Sitting in the emergency room of our local hospital. Middle daughter, possible broken foot. I have been here so many times over the years with each of my children. You could fill a paleontologist’s satchel with all our broken bones: collar, wrist, fingers, toes, a humerus – even the same foot on the same girl in 2013. I seem to be a careless parent.
There were scary childhood fevers too, and once a weird and terrifying breathing constriction that made a then tiny girl wheeze like a dying old man.
The last time I was at this hospital was in May with my mother. That visit involved a 14 night stay on a folding cot next to her bed. It ended with a sad and lonely drive home.
I had a moment of panic when we first got here today. The receptionist wanted my daughter’s birth date. (I am a terrible, terrible man.) She is my middle child and as soon as the question was out I could feel her little body stiffen beside me, alert for any sign that I might fail. Under the glare of that attention I froze, just for a second or two, before dredging the date correctly, thank heaven, from the brackish water at the bottom of the old oil drum I use for a memory.
It’s tough to be a dad. So many chances to mess up. It’s tough to be the middle child too. I wrote her a poem once – a kind of insurance against moments like these. It’s silly, but I think she likes it:

Charlotte Louisa, Lottie Lou,
You’ve siblings either side of you.
You’re not the littlest, nor most old,
But you are special, bright and bold.
You’re super, little Lottie Lou.
Our middlest child, and we love you.

And I do. I love her to bits.

————– © inkyjim ————

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