“Hi, I’m Liz Pieri.” I stood up from the cramped booth bench and extended my hand over the cash box, raffle tickets, pizza discount cards, and three glasses of red wine on the table.
I was unsure which one of those glasses was mine for most of the night.
“Oh, hi, nice to meet you. How are you?” He extended his hand and a warm smile in return.
I had seen this “dad form school” driving in the neighborhood in a box shaped car a few times and one of his sons was in one of my son's class last year. His other son was in middle school now. That was the beginning, middle and end of what I knew about him. But he had chosen to don a Cosby-inspired sweater to ward off the fall chill that evening. A seemingly simple move but in my mind, a bold move that won my respect right then and there.
“I’m good.” I smiled back at him as I stepped into the narrow aisle between the tables. “Crazy with all of this.”
I looked around the loud, hot, completely chaotic pizza parlor full of families from our school. Kids who were all but coming out of their skin with excitement, certain that it would be their raffle ticket drawn from the bucket for the grand prize. Parents who were already on the verge of breaking the “just one glass” promises they had made to themselves as they pulled into the parking lot just moments before.
“Oh, you’re not crazy,” he assured me. “I know you. You’re always together.”
What a gracious response. Just like “The Cos”. Even if he is lying.
“Now, we’re crazy,” he continued. “Our house is crazy.”
“Oh, you guys are great.” I told him and I meant it. As far as I could tell, between the box car and the sweater, they were aces.
“We spent last night in the hospital with my son.”
What? Oh shit. He's not kidding. What if it’s serious? I don't want to ask. Would he casually mention something serious about his kid’s health to a stranger at a school pizza party? Ugh. I don't want to go down this road. You have to do it. You have to ask. You are the Fun Run Fundraiser Co-Chair for the PFA and this is the Pre-Run, Carb-Up Pizza Party. In this moment, this isn’t just a “dad from school”. This is a member of your flock: a member of your flock who is in need.
“Is everything ok?” I finally asked.
“It was the scariest thing,” he started.
Oh, shit. Here we go.
“My son woke up in the middle of the night and said his stomach hurt. He didn’t throw up. He didn’t have a fever. My wife and I weren’t sure what to do …”
Must be appendicitis.
The Cos continued, “He went back to bed for a couple hours, then came back into our room and said the pain was worse. We have never seen him in this kind of pain so we took him to the hospital and thank God we did…”
Because his appendix was about to burst? Or maybe it was some kind of stone? Do kids even get Kidney Stones?
“It was the craziest thing. It was his TESTICLE! Do you know what TESTICULAR TORSION is?”
How in the hell did I go from “nice to meet you” to inside some poor, pubescent kid’s boxers this fast?
Wide eyed, I shook my head no.
“His TESTICLE had twisted on the inside and cut off the blood supply to his TESTICLE. The doctor said he could have lost his TESTICLE if we hadn’t taken him to the hospital when we did.”
“Oh my gosh. So is he still in the hospital?” At this point, I was more alarmed than he was.
“No, he’s home now but he can’t go to school for a week.” His tone was very matter-of-fact.
“That’s good. I guess.”
I imagined the indignity of his son’s eventual return to middle school. The kid next to him in homeroom would turn to him on his first day back:
“Hey, man. Where were you? You go on vacation or something?”
“Nah, it was my nuts, man. They turned on me. Literally.”
I had no idea where to go from there but I knew one thing for sure: I served as mother to not one but two sets of balls. It was my duty to protect them. I would get to the bottom of this TESTICULAR TORSION business.
“Soooo, was your son particularly active the day his testicle twisted? Did some movement cause it to twist?” They seemed like fair questions.
“No. That’s the thing. Just sleeping. It happened in his sleep.”
“So, he didn’t turn a certain way?”
“It has nothing to do with physical activity like that. It’s actually quite common.”
“So no warning, no symptoms?”
“Nope. Like I said, happened in his sleep.”
We stood there in awkward silence for a few moments. I thought about the people I knew that had one ball. Pretty much Lance Armstrong and one of my friend’s husbands.
“So, can I get one of those pizza cards?” The Cos was the first to break the silence.
“Oh, yeah. Sure," I smiled, returning to character. "They're 20 dollars and 10 dollars goes straight to the school. And there's a Free Pizza in there that you can use tonight!”
I grabbed a discount pizza card from the pile in my booth. We made our exchange.
“Thanks for coming!" I gave him a small pat on the shoulder. "Hope your son’s… well, I hope everything is ok with your son.”
“Thank you! Have a good night”
"The Cos" or "The Dude"?
Who wore it best?