Yesterday, the doctor called and left me a message that the xray was completely normal and there was nothing to worry about. So when my son got home from school, I told him, "The doctor called about your xray."
I swear I don't know where it came from. I meant to say "Everything is fine." But instead I said "There is a problem with your kneecap. It is completely separate from your knee."
I knew, obviously, that the xray would back me up on that. He looked at me with wide eyes, not sure what to say. I continued. "You know how some kids who have braces on their teeth have rubber bands on them?"
"Yes," he said, hesitantly.
"Well, you are going to need rubber bands like that to keep your kneecap in place. Here, let's look at the xray."
I pulled the xray out and there it was, the kneecap floating in position, completely separate from the femur above and the tibia below. He clapped his hand over his mouth with a shocked expression.
"I can't believe it! Oh my gosh," he said.
"Mom, mom! Mom, it's . . ." my oldest son said, deciding he needed to bring some sanity to this conversation and straighten us out with his knowledge of human anatomy.
I turned to silence him with an exaggerated wink, trying to tell him with mental telepathy that it's April Fool's day. His mouth formed an O and he smiled and looked back down at his homework.
"You know, you get to pick out the colors of the rubber bands," I said turning back to my youngest.
"Oh, so the rubber bands go on the outside then?"
"No. No, they have to go on the inside."
"Well then what's the point of colored rubber bands?"
"Oh, well they show up in color on the xray" I bluff.
"Oh. Oh. Oh my gosh. I can't believe it."
"When you have surgery on your knee, you won't be able to walk for about four weeks."
"WHAT?????" he shouted. "I will miss swimming in PE at school! FOUR WEEKS?? OH NO!! THAT'S NOT GOOD!!"
I looked over to my older two who were pretending to do their homework with the most ridiculous smirks on their faces, very much enjoying the scene.
Then my youngest son did something I didn't expect. He said, "Can I call Tali?" He asked to call a friend. My friend. He wanted to tell someone and he picked a friend of mine he knew would have a dramatic reaction. "Sure," I said, and handed him the phone. He blurted out the story to her. "My kneecap is not attached to my knee, I have to have surgery, I have to miss swimming, can you BELIEVE it?" I could hear her exclaiming and reacting on the other end of the phone. I turned away, laughing so hard that my body was shaking, tears ran down my face, and I was about to pee my pants.
"Here Mom, she wants to talk to you," he said handing me the phone.
"Hello" I said in a quiet and mostly controlled voice.
I pause. She pauses. "OH MY GOD ARE YOU CRYING??" she said.
"Noooo . . ." I said.
After she asked me a few confused questions answered by strangely monosyllabic muffled noises, she says "OH MY GOD IS THIS A JOKE? ARE YOU PLAYING AN APRIL FOOLS JOKE ON ME?" followed by a most hilarious belly laugh. I said, trying with all my will not to completely crack up, "Not you." She started to cackle, realizing what was going on. She was laughing so hard that I have to hang up because I couldn't hold it together. I went in the bathroom and tried to pull myself together. It didn't work very well. I was laughing and crying at the same time.
My older two sons had their heads determinedly down over their homework. They were wondering if I had completely lost it.
My youngest son has gone into his room. He reappeared in his basketball outfit. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"Going outside to play basketball. While I still can," he said.
"Listen, I want you to be careful with your knee! I don't want your kneecap to get out of position!" I warned him.
"MOM. Hello. I have had this for a long time. My kneecap has been just fine, I don't think anything is going to happen to it right now," and off he went.
Once he is out of ear shot, I tell my older boys "OK listen up."
"You— don't try to say anything to Dad when he gets home, you are not a good liar," I tell my middle son.
"You— make sure Dad sees the xray and you point to the kneecap and say 'that is NOT good' " I tell my oldest. They looked at me like I had lost my mind but were completely willing to play along.
Unfortunately, at this point I had to leave. I had something planned with some friends. I gave the boys dinner and instructions for showers and bed since I didn't know when my husband would be home from a late meeting.
I checked in with him later via text.
Are you home?
No, going to dinner. Just talked to boys, they are all fine.
Did you talk to Youngest?
Yes, seems happy.
I left it at that. I wondered, would he fall for this? I think maybe. But he was a trainer for a while in high school/college, he knows how a knee works. He is going to know something is not quite right. Right??
The next morning, as we are all got up, Youngest asks me "Did you tell Dad about my knee?"
"No, I thought you should tell him."
"Dad my kneecap is separated from my knee doctor called rubber bands surgery can't walk for four weeks!!"
My husband says, "For real? Not April Fools?"
Oh no, I thought. "Show Dad the xray." He ran to get it (knee seemed to be working on the stairs) and my oldest stepped into his role as they looked at the xray and pointed. I had to leave the room because I couldn't stop giggling. Luckily it looked more like I was crying.
"Oh wow," I heard my husband say, "look at that! Well I guess we know why his knee had been hurting."
His voice was serious. He was completely buying the story.
I was wracked by another bout of body-shaking laughter and hurried back into the bathroom to brush my teeth again.
My husband followed me into the bathroom. "Well he is going to have to learn how to use crutches! Wow, four weeks. He is going to drive you crazy for four weeks!"
"Oh I am going to leave town for those four weeks" I joked. I leaned over the sink, spitting toothpaste, to hide my contorted face. "I don't know, we need to get a second opinion," I mumbled.
Luckily, I was driving to school that morning and it was time to leave. I hustled the kids and headed out the door, trying to avoid any more conversation with my husband. My youngest asked if he could bring the xrays to school. I tell him he could.
On the way to school I tried to think. Can I let my son tell everyone at school that he has a damaged kneecap and needs surgery right before spring break? I try to think out the consequences of that. I decide that is not the best idea. But how to tell him?
He exploded from the car at drop-off, giant red envelope containing the xrays flapping as he sprinted toward his classroom. I parked and ran after him. I got to his classroom 30 seconds after him, and already the story was circulating.
I pulled him out of the class and asked him to come sit with me on the bench outside. I had to stop this.
Or did I?
I looked at him with as much seriousness as I could muster. "Youngest," I say. "I have to tell you something."
He took a deep breath. "What?"
He stared straight ahead, and took another deep breath. Those wheels were turning in his brain at lightening speed. A moment later, the corner of his mouth twitched just a bit. Then, as the realization of all the ramifications dawns on him, a huge smile spread across his face.
"I want you to know that your knee is fine. Your kneecap is SUPPOSED to be disconnected from your knee. Your xray is completely normal. But you can keep the story going. Dad completely believes that you need to have surgery."
A maniacal grin on his face, he pulled out the xray and ran back to his classroom, saying "YEAH! I'm going to keep it going!"
So now the joke was on my husband. His day was full of stressful meetings. I know in the back of his mind he was wondering what to do about this surgery.
Later in the day he got an email from our son's school. It said they are concerned about Youngest potentially missing so much school and that we need to think carefully about how to time this.
My husband worked late and got home after the boys went to bed that night.
This morning my son, enjoying his acting role, told my husband that he was worried about his knee. My husband reassured him, telling him how arthroscopic surgery works, how his grandfather had a knee replacement, how many people have knee surgery and it all works out just fine. My son managed to take this all in and look concerned. He gave me a sly smile. He was enjoying this. Then my husband started asking me what doctor I thought we should go to, listing all kinds of names of doctors that specialize in this and that. All I could do was shrug my shoulders.
I couldn't stand it anymore. This had to end. I said to my son, "Tell Dad where the very best doctor who does this kind of surgery is."
"What?" he says with perfect innocence. "Oh yeah. Mom said the best doctor is in Hawaii."
He is so convincing that my husband does not catch a clue. "Hmm," he said. "I'm sure there are plenty of good doctors around here."
I pull my son over and whisper to him, "You have to end it. Now."
"So Dad. About my knee. About the xray."
"Yes?" he said, taking a sip of coffee.
My friend Tali predicted that he would kill me. That our marriage would be in jeopardy.
Instead, there was no reaction.
"Gee, your reaction is a little disappointing," I pointed out.
"Well," he said. "I am going through all the people in my mind that I told yesterday about the knee surgery. I'm trying to remember them all. It's at least five or six, maybe more, I'm not sure."