When I got the call at work that my son, London, had sprained his ankle jumping off a couch, I thought I knew what to expect: 24 hours of ice, elevation, a week of wrapping his junior joint in an Ace bandage. Maybe a few days of Motrin. Some extra kind words coupled with an endless supply of Popsicles and Thomas the Tank Engine videos.
Over the years, I have turned my ankle countless times on the basketball court, soccer field and the odd mini-metal version of Thomas left carelessly in the hallway. So I was taken aback when I arrived home to discover that my goofy, slightly emotional son had been replaced by a wee Zen master uttering leftover lines from old Kung Fu episodes.
“How does your ankle feel, Londy?” I ruffled his hair in an affectionate way, hoping he could articulate his level of pain.
“Like bones,” he stated calmly, staring deeply into the space between us.
“Wait, no,” he paused and redirected his gaze toward the heavens. “Like stars inside of bones.” I dropped my messenger bag and gawked at my boy, his injured foot atop a pillow, two fingers inserted happily in his mouth as he watched over the Asian animation on our outdated television set. Just like David Carradine’s character in the 1970’s television series, London wasn’t interested in all this self-conscious navel-gazing; he was just living deeply in the moment. “Can you get out of the way, Dad?” he asked, moving his hands in a shooing motion. “You’re blocking Sagwa.”
After I checked with Lala to see if his newfound wisdom was merely a vision quest aided by the incorrect dosage of pain meds for the pint-sized, I hovered around London for the next few days, trying to illicit more Grasshopper-grade
truisms from him.
“How does the ankle feel now?” I’d ask as he sat cross-legged on our bed playing with a trio of Buzz Lightyear figures, truly sentient beings in Master London’s eyes.
“You know how chocolate can be both inside and outside of a donut?”
London even acted the part of an elderly wise man, hobbling across the tiled floors of our house. He never openly complained about his foot flopping around like a limp fish or the fact that he couldn’t walk without wincing. This enlightened behavior seemed strange to us given that normally London would fly into hysterics if our beta fish, Turquoise, even glanced in his general direction. For some reason, the first significant (and lingering) pain of London’s life transformed him into the reincarnation of Kwai Chang Caine, the soft-spoken Shaolin priest. Many of London’s replies echoed those of his famous ancestor:
Master Caine: “I am Caine. I am called many names, but I have chosen ‘Caine.’”
Master London: “Dad, I have a lot of names. I am London today. Maybe Spider-man tomorrow.”
Master Caine: “Of all things, to live in darkness must be the worst.”
Master London: “Will someone please turn on the light in my playroom? It’s too dark!”
Master Caine: “Men do not beat drums before they hunt for tigers.”
Master London: “Be quiet everybody. I want to scare Poppy.”
The similarities between these two luminaries are uncanny. Now that London is on the mend, I wonder if he will wander down the street and help a miner find a lost cat (Kung Fu: Episode 6) or, while at the train park, befriend a charming gambler who has been held up by two thieves (Episode 14). Either way, as I proudly watch my son and reflect upon his metamorphic injury, I cannot help but think of one of Caine’s sayings that seems so relevant to London now: “A child cannot be made ugly by the unhappiness that begins it.”
Reproduced with permission granted by Santa fe Reporter.