Yank youApril 22, 2011
Ancient cinder block garages with ancient overhead doors stand well when tornadoes are swirling about. There is little else to say about them that is positive. The garage at the house in the country sheltered countless litters of feral cats that wandered the countryside, and the attached wooden shed at the back sheltered Grandpa Frank’s chickens. It owned the window through which Grandpa Frank punched his hand, escaping a bee. The drive in front of the garage witnessed family reunions and one unfortunate incident with Grandpa Frank and a can of gasoline. I would guess the entire garage and shed structure also sheltered some creatures about which we never want to know.
It was a terrible place to play. The overhead door weighed a few hundred pounds and once it was on its way down, it was coming down. It stayed up as it should when no one was tugging on it, and we know where the next sentence is going.
Someone tugged on it.
Rules are great in theory, but in practice most are broken from time to time. When a pesky little brother was coming like a tornado into the garage to more-than-probably mess up the General Store play set that Kimberly and Heather had spent hours putting together and setting up just so, a rule like: don’t ever TOUCH the garage door could have easily flown out of their heads for a moment.
There are the ifs. If I had not purchased the play set, if I had not allowed the girls to set it up in the garage, if I had not allowed Joe to go to the back yard to use his outhouse (yes, he had a personal outhouse – doesn’t every little boy want one of those?), if I had not purchased the outhouse, if I had been ready to go outside with Joe rather than being slow that morning and still dressing Jenny, if we didn’t live on the highway the kids wouldn’t be stuck in the back yard (not even an acre was enough to contain your dad), if I hadn’t had children, if I hadn’t married… see where if takes you?
He used his outhouse. He wasn’t supposed to leave the back yard, which would have kept him far from the garage door, but he left the back yard at least once a day. Nothing could stop him – no begging, no threats, no sitting in a little chair in the kitchen staring at the wall, no lock on the gate (he simply climbed the fence—fast—when I turned my head), nothing could stop him short of tying him up.
He went to the garage. The girls saw him coming and Kimberly put her body in front of the play set to protect it. Heather reached for the garage door pull cord… and then remembered the rule. At that moment the garage door began its descent with Joe right under it. Heather thought fast. She kicked Joe in the gut, knocking him outward and to the ground. The only part of him still under the garage door was one little hand. Broken.
We had attached wooden blocks at the bottom of either side of the garage door. They kept the door from coming down all of the way. I don’t remember what made us think to do that.
Heather was devastated, explaining to us how she tried to save Joe from the garage door. She had. It had been truly good, truly quick thinking. She got him out of the way. The carving of Heather’s name I found in the oak bay window seat later in the day hadn’t been such good thinking. Saving her little brother, that was good.
Joe was at the hospital pulling out all of his cutest stuff. X-rays showed his hand was broken in a couple of places, but not badly. He was talking to one nurse as another prepared him for the doctor. He was on his best behavior, politely answering questions.
What’s your name?
How old are you?
When is your birthday?
When the second nurse flipped him over and proceeded to take a rectal temperature, he turned his head back to face her and with his sweetest voice said,
Ohhh, Yank you!