repaying a hospital and doctor bill that looked insurmountable before the costs had already rolled in. He wasn’t sure if he imagined it or not, but he thought he could hear a chuckle in his parents conversation.

They were happy about this! “Hey!” he said, indignantly. “Don’t make fun of me!”

“We’re not, dear,” his mother replied. “We’re just rejoicing that you can learn a valuable lesson at such relatively low cost. Your accident could have been much worse since you were not wearing any safety gear.”

Taylor gaped at her. She was happy, he realized. But why, he couldn’t understand.

You’ll understand someday when you have your own children,” she smiled sweetly at him, and rummaged in her purse for the insurance card.