Sunday, August 25, 2013

The In Between

There are oh, so many poseable moments in life. They are the moments most of us dream about... The first day of high school, senior prom, high school graduation, that weekend trip to the lake with all your besties - the one you still talk about about 20 years later. First day of college, the big engagement, the wedding day, sunset on your honeymoon, the day your first child is born... We can follow these moments in photographs because they are captured this way. Still images of a perfect life. Of making our dreams come true.

I was thinking the other day about these moments with my kids. As my oldest son begins his Junior year of high school, I find myself reminiscing about when he started kindergarten.  I have folders and boxes of photographs of all those milestone moments from his first 16 years. But when I think - really think - about all the most precious memories I have with him, it's not the photographed ones that come to mind.

It's the moments in between...

It's the late nights when he had trouble falling asleep, and I'd climb into his bed and read to him by flashlight so as not to wake his little brother, snoring softly in the next bed.

It's the impromptu snack after a rough day at school, sitting on the front steps licking peanut butter off our fingers, and staring at the little cowlick on the back of his head, hoping I never forget the way that looks. Or the way he smelled. Like a little boy; all peanut butter and play forts and popsicles.

It's the first nights after his dad moved out when I watched him walk from door to door at bedtime, just to make sure we were all locked up tight.

I have these with all three of my kids; those moments not captured on film.

Like the time we were in a car accident; The airbag dust had settled, and we'd determined no one had been seriously hurt. The police and ambulance had arrived, we were all standing on the side of the road, and I looked over to see Jack holding Ella in his arms, whispering to her that everything would be okay.

The time Connor had surgery and Ella got her entire kindergarten class to make a big get-well card. She'd written I Love You in big, bubble letters and when she handed it to Connor, he had blinked back tears and whispered "thank you."

The trip to Atlanta, when all three kids fell asleep, their heads on each others shoulders.

But I digress. These are the unplanned moments. The memories we don't realize are being made until after they happen.

I was talking to a friend the other day, who is going through a divorce. He mentioned that looking back, he can certainly recall good times they shared. The photographable moments. The requisite "romantic getaways," the family trips, moving days. And I realized as he was talking, that these in between moments are also very apropos to relationships. Sure, we've got our wedding photo in a frame, the ten-year anniversary trip to Mexico, births, and first-times galore. But what about those in betweens? If only we knew how very important those moments really are.  More important, maybe, than the manufactured ones. For these moments - these in betweens - are where the living is. The magic, really, that makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thoughts from Pre-Op

I find myself in familiar territory this morning. We've been through this before, Connor and I. The routine is the same each time. We arrive two hours prior to surgery. I sign the forms. He changes into the worn, blue scrubs. The nurses come in and I nod. Yes, i understand. No, he doesn't have any other conditions. Yes, he does have an allergy to dissolvable sutures. He watches sports on the TV hanging from the wall. I watch him. 

Yep, we've been here before, Connor and I. Six times before to be exact. But this time is different. This time, his little sister is having surgery, too. Her first. Their doctor will take out two chondromas from each of them. I've been promised that they will be able to share a room afterwards.

But right now I am so torn. They are in adjoining pre-op rooms. Their dad sits watching sports with Connor, and I lie with Ella in her hospital bed. We play 20 questions. And she asks 20 more. About her surgery, about recovery, about the nurses, the medicine, the doctors, the pain. I answer slowly, carefully. And smile. So that she knows everything's going to be fine. She's going to be fine. 

I love you, she says to me, prompting me to say our nightly ritual.

I love you, too, baby.

I love you more.

I love you most.

I hear the nurse in Connor's room. It is time for his IV. "Would you like to play 20 questions with daddy for a few minutes?" I ask Ella. She smiles and nods her ascent. Daddy and I switch places.

They prep Connor's hand for the IV. He gives me his free hand to hold. We talk about the Panic! concert he and his brother went to last night until the IV is in and taped. 

A few minutes later, I hear the nurses in Ella's room and switch again. I want to be in both rooms. I NEED to be in both rooms. In Ella's room, the nurse is preparing to give her a liquid medicine to calm her. At 7, she won't get an IV until she's asleep. It tastes yucky, I am told. I nod. I know.

I know.

Inside of a minute she is giggling.  I lie down beside her, look into her hazel eyes. 
"Are you having surgery, too, Mama?" She is being silly with me, but her question pierces my heart.


Oh, yes.

In my heart, I am having two.

The morning goes this way, back and forth from room to room.  At one point, I stand in their adjoining bathroom, just so that I can see both of them at the same time.

Soon, they are ready to take Ella back. Thankfully, she is still feeling silly. Probably won't remember any of this. The doctor explains that they will take her back and have her breath into a mask. She'll fall asleep quickly, then get her IV. They run through the technical and I nod. Swallow around the lump in my throat.

Hey guys, this is my baby.

The nurse looks at me. We're going to take very good care of your little girl. I nod, thankful. I don't speak. I can't. 

Her daddy and I kiss her one last time. 

"I love you most," I whisper into her ear.

Connor and Ella blow kisses to each other. 

It's difficult to put into words what it's like to watch them wheel your child down to the OR. 

It is fear.

It is helplessness.

It is love. So much love.

And it is prayer. Always prayer.

It is times like these that I am thankful for my faith. For my ability not to question what's real, and what's imaginary. What is fable. What is fact. I hope that all three of my children find a strong faith that they can call on in times of helplessness. For what else do we have? Even Connor, who is driven by logic, facts, science. I understand all of that. I respect his questions, I understand his doubt. I have my own.

But not now. Now I pray. 

But I digress. Connor has fallen asleep waiting for his turn in the OR, a mix of exhaustion from a late night and nerves.

We've been through this before, Connor and I. And in fact, I've been through this once already this year. Jack dislocated his knee and broke his kneecap on the first day of Spring Break.  Literally 2/3 of his kneecap came off in the dislocation. In the OR, the surgeon repaired his tendons and then put the puzzle piece of kneecap back in place. Held it there with three pins that were removed in a follow-up surgery four weeks later.  

Hospitals are not new to this family. But all three of my kids in one year? That's a lot. 

But I digress. It has been said that if everyone threw their problems into a pile, we'd all rush to grab back our own. It's true. I am grateful that when the nurse runs through the checklist of health issues, I can answer "no" to each one. I am thankful that they will both get to go home in 24 hours (God willing), when so many other kids are here for extended stays.  There are so many things I am thankful for. There are so many emotions I could write about.

But not now.  Now, I pray.