“Perhaps the very best question that you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is, ‘What is the most valuable use of my time right now?’ “
~ Brian Tracy
One evening years ago as we’d just sat down for dinner, the phone rang. My husband answered. It was our oldest son who, two weeks prior, had graduated from college. He and two buddies had gone camping in central Oregon. After some preliminary catch up, the rest of us heard a pause in the conversation. We noticed that my husband suddenly looked concerned after asking, “How are things going?” The next thing we heard was, “A situation?“
Our son had called to tell us there was a situation.
That evening was Saturday, May 10, 2008, the beginning of Mother’s Day weekend, and the next day, my birthday. Our son had called to say he’d been in an accident, assured us he was OK, but that he needed to have surgery soon. He’d broken his jaw in two places: the worst was center front, a clean break through his chin, and the other, a compound fracture, next to a lower molar.
Accident?! Broken jaw?! Surgery?! A situation?!
We learned surgery would be early Sunday morning, May 11. Our son had been bumped down a notch on the surgical priority list. Another young man whose leg had been badly broken was deemed more urgent; his surgery would be that night. Our son was stable, not in pain, and all considered, a pretty lucky young man. His surgery would be first thing the next morning.
We drove to Bend early the next morning while our son was having his jaw repaired. It was my 49th birthday. Situated in a ski area, this hospital is known for its great emergency care. We arrived just as our son had been wheeled to his room.
There are many things I’ll never forget about that weekend. Our son was treated exceptionally well and healed nicely from that day. The two buddies acted quickly and responsibly. The accident did not involve drinking or driving. The injuries could have been much, much worse. The kindness shown to us by one of the buddy’s parents won’t be forgotten; they offered us their camper to avoid a hotel bill. It was an interesting way to spend a birthday, and I’ve since asked all of my children not to do this or anything of the kind ever again (but especially on my birthday). One family joke that emerged from the experience has been our son’s use of the word situation during his description of his accident.
And there it is. The situation.
Sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected situation. We must act and behave accordingly, the best way we can. We sometimes are forced to make decisions quickly, we stay in places we otherwise would not, we meet people we’d never have met if not for the situation. We learn to take care of ourselves with the help of others, and sometimes discover kindness in places we would never expect.
I wasn’t the birthday girl, my role was mom and all I could think about in those moments. Our son was released from the hospital with his jaw wired shut–this lasted for eight long weeks–and lots of instructions for how to prevent choking, vomiting, and how to cut open the wires should either occur. Our drive home was long; dizziness was possible, so our three-plus-hour commute was deliberately slow. Food and diet were drastically altered to accommodate our son’s needs. Follow up appointments were made with doctors and oral surgeons.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t know what to do. A situation can feel surreal. The most valuable use of our time was to do the best we could for our son during those weeks. We learned what we needed to do and we acted. Right now, my time is best used caring for my husband. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, but I do what I can. Each situation requires I put on my big girl panties and do just that.
One thing I know for sure: I will always smile when I hear the word situation.