It had been a stormy day, with havoc all over – flight and train cancellations, rain, wind…as in the previous days. I thought the rugby match of last Friday night would be cancelled – if not for other reasons, because the green grass field would have turned into mud; but no, it was on, and my son Afonso left for the club with his usual long, confident, strides, the exhilaration of the forthcoming game all around him like a magnetic field.
Pedro was not playing tonight and good for him, as the previous day – his birthday – he had had fever and was not feeling well yet. Still, he persisted in going to watch his brother’s match, and as his father was also coming, I decided no to go – I’ve had enough of rugby matches in the cold and rain! So, I stayed home, feeling cosy and warm, albeit slightly guilty as happens each time I don’t go and see my sons play.
But it was not to be a quiet night. What I most dread during a match when I’m at home happened – when I saw my son Pedro calling, I knew something had gone wrong “Mom, Afonso has hurt his leg, we don’t know exactly how much but Dad and I are taking him to hospital. Will you join us there?” – I said yes, of course I’m coming, I will be there shortly, but how…what… how is he? – but Pedro had already hung up the phone, we’re in a hurry, see you at the hospital…
Something odd happens to my heart every time they are injured during a game. It seems to shrink, and in my anxiety I start acting in an automatic mode, taking care of practicalities (Mom, please bring him his tennis shoes and a pair of stockings – of course, I think, he must be wet from head to feet, more, covered in mud). Before leaving I grabbed a pair of crutches that had been lent to a friend for a long time and had only recently found their way back home, and in no time, I was driving towards the hospital, some ten minutes away.
When I got there, he was sitting on a wheelchair, still in his shorts and rugby boots and his legs were brown with dirt. I could see he was in pain. He is strong, and has suffered many injuries, so he can endure some pain, but he was uncomfortable, and worried, oh my God, how much worry I could see in his beautiful blue eyes! Pedro was seating by him trying to say some jokes to cheer him up – unsuccessfully – and his Dad was inside looking for a doctor.
The emergencies were full that night as they usually are, more so in winter with a raging flu. Even so, after a few minutes we were called in by the doctor, who examined him and asked for an x ray. At this point we were fearing the worst – there was a possibility that he had fractured his femur, and only then did I understand the reason for his anxiety. Somehow, I had this feeling that it would not be that serious – call it a mother’s intuition – but when the results finally came and we were told there was no fracture, I silently uttered a pray of gratitude and we were all relieved. Mostly Afonso! Still, apparently he has a muscular rupture, that will have to be evaluated through a scan, a few days later.
Back to crutches
I brought my boy home, again with his crutches, the ones he used after his knee operation four years ago. He managed to have a shower by himself – after all he has some practice of these situations – and he settled on the sofa and declared he was famished – so typical of my boy – so I rushed to give him some food and give him his medicines, give him some ice to put on his leg…like any mother would.
The doctor had prescribed rest, a lot of rest, but the following evening was a most important one for him, one he hasn’t missed for years: the rugby club Christmas party, so he was adamant he would not miss it. He promised to be careful and come back home early and not drink too much…somehow drinking and walking with crutches don’t get along too well.
Saturday afternoon, we stayed home watching TV and he was restless, like a caged animal – the mere possibility of spending months without playing breaks his heart, such is his passion for rugby. It broke mine too, to see him like this, but I fervently hope this will not be too serious – again that motherly sixth sense – and he will be able to go back to the rugby field before he thinks. After all, isn’t he the hero who, at ten, was told he would never play rugby again, and after five hard months of recovery was back? And still playing, after almost fifteen years…
The Christmas party
Later he was more animated as he put on a dark striped suit borrowed from his father who fits him perfectly; his brother dressed up too and again there were my two handsome boys ready to leave for their Christmas rugby dinner as they do every year. Usually some of their friends come over before dinner and it’s a lot of fun, seeing them put on their jackets and adjust their tie-knots, exchanging their tennis shoes for the smart leather shoes they only wear for weddings and special occasions like this one…as always, I said I wanted to take a photo of the two of them, and hopefully, in a few years, when we see the photos of this year and Afonso with his crutches, he will smile and remember this as just another episode among the many of more his life as a rugby player. Fortunately, he has had many good episodes that far compensate for the bad ones.
Bye Mom! Take care, please, Afonso! Pedro, tonight you take care of your big brother! Don’t let him make anything silly, and don’t let him walk back home alone (the party and the club being some hundred metres from home, but still…). Ok, Mom, don’t worry; I’m a grown boy, grunts Afonso, while Pedro promises everything if only I would let them go out…
As I watch them walking down the street, Afonso painfully and slowly moving with his crutches and Pedro taking slow steps so that his brother may catch up with him, I remember so many other times when I have watched them walk this same street together, going to their training or to a game – both the same height, the same confident attitude, talking to each other, the carefree look…how proud I feel, how happy, how grateful I am for these two sons, that they are healthy…tonight my heart feels odd again as I see Afonso fighting for each metre, but then I think we have been through this and worse and always my son has won. For he is a fighter, and he will do whatever it takes to go back to what is the greatest passion of his life: playing rugby. I am certain that, in no time, I will be at the rugby field again, watching him come in before a game, with that body language that I, his mother, know so well –he enters like a predator, preparing for a fight. He exudes confidence, his long, decided strides telling everyone he’s there to play, and win.
Fortunately, it is no longer raining, like the night before. Outside the storm has abated but it still rages inside my heart. Ah, I think, what a mix – rugby nights and Christmas time. I silently pray to the Baby Jesus, about to be born, and ask Him to make my son well again.