Serendipity and Happenstance

Few things are worse than having a sick child. You are left with an utterly helpless feeling because your child thinks you can kiss awaycomfort boo-boos, dry tears and make him feel better just by holding him. When I first had my own child I finally understood the plain truth in saying to your child (as my parents had said to me so many times), “I would take this pain from you, I would bear this illness if I could.”

My son has caught a virus that gives him fevers at night and a dry cough, which was probably picked up at day camp. He is a slightly muted form of his effervescent self during the day, although his loss of appetite and declarations of, “I’m tired!” after dinner shows that he’s just not himself (I mean, what 6-year-old ever admits to being tired?).

My family has implored me to stay away from my little guy so that I do not get whatever he has. Obviously, surgeons want you to come in as healthy and strong as possible before they perform the taxing procedure to your body. I’ve done my best by only kissing him on the forehead and washing my hands until they are raw.

For the last 6 weeks I have felt useless, guilty and paralyzed as a mother. I am supposed to be his caregiver. I am supposed to be up and playing with him during these humid days, matching his laughter and sweat and imaginative adventures. Instead, I’ve been mostly stuck in my bed, feeling drained and outside of my body, which has failed and confounded me.

Last night I heard my son’s faint little cries which quickly grew louder. He must have been jolted awake by a coughing fit and wanted his mommy. I have about 15 nicknames for him, so he has come up with one for me, because he says, it sounds like “Mommy.” He has reassured me it has nothing to do with bovines.

“Moo, Moo,” he cried out. I flew out of my bed, opened his door and saw him sitting up in his bed.

“Moo, I want to sleep next to me.”

“Honey, you know I can’t get sick. Let me find your chicken.” (A disheveled mess of fur, beak and a single eye; the aptly named Chicken is his beloved companion and source of comfort.)

“Please, Moo,” he begged.

No good mother would ever deny her child comfort in times of sickness. I laid right next to him, and he promptly grabbed my free arm, wrapping it around himself. He coughed a bit more, but then fell into a peaceful, deep sleep. After sleeping next to him for several hours, I woke up as I usually do at an ungodly hour. I surveyed the scene: the boy was still sleeping serenely and the humidifier and vaporizer were still running at full-bore. I kissed him on the cheek and quietly retreated to my own bed, leaving his and my doors ajar in case of further calls for comfort.

The last thing I want is for my child to be sick, especially since I go into the hospital tomorrow for at least a week. I’ll miss him with an undeniable fervor, worrying and wondering how he’s getting along. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but every parent has these irrational fears when away from their child.

I’m realizing now what a paradox last night was. My son was ill and I felt helpless because I was unable to cure him. However, for the first time in over a month, I was able to be his mother; not the ailing version he’s seen, but the one he knows that helps make everything better. I felt needed and was able to fulfill my role; something I haven’t been able to do, which has left a constant ache in my heart.

Last night was a small moment, just a simple gesture that any parent would do. But to me it felt important and moving and serendipitous. The last memory my son will have of me before I go into the hospital and begin my long journey of healing is simply of me being his mother. This little circumstance gives me the strength to go through hell and come back renewed.


Pondering Death’s Visit and Living Your Truth

I’m having surgery in 4 days. Last week I met with the 2 surgeons performing the surgery. They are kind and personable and explain 0handsmedical terms in a way that a non-medical person can understand. They are respected in their field and are very good at what they do.

The main surgeon who is doing the more tricky parts told me he’d be treating me as if I were his wife or sister on the operating table. He’s talked to numerous other doctors to get their input. He’s studied my case, my files, my test results. He is confident and meticulous and if ever during the surgery there is a question, there are many, many colleagues he can call on for advice or assistance.

“But,” he told me, “I am not God.”

That was refreshing to hear because some surgeons do believe they are God. This I knew was the lead-up to him telling me what could go wrong during surgery. He said he had to tell me these things; not to make me worry or make me think these things would definitely happen, but to make me aware, to be honest, and to see that medicine is not a perfect science and things can go wrong.

“Of course,” I said.

He decided to start off with the worst-case scenario. I suppose it is best to get that out of the way. I mean, once that one is out of the way, all the other things that could go wrong seem quite insignificant.

“I have to tell you this. There is a an infinitesimal chance that death could occur. I mean, a 1% chance.”

I noted how he said it, I suppose to soften the blow. He didn’t say, “You could die,” which is what he meant, but he said it in a more passive way, like Death could possibly float into the room, say hello and go along his way.

Hearing it was unsettling. However, I understand it’s not very likely that it will happen. And the truth is, we could die at anytime for a multitude of reasons. It’s just a bit more worrisome knowing you are putting yourself in that position by choice (although a choice that is necessary for my quality of life).

When one has a child the prospect of death becomes a million times more sobering. In our younger, carefree days, we feel immortal, we don’t worry about death. Even I, who grew up with a chronic illness, did not feel threatened by being mortal. Now, however, the warning that my doctor gave me has been stuck in the front of my brain.

I talked to friends and asked them if I was insane or overreacting for wanting to write my son a letter,  a sort of goodbye, telling him how much I love him and always will and what I wish for him. Everyone said that I should certainly do that, if only to purge those thoughts and to take that worry from my mind.

I’ve started the letter about ten different times and have already written the words in my head for what feels like a thousand times. Each time I do; however, my eyes start stinging from the tears. Of course I don’t want to leave my son behind. And I won’t be! I think about those poor mothers or fathers who have terminal cancer and know they are dying and are going to leave their children behind. That is heartbreaking. I am grateful that my condition is nowhere near as serious as that.

Illness changes a person. You have a different outlook on life. You figure out your truth and try your best to live by it. I realize the importance of living with passion and getting my feelings all out there. I can see the frailty of life. So, while I’m confident this letter will not be read by my son next week, it will surely be a great reminder of what I want to share with him, teach him and how to guide him. My hope is to raise him and to make him feel loved and cherished and teach him what I think is important and let him flourish in whatever ventures he chooses. It also reminds me what I need to share with all those I care about.

I tell my son every day that I love him. I hug him and kiss him. He’s little and loves it now, and I will continue to do that until the day I die. I won’t embarrass him in front of his friends, but I will not stop showing him how much he means to me, no matter how annoying it gets to him. Every child goes through those years of rebellion and breaking away from his parents. But once he grows out of that stage, my hope is that he’ll remember how I never gave up on him, no matter how shitty he could sometimes act (because all teenagers are a bit crazy…or a lot crazy). I’ll still love him, no matter what.

For me, the greatest trait a person can possess is kindness. I’m not talking about wimpiness or a walk-all-over-me attitude,  but I wish for my son to possess a light that shines in his heart which pushes him to help his fellow human beings (friend or not) and would never allow him to hurt someone else on purpose. I already see this in him, but I will continue to teach him through my own actions and through discussions about his life experiences on how important it is to keep that light burning. If we are to leave a mark on this world, shouldn’t it be to make it a better place?  I want my son to be known as a good guy – sensitive, generous and sincere. We’ve all been knocked down, whether by illness or abuse or bullying or poverty or  prejudice. Everyone carries around their own share of pain. Isn’t it time to be kinder, be the bigger person and not perpetuate the hate?

It’s not aways easy to be kind, and that is why it takes courage. My wish is for my son to have courage and strength. He should stand up for what he believes in. He should stand up for anyone who is getting bullied or harassed. And most important of all, he should have the courage to show his feelings. I understand the courage that it takes, because the fear of rejection is strong. Also, you don’t know how the other person will react; most crushing can be when someone doesn’t react at all. However, in this one life we are given, we should not squander our feelings, but instead share them boldly. Secrets can diminish us, but those that speak their truth can stand proud in knowing they are not holding anything back.

I want him to discover his passions and live them. He’s 6 now, so he wants to be everything from an opera singer, spy, magician, superhero, video game designer and an architect. As he grows, he will discover what really excites him and makes his pulse race. I would never dictate what that should be. I will certainly be unwavering in my desire for him to have a passion for learning, because that’s where it all begins. From there, he can see where his talents lie and what he wants to do with them. I hope he sees my tenacity and learns the importance of never giving up. With dreams, goals and hard work, one can accomplish whatever they desire.

I wish for him to have true-blue friends. Of course this means that he needs to be a true-blue friend. He doesn’t need a ton of them, but a special few that share his interests and values, friends that can make him laugh and friends that encourage him to think about things differently. He should be loyal and forgiving and love them like family. True friends help you when you fall, and in our lives there are plenty of times when we need a little help.

My little boy will grow up and fall in love. He will probably have his heart broken numerous times, but when the time is right I hope he finds “the one” partner for him. Whomever he dates and ultimately chooses, he needs to show that kindness in his heart, communicate well, love with everything he’s got, be a gentleman and cherish and protect the heart he holds. He needs to know when to say “I’m sorry,” and love passionately. He needs to have patience and gratitude and never give up on that person. And hopefully, by showing him all the love I have for him and what a great person he is, he will know what he deserves – someone that will cherish him as much as I do.

I don’t think it’s bad to ponder the frailty of life and let it guide you. Although your ideals may be much different than mine, I believe it’s important to know what those ideals are. What message are you giving to the world? Are you living and loving with passion? Are you sharing your truth, your soul? I don’t want Death to visit me for a long, long time. But when he does, I don’t want there to be anything in me left unspoken.