By Jane McGovern
To put my latest parenting failure into context, you need to understand that I grew up on the Jersey Shore not far from Asbury Park where Bruce was a superstar years before ‘Born in the USA’ hit the racks at Tower Records. My first introduction to Bruce was hearing my older brothers blasting ‘Born to Run’ from their bedroom. In high school, every party at some point ended up with Bruce on the turntable and 20 – 30 drunken teens singing along to our favorite songs at the top of our lungs. I would even bring my Bruce Springsteen Anthology Piano Book with me to parties (yes, I am embarrassed to admit this) and pull it out when we had all thrown back enough beers to make standing around the piano while I drunkenly played ‘Jungle Land’ or ‘Backstreets’ seem like a good idea. To top it all off, (here comes my only claim to fame) in the summer of ’82 I waited on Bruce at Mrs. Jay’s Beer Garden, a long-gone biker bar next to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. His music runs around my brain as a multi-sensory symphony. When he sings about Madam Marie, or the Casino, or the Boardwalk, I can see it, hear it, smell it. Heck, I can even taste it! The Boss is in my DNA.
So perhaps you can understand my excitement when we were able to get four excellent tickets for Bruce’s concert at Gillette Stadium in September. My husband and I went with another couple. I would handle the tailgate food, they would handle the booze. We sat in concert traffic, navigated the maze of traffic cones, the aggravated police officers and the crowds of people walking everywhere to arrive at our favorite parking lot. We set up the tailgate. We sat down to eat. We cracked open a cold one. At that very moment, my cell phone lit up, flashing Franklin, MA on it’s cracked screen. Franklin, MA, home of Dean College where our son is a senior, our youngest child who has epilepsy. Shit! I instantly knew… he had another seizure.
What’s a mom who loves her child dearly to do? What’s a mom who lives with the fear that a seizure will strike when her son is driving, or walking down the stairs, or doing anything that is no longer safe while an electrical tsunami takes hold of his brain and washes over his violently shaking body? What’s a Jersey girl to do? This Jersey girl chose Bruce over her son.
As expected, the voice on the phone told me that my son was fine, he had a seizure in the cafeteria and was on the way by ambulance to a nearby hospital with a friend. He had possibly hurt his arm and was a bit bruised, but otherwise fine. “Ok, ummmmmmm, so here’s the thing,” I stammered. “I’m in a crowded parking lot at the Bruce Springsteen concert. We’re about to walk in.” Silence. Nervous cough. “Ok, no problem,” she finally responded. “Campus Safety can pick him up from the hospital to bring him back to school.” Now, before you judge me a monster, my son is 22 and his seizures are usually under control with medication. A trip to the hospital is only necessary if there is an injury. He was ok, and they just wanted to verify that. Drumroll please…. let the rationalizations begin!
My thought process went something like this…. we’re blocked in tight, we are with another couple and I don’t want to ruin their night, he is fine, we texted with him and spoke with him on the phone, we spoke with his friend, we would call his neurologist at 9 a.m. sharp, and after all, BRUUUUUCE! Mother of the Year I was not. But that is not the true epic fail. That moment came the next day.
After a four hour concert (yes, it was excellent) and a long drive home, we slept only a few hours. I consumed a magnum of coffee and was struggling through my morning. I was with a friend around 11 a.m., recounting the special joy that only comes with a marathon Bruce concert, when she innocently asked me how my son was doing at school. It hit me like a wall. Whoooosh! It all came rushing back. Seizure… doctor… 9 a.m. phone call. I had completely and utterly forgotten that my child, my precious child, had experienced a major neurological event. Never mind that he is 22 and not a child. Like his two siblings, he is and always will be my precious child. Yes, he was lucky to be relatively unharmed, and yet it had entirely slipped my mind. EN-TIRE-LY. I should have called the doctor two hours ago! I should have followed up with Dean College. I should have called my son to see how he was feeling. The reality of my failure made me shudder. I wanted to lay down and cry. I wanted to crawl back into bed and pull the blankets over my head. But that’s not what we moms do. We don’t have the luxury of self- indulgence. I picked up the phone and called the neurologist. I called the hospital and spoke with the emergency room staff. I called Dean College. I called my son and conducted an investigation. I pieced it together and made a plan. I moved forward. Because that is what we moms do. We may fail, we may have an epic fail, but we pick ourselves up, make sense of it, try to make it right, and move on. But still… BRUUUUUUCE!