In my house there are generally only very good reasons to be out of the house before dawn, or very bad ones.
We received the call less than a week before. Words that strike fear in every parent’s heart. Possible melanoma. We swooped our four year old boy out of school, took him to see Star Wars at the theater, and started mentally preparing for surgery in less than a week. I- the compulsive investigator who spends weeks researching even the smallest purchases-avoided the internet like the plague. Nothing to do but wait, and do my very best to pretend like none of it was happening.
We woke him up and packed him into the car while it was still dark. He had a stuffed lion, which he has only recently taken to, and four star wars lego guys. We made it back to our room at our children’s hospital and he bravely got dressed. The sight of him in his outfit knocked the wind out of me. So I did what I could. I picked up the camera. It gave me purpose, it gave me distraction. Thank you, photography.
I got in my own scrubs and carried him back to the operating room. How long had it been since I last carried him, and when did he get so big? Once there, he cried because he didn’t want to sit on the table. I exhaled into my mask and we made a game of wiping off the condensation on my glasses. It’s amazing I was able to pull that off when I felt like I could barely breathe. They put the mask on his face, and that was it. My job was done. They ushered me out and there was nothing left to do but wait. So wait we did.
I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around how much had already happened in a morning when we’d normally barely be out of bed.
They wheeled him back to us and he was crying, and swollen, but good. We took turns holding the phone while he watched despicable me…waiting to see if he could keep food down, waiting to get the iv out, waiting for it all to be behind us. He asked if next time he came back, he could bring some donut holes for the nurse. We locked eyes over the bed and our hearts broke open.
One week later and our news was good- no melanoma, but I may be forever haunted by some of the conversations overheard in that waiting room. For so many families, that morning changed their life. I’d like to say our morning made me a changed woman, that I’m living in every moment, that I’ve stopped snapping at my kids, and I’m breathing in bliss and breathing out fear. I’d like to say these things but that would be a lie. I’m back, just one week later, to “pick up your markers, “stop squeaking that toy”, and “oh dear lord did I just kick over your milk that you put on the floor again?!” We have to, I suppose, enlightenment isn’t that easy to come by. But every now and then, a morning like that one is enough to make me want to try to do a little better. Even if it only lasts a day (and it did).*
*I swear that I am not nearly this melodramatic all the time. I’ll circle back around to irreverence, once I shake this experience.