A Well Brought Up Child
August 25, 2011 § 5 Comments
I am at the cancer center again to get my shot. Kevin again with the needle that’s THIS BIG. I tell him I’d written about him in my last blog and he laughs. He asks me how I ended up adopting children and I tell him I got drunk. Then I tell him the truth, I’d rocked babies at the hospital and fell in love. “The NICU is my favorite rotation,” he says. “I always love it there. That’s what I’m going to do when I retire.” Kevin and his partner are off on a long earned vacation to New Mexico so I won’t see him for awhile. Hope they have a blast.
The cancer center is built so that the patients on any floor get a spectacular view of Lake Union, and you can see the houseboat Tom Hanks had in Sleepless in Seattle. Today I see a lot more. I get into the elevator in the basement parking garage. There is already a family there. A father holding a baby who clings to him so quietly that I think she is asleep, but she isn’t. She’s just sick. Very sick. Her head and body are so swollen that you can barely see her eyes and nose and mouth for the folds of flesh. Her arms and legs are twice the size they should be. Her mother keeps touching her arm, patting her, kissing her, reassuring her. The mother’s eyes are rimmed in red, filled with tears. She looks like every helpless, grief-filled mother you see in the newspaper, mothers who lose their children to war, poverty, violence, starvation. The eyes are always the same – overflowing with unimaginable pain. If she could will that baby to health she would. If she could trade her health for her baby’s illness, she would do that too.
I have to visit several floors of the cancer center. On each floor are women wearing hand-knit hats, turbans, scarves, or nothing on their bald heads. No eyebrows, no eyelashes. Yet one older woman has put on makeup and jewelry. She’s looking her best and she returns my smile with warmth. She is fighting her cancer with everything she has. Old men lean on old women, and endure horrible diseases and miserable, painful cures. Adult children take care of parents. Some of us are under our own steam, not many. And babies. Babies. Most people, the ones who aren’t too sick, smile at each other, try to present some cheer, some warmth, some sense of commiseration to each other. Try to pretend that the cancer center is normal.
I am grateful for Kevin and his BIG shot. I am grateful to have hair, to be able to get myself to the cancer center, to have energy and to feel almost normal. I am grateful to feel well enough to be interested in other people. I am grateful to have a husband who loves me and takes care of so much and who is such a hands-on dad. I am grateful that all my kids are doing well. All at the same time. Whew.
After the shot I say, “Thanks, Kevin.” He looks at me and rolls his eyes. We both laugh. “I’m such a well-brought-up-child.” Kevin says, “Yes you are. Very well brought up to thank me for hurting you.” I smile the rest of the day.