Pin It I was sitting at the dinner table with my longtime friend, Hazen, and his three boys. As we were eating the steak grilled just a few minutes before in the backyard, Tanner, the resident 5th grader and eldest mancub of the brood, sat next to me. The boy chatted away about this, that, and the other.
“I’m on a soccer team…”
“I’m raising a sheep for 4H and am going to make a lot of money when I sell it…”
“I can ride a size 80 motorcycle…”
“I got a trophy for baseball last year…”
I listened to each pronouncement and proud accomplishment of this eleven year-old boy. But suddenly, the consistent chatter unexpectedly came to a stop. I was surprised and glanced over at Tanner who suddenly began to pound both hands on the table like a Pentecostal preacher at a holy revival.
What was going on with him?
I caught a glimpse of Tanner’s face, panic-stricken with round eyes. I reached for the pitcher of lemonade to pour some into his glass because it looked like he’d just eaten something far too hot; that’s when I noticed his glass was still filled to the rim.
It was at this moment the boy started pointing to his throat—eyes watering.
Instantaneously, my Scout training flew back to memory just as if I’d just learned it yesterday—all of the first aid instruction about what to do when somebody was choking—also, the scene from What About Bob when Dr. Marvin begins to choke flashed through my head.
I started to stand and made ready to administer the slaps on the back, or begin the Heimlich maneuver as Tanner began to cough, and up came the slightly too-large chunk of masticated steak.
The boy coughed a few more times and leaned back in his chair.
“Are you okay?” I asked, lightly patting his back.
Tanner’s eyes were watering like a fountain. “Yeah, I just couldn’t breathe.” He wheezed—voice filled with relief.
Tanner’s dad, after checking that his son was really okay, said, “Tanner, you know the universal sign for choking is to do this,” he demonstrated the sign with both hands.
Tanner nodded in that fifthgradian way which indicated that he already knew absolutely everything there was to know about anything and everything.
“I know that,” he said, cutting a much smaller piece of meat this time.
“Then why didn’t you do it?” asked his dad. “We were all confused. It looked like you had eaten something too hot.”
There was silence.
So much for fifth-grade knowitallness.
Patted Tanner on the back again and asked, “Hey, why didn’t you let me save you by doing the Heimlich Maneuver? You know, I could have saved your life and then blogged about it afterward…you realize that you kept me from being a hero, right?
The boy shrugged and returned to his dinner. A few minutes later he asked, “Are you still going to blog about it?”
I winked at him. “Heck yes…”
“Good. Hey, did you know that I…”
I listened again to the incessant chatter of my friend’s son. I was glad to see that the choking didn’t inhibit the fifth grade ability to talk. I’m glad that he’s not dead. I’m glad that I was almost able to save his life.
I’m glad I was almost a hero.