The Parent Imperfect just returned from a trip to England for work, which explains his absence here. While there, he stayed with friends in the sleepy bedroom village of , about an hour by train south of London. Sara and Peter have a 16-year old daughter at home and an 18-year-old boy who had just gone to university about six hours from home in the north of the country.
For some reason, their son give his parents full access to the foolishness on his Facebook account as a way of staying in touch. Just before midnight one night, Sara checked in on Facebook to see how D. was doing. His status was something like, “I’m in the A & E (Emergency Room) and everyone is looking at me. I’ve lost one tooth and got blood everywhere.”
With remarkable calm, his mother rang him up on his cellphone to find out if this was just another joke. To the PI’s shock, D. answered, something that happens very seldom in PI-land. This was no joke. D. had been out for the evening with his new girlfriend and had somehow fallen onto the street, hitting his mouth on the corner of the curb. His mother was clearly frustrated with D,. and very much wanted to find out if there had been liquor involved and to tell him what a boob he had been. Instead, she managed to stay focused on trying to make him feel better. The PI couldn’t hear D. on the other end, but imagined that hearing from his mother in this way must have lifted his spririts. Would the PI have been as focused on what was needed by his own son, rather than his own need to express his frustrations? Maybe.
After a short conversation, the A & E staff came to take him in for emergency treatment. He signed off, telling his mother not to worry and that he would call in the AM.
Sara awakened on Saturday looking anything but rested. As soon as it seemed reasonable, she and her daughter, Pamela, skyped D. in hopes of getting a look at him. It wasn’t a pretty sight. His face was very swollen and a space gaped where a front tooth had been. D and his girlfriend were getting ready to go see an “emergency dentist.” He was in a lot of pain, but able to laugh about the whole thing. The emergency dentist is is a private service, outside of the British National Health Service. Since D. would probably have to pay for this service (something that he is not accustomed to), his mother’s first concern was whether or not he had any money. He assured her that he had money in his bank account and would bring a check.
Meanwhile, Sara and Peter were weighing whether or not one of them should make the six-hour train trip to see D. They decided against it, concluding that D. would really like to deal with this one on his own. Feeling that it made no sense to hang around the house waiting for news, they went through with their plans to take the PI on a long hike in the “Downs,” and then on an excursion into the very alternative city of Brighton. The weather was spectacular for their hike and Brighton was absolutely crammed with Saturday strollers.
Around 4PM, they called D. and found that he was back from the dentist. They had yanked his surviving teeth around a bit, and had given him something for the pain. He would need a cap for the broken tooth and would probably need root canal surgery on two more.
“What’s this going all going to cost, D?,” wondered his mother with a bit of worry in her voice.
“They didn’t charge me anything today. The dentist seems to have some connection with the university. Since I’m a full time student, they may take care of it.” “They make take care of it?,” thought the PI. This was certainly one difference between how this would unfold in England and what would have happened in a similar situation in the U.S.
As of Monday, the PI was back in Boston and D. had made a second trip to the dentist. He was still taking pain meds, but feeling well enough to attend some of his lectures. His parents were in close touch with him, but had yet to jump on the train north, and were probably not going to do so. D. seemed to be in the good care of his girlfriend, who had bought him a full range of soups and baby foods (yuk!) to eat. The dentists had still not confirmed what steps would need to be taken to save the damaged teeth that remained in D.’s mouth.
And just what would have happened had Vince taken such a fall in the U.S.? The existence of the Anything But a National Health Service in the U.S. surely would have made a big difference, but so, too, would the PI’s parenting style. How would you react to this situation? Would you have joined the PI in readying the helicopter? Would you have needed to let your son/daughter know how much they had messed up?