Mayra, our youngest, just had her cast removed. A month ago, she tumbled head over heels out of her crib after André, our oldest, 7, lowered the rail to play with her. She landed on her arm, cried a bit and then refused to crawl.
Terese took her to the emergency room. She had broken her radius and within days, she was in a full-arm cast. Because Mayra was just learning to walk, we worried the cast would slow her down. Would she be able to crawl? Would she be in pain with the cast?
Yet, she figured out her cast in very short order. To visualize, imagine a baby getting around like an ape, knuckle-walking on the casted arm with great adeptness. From another room, she sounded like a sailor with a wooden leg.
Mayra’s spirit was not in the least diminished by her new handicap. She seemed more resilient, particularly in the presence of her brothers who love to show their affection with silly faces, yanking on her legs, sitting on top of her like cowboys and picking her up with all their little might to bring her to mom or dad.
Luc thinks twice before he teases her: Mayra’s casted arm has turned into a little club that provides a sharply uncomfortable reminder that she can defend her space. Even Aidan, our 4-year-old, has noticed that the cast is hard.
And André has shown some growth in his brotherly relationship with her. He notices when she is in harm’s way or needs help. He reads to her, and shows a good deal of gentle affection. The little society that has grown up around Mayra over the last month has been delightful to witness. She has earned their respect in a way I hadn’t anticipated.
Last week at child care, Aidan discovered a hole near the cuff of the sleeve of his shirt. He put his thumb through it and discovered it looked just like Mayra’s cast. He was immediately prompted to begin telling the story of how Mayra broke her arm. Our friend told me when I arrived to pick the boys up in the afternoon how Luc became fiercely protective of Mayra. He didn’t want Aidan to talk about it, and when Aidan continued, he jumped over his older brother to get him to stop. Luc’s sensitivity about his sister’s injury surprised me. Luc, the youngest boy, 3, is often the most oblivious of his sister’s fragility. He would be happy at times to treat her like a stuffed animal or a hobby horse. And here he was, in front of an audience, defending his sister with all his might.
Mayra’s break is healing well. The bone is growing rapidly, and she is now walking confidently. Delighted to have the use of her arm again, she has recently been lifting it, with hand extended, and smiling a wonderful smile. Her joy is obvious.
Advent is upon us. We will spend the next several weeks making room in our hearts, homes and families for the Word made Flesh after celebrating our gratitude during Thanksgiving. For our family, the timing couldn’t be better. This Advent, I pray that, like children do with such courage, Terese and I might lift our arms to the Lord who heals our brokenness, in joyful thanksgiving. Come, Lord Jesus.
(Paul is married to Terese. They have four children and both work hard to keep their house a place of peace, joy and all good things. Some days are better than others. Paul is a pediatrician. Terese is a family physician. They are parishioners at St. Sebastian Parish, Milwaukee)