By Bruce Stambaugh
When a friend gets hurt, you feel sad and sympathetic. When that friend is injured on your property, you feel horrible, helpless, even responsible. That’s just what happened to my friend, Dan.
A recent severe thunderstorm blasted through our area and in the process heavily damaged the majestic and delicate sunburst locust tree in our front yard. A large limb bent to the ground, but remained precariously attached to the main trunk.
Dan is a jack-of-all-trades, especially adept at trimming trees. He takes every safety precaution and uses sound judgment. When I showed him the tree, he said he was willing to trim the badly broken limb.
My preference was to work together some afternoon once he closed his concession stand at the local produce sale. Dan said he preferred to work on the tree on Saturday morning. However, my wife and I were going to our cottage in southeast Ohio for the weekend.
Dan assured me he would be fine alone, and encouraged us to continue with our cottage plans. And so we did until Neva received a text from our neighbor. Dan had been hurt while working on the limb. I felt sick.
Desperate for more information, I called the emergency room at the local hospital and asked to speak with one of Dan’s family members. After a few seconds of hearing some fumbling with the phone, a familiar but softened voice spoke. It was Dan, not quite sounding himself.
Near tears, I asked how he was, and Dan assured me that other than a broken jaw, a broken shoulder blade and a broken rib, he was fine. Typical Dan.
Dan immediately took all the blame for the accident and assured me that he was all right. He said we should continue our weekend at the cottage.
Dan’s son filled me in with the few details of the accident that he knew. Passersby saw the mishap unfold, stopped and lifted the large limb off of Dan.
Dan was transferred to a city trauma center for surgery to repair his broken jaw. I still felt horrible about the accident to my friend. Dan’s family kept us updated on his condition, which fortunately was not life threatening.
We enjoyed the weekend with friends as best we could. But Dan was always on my mind. On Monday, I visited Dan at the hospital and was glad to see he remained in his usual good humor even while still waiting on his jaw surgery that evening.
On Tuesday morning as I was finishing my regular walk, I got a call that finally made me smile. It was Dan. He wondered if I could come pick him up from the Akron hospital when he was released in the afternoon. Absolutely I would.
On the way home, Dan kept saying that he was just so happy that my wife and I weren’t there when the limb came down. He knew we both would have been out helping him, and who knows what would have resulted?
The injury certainly hadn’t damaged his congenial personality. I had failed to ask for a written estimate for the work, so Dan said he would double the bill from $10 to $20.
Dan is convinced there was a reason for the accident happening. I have a hint about that.
The trauma, the emotion, the frantic communication back and forth, and now the joyful reunion had galvanized our friendship. Better times are ahead. Trimming trees won’t be included.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013