I like Dallas! Some may be asking, “Who couldn’t like Dallas?” For others, the mere mention of this city — home to “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys — may bring to mind a slightly different question, better left unsaid.
In my first 44 years of life, I have never had occasion to visit Dallas, which ranks as America’s 9th largest city (although only 3rd biggest in Texas, behind Houston and San Antonio). I don’t count my ever-increasing time (thanks American Airlines) changing planes at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport as official visits.
My father, who was a funeral director for over forty years, lived in Dallas back in the 1950s while attending Gupton-Jones Institute of Mortuary Science. After earning his degree, he returned to his native Florida, never returning to Dallas. Maybe it was the memories of his rigorous studies, but whatever the reason, my dad never suggested taking a family vacation to Dallas.
After all these years, what finally brought his son to Big D? Actually, his oldest grandchild and my oldest son, Stephen. He has a doctor’s appointment at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children today (Monday, August 29).
Four years ago, on August 1, 2006, my oldest son was diagnosed with Legg-Perthes Disease. My dad, who was in what would be the final days of his life, never knew about Stephen’s diagnosis. Before we were able to see him one last time (actually, we were in an airplane, frantically trying to get home), my dad — Stephen’s granddad — went home to be with the Lord on August 4.
Time has passed, but Stephen’s hip condition remains. Like many of you, we had never heard of Legg-Perthes Disease prior to that fateful first week in August 2006. What is this disease?
Perthes is a condition in children characterized by a temporary loss of blood supply to the hip. Without an adequate blood supply, the rounded head of the femur (the ” ball ” of the ” ball and socket ” joint of the hip) dies. The area becomes intensely inflamed and irritated. (full article here)
When Stephen was about seven years old (Perthes disproportionately strikes boys, ages 4-12), he began complaining of pain in his right thigh. As an active boy, he loved riding bikes. He also crashed bikes, but didn’t love that part. In one of his many spills, his right thigh was badly bruised. At first, we thought that he was suffering residual pain from his bike accident.
When Stephen’s pain did not subside, we decided to get an x-ray of his thigh to rule out a broken bone or something more serious. When the x-ray came back clear, we breathed a sigh of relief and moved on. Little did we know, our journey was just beginning.
One Sunday morning, after playing particularly hard the previous day, Stephen could not sit up at church. He laid down in one of the pews and closed his eyes, obviously in pain. Now, I’m used to folks closing their eyes because they think that one of my sermons is painful to listen to, but that is a different story altogether!
On August 1, 2006, my wife took Stephen to a local orthopedic specialist. When she described Stephen’s pain, he took another x-ray. But, instead of just looking at Stephen’s thigh, the doctor took the x-ray of Stephen’s right hip. When the doctor viewed the x-rays, he immediately knew that Stephen was in the early stages of Legg-Perthes Disease.
Since that day, Stephen’s “ball” on his right hip has disintegrated and regrown. Unfortunately, the head of his right femur has not regrown as spherical and smooth as a “normal” hip, thus causing Stephen countless painful days and many sleepless nights. The pain that he lives with — in fact will live with for the rest of his life — is more than his mother and I could ever imagine.
However, Stephen, is a real trooper. He is an active, energetic and otherwise healthy boy (“pre-teen, dad”), who does not allow his condition to slow him down very much. He still loves to ride bikes and he loves to skateboard. Pending approval from his doctor, Stephen is looking forward to playing basketball again this winter.
Today is a day for x-rays, doctors, hospitals, and a lot of waiting. Yesterday was a day of father and son fun in Dallas. With a totally useless GPS that guided us to several locations where Toys R Us stores were supposed to be (one was no longer in business and the other location was a cul-de-sac in a residential neighborhood), we finally found a store that was real and was open.
With son happy with
his dad’s purchases at the toy store, it was off to visit Dealey Plaza, site of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. After driving around the block a couple of times, we finally parked and walked across the street to view this piece of important American history.
I love politics and history, so this was a natural stop in Dallas for me. I didn’t know if Stephen would think Dealey Plaza was neat or boring. Much to my surprise, he has talked about our time spent walking on the grassy knoll and taking pictures of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot that killed JFK.
We had a great day! Along the way, we picked up some fruit at the Dallas Farmer’s Market and some slurpees at a local 7-11. My son has told me countless times that he really loved spending time with me on Sunday in Dallas. Just the two of us. Mom and brothers back in New Mexico.
They say that first impressions are important. I agree. Perhaps it was because of the special time that I got to spend with my son during my first visit to America’s city, but I really like Dallas. Give me time and I might even learn to like America’s Team! You never know.