Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Will See You In Far Off Places

There we were, enjoying the naive innocence of "tub time", when VB mentioned that he'd like to go to the hospital to visit Baby M. This it where it begins -- the time when questions are asked no child should need to have answered.

You see, "Baby M" is the young co-cancer-fighter who died back in the fall.

VM calls me upstairs to explain who VB has said he will visit. We look at one another with sad eyes. Of course, we knew this day would come. I suppose that every parent has to deal with the "death" issue at some point, but if you're lucky it involves the death of a turtle, sock puppet, or something else benign. Not another human being -- and certainly not someone who died of the same thing that could still spell the end for the inquisitive child as well.

I respond that Baby M is not at the hospital any more. VB disagrees, clearly looking for something more satisfying in a response. VM starts to explain. "VB, do you remember when you were sick? Well, Baby M was very sick -- very, very sick."

"Yeah," VB replied, with his shoulders shrugged and his hands raised in an "I don't know why" position. "She's sick. She needs medicine real fast."

"Well," VM said tentatively, "the medicine didn't work. She was too sick."

"So she's gone," I tack on.

VB thinks for a moment. "Yeah, she moved to a new house."

"Well....Sort of." VM shoots me a look as I give this reply. Technically it was a fair answer -- depending on your view of the afterlife. "He's only 3" I whisper quickly, "there isn't much of this he's going to understand."

Many years ago I used to run summer leadership camps for high school students. As camps go it was a rather emotionally intensive affair, complete with intense bonding and "warm fuzzy" sharing amongst participants. Towards the end of the program, when we were working with the youth to help them prepare to say goodbye to the experience and head home, myself or a camp counselor would read The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. We'd of course lighten the discussion of death that is at the core of the story, and instead use it as a metaphor for endings in general.

Never in a million years would I ever have conceived I'd find myself running around my house one day, searching for my copy, so I could help my son understand why his little friend is gone; that the same thing that took her away almost took him as well...And still might some day.

Yet, there I was.

However, by the time I found it, I returned to VB's bedroom to find him curled up in bed with a far better book. With a mix of relief, and the nagging existential angst that keeps me drinking way too much coffee, I put death aside for another day...And hopefully many, many more.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

While Waiting for the Real Fireworks to Start

VB seems back on track, so we made the obligatory trip to the fireworks display in the next town over -- which is the town I grew up in.

VD: You see that building right there, son? That's where your daddy went to high school.

VB: Oh.

VD: Actually, not that part of the building. That wing didn't exist at the time. I went to that part.

VB: Oh. I go to school.

VD: (thinking) Hmmmm...That sculpture wasn't there either. And it seems they aren't letting people on the football field. That's odd -- that's where we used to sit. I guess we'll sit here, at the same spot we started our short-lived Croquet club; complete with finger sandwiches and rousing versions of "que sera, sera". How very Heathers it all was.

That was so long ago...Damn, I'm getting old!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

We are Fireworks

It would be easier if VB's seizure's were the more typical variety that people expect when they hear the word -- some wild arm flailing or flopping about that's clearly visible from a mile away.

If only...Instead, the electrical haywire happens subtly -- slow cognitive leak versus a volcano erupting. The active boy goes quiet, his response to your questions takes longer. He seems "out of it" -- even more than the average 3 year old. Yet, to move to a place where you realize something might not be quite right, moments pass -- and the fog roles in.

Then comes the synaptic firing of the parents, each 5-10 minutes away with their "work caps" on. The phone rings, the voice says "come now", and the parent brain begins to shout.

Shut off the computer pack the bag tell the staff maybe you'll be back maybe not get the car will I be back probably not thank God I have sick time to use I can pick up where I left off on Monday I KNEW he looked off this morning why didn't we keep him home today isn't this appropriate that he has his first seizure since February the first week his mother returns to work he's gained weight so of course his medication dosage is no longer enough WHY IS THIS PERSON SITTING AT A GREEN LIGHT GET OUT OF MY WAY I wonder if I can speed perhaps that cop will just follow me to the school and take pity as I rush in well maybe not I'll slow down I CAN'T HEAR YOU HONEY THE PHONE IS BREAKING UP WHY DON'T I JUST GET THERE I hope this doesn't require a trip to the hospital this had better be just a breakthrough seizure and not a sign of relapse relapse relapse the BIG R that we won't think about because I don't have the energy there's the turn almost there where can I park with the dogs in the car it's a billion degrees out F@##% it I'll just leave the car running with the air conditioner on we live in a decent town my car should be fine now how do I get to the room he's in I know the sign says "please do not go down this hall follow detour" but it's quicker so screw it no one is watching anyway I'll just keep running run run run run run I'M HERE I'M HERE IT'S OKAY I'M HERE......

The explosions stop. The fog clears. Suddenly the boy snaps to normal, while VM takes a call from the doctor for an update and the teachers fill me in on the proceedings of the morning. We head home for an unplanned afternoon. VB takes a two and a half hour nap while I lay at his side, feeling his warmth and begging the universe to stop kidding around.