The little black book

Susan Flanagan
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No. 2 just spent five days rollerblading in Detroit. Since rollerbladers are prone to injury I wondered if No. 2 would come back in the same physical condition he left in. It’s not uncommon to see a rollerblader in a cast or covered in road rash. When No. 2 and pals watch movies of themselves blading, I often hear things like: “This is where Danny breaks his wrist,” followed by, “Oh yeah, that was sick.” It’s the nature of the sport.

Although helmets would be mandatory to compete in Detroit, No. 2 is not always diligent about wearing head protection when it’s not required. There remained a huge risk that he could get hurt in this competition which lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

And what if No. 2 gets injured while in the U.S. of A? He had already visited an American hospital for a hockey injury incurred in Seattle several years ago. I was all for letting him sleep on the immovable arm and driving him back to B.C. the next day, but the coach vehemently disagreed and assured me the Hockey Association’s insurance policy would cover the hospital bill. What a nightmare. More than a year and several collection agency calls later, I finally paid the bill myself. Eventually, most of it was reimbursed, but it was not a happy process.

“If you get hurt bad, get someone to drive you back across the border and dump you at a hospital on this side of the line,” I said before he left for the airport at 4 a.m.

My worries were not unwarranted.

Let’s not forget that No. 2 is the one who broke his leg a few weeks before kindergarten while running on a wooden playground bridge. Let’s see, that would be 1998, I’ll have to dig out his black book to see which doctor he saw, what hospital he went to, which leg it was …

To keep track of myriad of medical procedures and doctors’ appointments for my offspring, I invested in little black hard-covered books — you know the ones that have a wrap-around elastic to hold them shut. Actually No. 2’s book is relatively empty compared to the others. The only serious injuries he’s had are one dislocated shoulder and that broken tibia. Oh, and a spare tooth that resembled a miniature narwhale tusk buried up in the roof of his mouth was removed at the Janeway under the influence of laughing gas.

No. 2 was apparently healthy when he flew with a buddy to Toronto and then the two of them drove across the border with a few other buddies to attend the rollerblading competition in Detroit.

He’s not yet 18 so my husband and I wrote a note saying we gave him our blessing to travel to a foreign country without us. His Canadian passport was going to expire while he was away, so we hoped he could get back home on his British one. I did text him to find out how things went at the border. This is the reply I received: “Border was fine. Skinhead got arrested. I am alive. Happy Birthday.” The next text I received was a few days later. It said: “I’m back in Kanada.” I guess you’ve figured out by now that I am not a helicopter parent.

I myself moved out when I was 17. I was a boomerang child though and moved right back in whenever the circumstances made it convenient. Like three years at MUN and a couple of summers working at Cape Spear.

Heck, I even spent a few months in my parents’ basement after I was married and had a child but no house. Regardless, I figure it’s time the older ones find their place in the world

While No. 2 was gone I didn’t think about him flying over the biggest half pipe he’d ever seen.

I didn’t think about him performing rollerblade manoeuvres with names I can’t repeat in a family column. I just made sure I had a copy of his flights so I knew when to scoop him up at the airport.

Both rollerbladers arrived back Monday at 3:30 a.m. tired but unscathed. No. 2 raved about the comfort of sleeping on the carpet of the hotel room floor after a night on the unforgiving hardwood in the buddy’s place in Toronto.

Ha, I had nothing to worry about. No need to make any entries in any black books. Although it was because of a mishap involving No. 2 that I started keeping black books. We were living in B.C. and he brought home a slip of paper from school that he insisted stated he had just been jabbed with exactly the same vaccination he had been subjected to in Newfoundland the previous year.

Heh. Heh. I failed to take into account that since both health and education are provincial portfolios, the various provinces don’t necessarily offer vaccinations in the same grades. I hope there are no dire consequences to a few extra pokes of Hep B vaccination.

And something did come out of the double whammy of Hep B. If not for that incident I would not have methodically recorded all medical procedures performed on my children. Because of No. 2’s double shot, every time one of us visits the doctor, dentist, orthodontist, endodontist, optometrist, podiatrist, public health nurse … you get the idea … I mark the date, complaint and result in the notebook for future reference.

“Which big toenail was the last one removed?” a doctor might ask No. 1. While No. 1 shrugs his shoulders, I whip out the handy dandy notebook and read out which toe, the date, the doctor, procedure and outcome.

I have black books for me, five children, my husband and his father. I am the queen of medical organization. Or so I thought until one day at the dentist’s office I was stripped of my crown. My only daughter and I had been debating if she had allergy testing done before or after we lived in B.C. I said before. She said after. We decided to consult the black book sitting on the table in front of us. She was right and I was wrong. We both knew the black book does not lie. Yet as she continued to leaf backwards through her health history to pass the time until her turn in Dr. Furlong’s chair, she uttered a statement that shredded my organizational skills.

“Mom, it says here I was born in 1999.”

“Yeah,” I said. So what’s your point? I thought.

“I was born in 1998.”

“Are you sure?” I said, a look of concentration on my face. How could I have mistaken something like that? Ah well, minor detail. At least we know the date of her allergy testing.

I have to admit it is difficult to keep track of all children’s medical emergencies. And for years naïve me thought I only had to keep track of my own offspring’s health, but recent events have me wondering if I should be noting when their friends run into medical trouble.

Late last year a visitor to my husband’s office mentioned how his son had just undergone surgery to put a metal plate and bolts into his predominant hand. “Ooh, how did that happen,” my husband enquired.

“He was bumping fists with Flanny.” My husband emailed me right away. This was a month after the incident had occurred and we had no idea my charming child had mangled his friend’s hand forcing a visit to a plastic surgeon. I marched downstairs to where No. 3 and his posse were gathered and examined wounded boy’s formerly perfect hand. Yep, there was a scar there alright.

“Didn’t anyone think of telling me?” I asked.

They grumbled something but didn’t raise their heads from their video games. Maybe they just don’t want to be written up in a black book.

Susan Flanagan has broken her right wrist two times and her right foot once. She can be reached at

Have your say


Debra writes:

“Dear Ms. Flanagan,

To quote you... ‘So, sure, it’s more convenient to drive your own car, but it’s also fun to take the bus, ride a bike or walk to work or school.’

The gist of your article, if I understand correctly, is that we need to reconsider the ‘greener’ option of being pedestrians and public transportation users.

I live in a neighborhood with many bus riders, many pedestrians, and I myself am out walking every day. And I can tell you that, in my two years of living here, this is a terrible place to be a pedestrian.

Most of those who take the bus take it because they HAVE to — they either can’t afford a car, or can’t drive a car for some physical or mental reason.

I myself drive a car. And I am living with someone who takes the bus.

I am on a limited budget. It is expensive to own this vehicle, but I see the life of a bus rider first hand. And I’ve spoken to others who have to risk their lives to walk the streets and climb over piled up snow (thank you, snowplows!) to even get to their bus stops at times. I have gone to the meeting at city hall about the sidewalk shoveling issue, and listened to a total lack of understanding.

I talked to someone who got sprayed with water from a passing vehicle up to her eyeglasses in recent weeks. I listened to others talking about how they barely missed getting hit, or their children barely missed getting hit, as she was walking them to school. I’ve given an elderly person a ride home.

I pay a lot to keep my vehicle, and it helps myself and my roomate in doing the little that we need to do.

I think about just trying the bus, but I think “what for?” — it’s expensive to ride the bus, and I am already spending enough money maintaining my car.

I’ve just hit the wall here with the utter ridiculousness of pedestrians having to walk on the side of the road because the sidewalks are used for dump sites for the street snow. My roomate has to get up MUCH earlier in bad weather because of the bus routes being that much more difficult when piled up with snow.

So you make it sound like, wow, riding a bus will be fun! Well, try it for a solid year, with no access to a vehicle AT ALL for that year, and you will see how badly repairs to the public transit and sidewalk clearing system are needed.

P.S. — My sidewalk is still covered sufficiently in snow, here on this date (Feb 25), that we still have to walk on the street half of the time, and I’ll tell you the street may be clear of snow by this time, but it can be puddled with water within 1 to 2 feet of the curb in some spots (like where they put the new mail box) , and covered in a thin layer of black mud in other areas. It’s just so much fun!

PPS — It’s now March 2 — and still snow on the sidewalk here...but you can walk on about 75 to 80% of the sidewalk around here.

Organizations: Hockey Association, Janeway

Geographic location: Detroit, B.C., U.S. Seattle Toronto Kanada Toronto.Ha Newfoundland

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