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Road Trip — Part Six

This story made a brief appearance in “Doctored Memories” (May 12, 2010) but it lends itself easily to our “Road Trip” series. So I expanded the story for your enjoyment. Billy

For many, many years, our family made an annual summer move to the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, New York. At different points in time, we would either serve on faculty (Ellen and me, of course), as fac brats (Katie, Jonah and Aiden, of course) or as actual program participants (that would be Jonah). Oh, and for one summer, toilet cleaner and pot scrubber (Jonah again). In the early years (1991-95) we made quite the road trip from Cleveland, Ohio, in order to find our way to Warwick. This 8-hour drive took us 11 hours because, having three young children, we had to allow for outrageously frequent bathroom stops. There’s nothing much more urgent than a child crying from the backseat, “I really need to go!”

Jonah @ Kutz Summer 1996

Jonah @ Kutz
Summer 1996

In the summer of 1996, we took an entirely different kind of road trip. Geographically, not much ground was covered – only maybe five miles (about an 8-minute ride) from Kutz to the Warwick Hospital. But the urgency tapped into a set of emotions that parents do their very best to not have to call upon.

While at camp our address was on Faculty Row, a handful of bungalow-type cabins which contained just enough tiny rooms to sleep, eat a light meal and (if you’re a kid) engage in some quiet play. Jonah and Katie had been sharing a room with a bunk bed – Katie on the bottom and Jonah up on top. Baby Aiden, all of two years old, camped out on the roof. No, he had himself a crib that was shoved into an even tinier room of his own.

On one particular evening, sometime after midnight, Ellen and I awoke with a start as we heard a thump and a very groggy whimpering. It seems that my sleeping Jonah had managed to roll himself off his bed (the top bunk, remember) and, on his way down (while taking in the sights, perhaps) struck the edge of a small night table that no one would ever for even a minute have thought could be a danger to a child.

An inch or two of Jonah’s forehead was cut open down to the bone. Blood was pouring out, drenching the blue Superman t-shirt in which he had gone to sleep earlier that evening. The irony of his choice for sleeping garb was not lost on us. Lots of kids wonder if they can fly. Ours decided to try it while he was asleep.

The Faculty Row cabins housed two families. Lucky for us, Laura, the camp nurse, was our immediate neighbor. We banged on the wall and shouted for her to come over. Her first task was to convince us that Jonah wasn’t bleeding to death. That wasn’t immediately apparent judging by the aforementioned Superman shirt. But keeping her cool, she patched Jonah up and we loaded him into the car, driving into Warwick to the local emergency room. When we got there, the medical staff had us restrain Jonah’s young arms behind him and inside of a pillow case, then they wrapped his entire body in a large sheet, so that we could hold still his squirming 6-year-old frame for novocaine injections and stitches. We attempted to comfort Jonah as this was going on by reminding him that he was the grandson of two doctors, but it wasn’t much help in convincing him that the hospital staff could be trusted. I have to admit that when I saw them going for his head with a large sewing needle, even though I’d watched them administer the anaesthetic (and even though I was the direct descendant of a doctor), I wasn’t so sure myself that this wasn’t torture.

But eventually they did stitch him up and got most of the blood washed off. We took him back to Kutz Camp where he fell quickly into a very exhausted, peaceful sleep. The road trip (or should we call it “head trip”) was over.

See Jonah’s scar? Kutz, Summer 1996

See Jonah’s scar?
Kutz, Summer 1996

But not really. Six years later, Jonah would write for a school project, “Since I was the kind of kid who liked reading Batman, I thought that stitches would’ve made me look like a thug. So I put up a real fight at the hospital. In the end I ended up getting the stitches and going home like nothing happened.” Fight he did. Stitches he got. And home he went. But for the rest of his life, Jonah had a spiffy little scar on his forehead which, at various times, he would grow hair to cover or cut short to let the world know he had some unique markings all his own.

Life with Jonah was often a trip. And there were unique markings all over him, but they were on the inside. I loved watching this kid live his life. Once he got the hang of it, he had such a great time. In a sense, all of our lives have stitches. Most of us bang our heads on surprising obstacles more times than we’d think. But with the help of a few good people who care, we can get patched up and back on the top bunk in almost no time at all. That’s life. It roughs us up. But more often than not, lets us patch together really excellent journeys. That’s what a little boy named Jonah did. And if we’re brave, and don’t mind a few scars, we can do the same.

2013.06.RoadTrip.BlogPostBy the way, the very next day after Jonah’s little experiment with nocturnal flight, Kutz built guardrails for every top bunk in camp. In the end, Jonah may have gotten a great story to tell but, like I wrote above, parents would prefer not to have to call upon those emotions if they can possibly help it. If kids want to take flight at night, they’ll have to settle for doing so in their dreams.

Which isn’t a half-bad place to initiate some amazing road trips.

Billy

P.S. “Road Trip” is The Jonah Maccabee Foundation’s summer fundraiser for 2013. Remembering some of the fun Jonah had on these vacations, we’d like to help other kids to enjoy and to grow during their own childhood years. Please consider making your tax-deductible gift at jonahmac.org by Sunday, July 31. Okay, or any other time. Thank you.

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