It Could Have Been My Son

I got a phone call from the school today. It was the Nurse Practitioner calling me. Mel had to have a physical for basketball and he opted to just do it at school. When the phone rang, I knew it was the school. I knew he was having a physical and I immediately thought the worst.

We just had an appointment at Mel’s Orthopedic doctor a couple days ago and she released him to play ball and restricted some of his weight workouts, but overall he is doing fine.  He’s got a congenital disorder called Spondylolisthesis. According to WebMD, it’s “a condition in which one bone in your back (L5 in his case) slides forward over the bone below it. In some cases, it may lead to your spinal cord or nerve roots being squeezed. This can cause back pain and numbness or weakness in one or both legs.”  We discovered it the summer before middle school when Mel took a hit playing football. He lost feeling in his lower half and couldn’t walk. The ER said it was congenital, meaning he was born with it. He’s since been restricted from contact sports and was just released to play basketball last year.

So today, when the phone rang, I half expected the person on the other line to say that he couldn’t play ball this year. And that would have killed him because he absolutely loves playing ball. But everything was fine. She was just calling to let me know that everything was fine and to tell me that I had a really lovely child. That he was nice and funny and respectful and she thought I should know. And I told her that I appreciated the call and hung up a happy mom.

And I started thinking about how things could have gone a totally different way for him. Less than six months ago, he started to go down a path that is common for kids in our neighborhood. He started gravitating towards the kids who smoked weed and kept guns in the waist of their baggy jeans. He started wandering around downtown with his friends and would call me around curfew time to ask me to come pick him up.

Shortly after that, he got in trouble having a gun of his own, because it was cool. He got in all that trouble that I won’t rehash because I already wrote about it. And he had to go to the counseling/group therapy thing, which he’s done with now.

One night, before his troubles were in full force, he was out with a couple of his friends. They were downtown walking around and he called me to pick him up. He was supposed to be at the friend’s house, but they decided to take a bus downtown and wander about. I don’t have any issues with him doing that. Downtown is pretty safe and really cool and I spend a lot of time down there, so I didn’t find anything wrong with it. I went to pick him and his friends up when he called and they all came back to the house to sleep.

His friends weren’t bad kids either. They were polite and also funny. They were respectful. Mel has known them for years.

Mel told me last night as we were driving home from basketball that one of them went to jail for murder. And then I read it in the paper today.

He went to jail for shooting another kid over $80 worth of weed. Him and two kids who were over 18. They took a life. Over $80.

I don’t know what the whole story behind it was. I don’t know the extent of the kid’s involvement in it. All I do know is that it could have been my kid sitting in juvenile waiting to find out if he’s going to be tried as an adult or not.

I was sick over it. And then I was super thankful. Because it wasn’t so long ago that Mel was in that state of mind where he wanted to be out in the streets hanging out with wannabe thugs and gang bangers. I don’t’ know what I would have done if the little trouble he got into had been big trouble. Big trouble that could have sent him to prison for life.

I know people will say this kid deserves whatever he gets and maybe he does, but it doesn’t make me feel any less sympathetic to his mother who may never get to hug him again. It’s a terrible situation. And it’s sad that gunplay has become a norm for everyone. If things don’t go our way, we will just shoot someone…… over $80…. it’s too sad.

But like I said, I’m thankful that I still have a son. And I know that I’m lucky because it could have been my son.


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