When I was 7, I was healed by a miracle. That’s how my parents always told it. I was in the hospital, getting prepped for surgery, in such severe abdominal pain that I wasn’t able to eat or bend at the waist. They’d started an IV drip and inserted a catheter, which was more horrible than the IV but less awful than the spinal tap the doctor had done on me the day before which caused my legs to stay locked in the criss-cross applesauce position I’d been sitting in when they stuck the needle in and drew out spinal fluid for testing. No one could figure out the cause of my pain, but because of its location, it was decided that an appendectomy was the best course. I had to spend the night that way, my pretzeled legs pointing up at the ceiling as I lay sleepless. But in the morning when the nurses came to wheel me to the operating room, I felt a change. A softening. I straightened my knees and sat right up in the bed. “I’m feeling better now,” I told them. “I want to go home.”
My mother said the entire parish of St. Anne’s church had prayed for me, and this is what made the pain disappear. “Father mentioned you in the petitions,” she said. So many people, sending out good wishes and pleas on my behalf. I thought of it as a holy laser beam, burning away the bad thing in my stomach.
You can’t just waltz out of a hospital, though. I had to be examined once again, just to be sure, and more pokes and tests were done. One nurse was so impressed by how quietly I sat when they drew blood that she told me I was a good little boy. “I’m good,” I replied, “but I’m a girl.” She blushed and apologized, having been fooled by my pixie cut and the genderless hospital gown.
She wasn’t the only one. I’d been in the joint a few days, and while the docs were trying to figure out my symptoms (before the spinal tap debacle), they let me hang out in the hospital playroom. There was one other kid there, a boy my age. We played together every day – blocks, board games, Hot Wheels cars. He had a big bandage around his head, and I remember my dad asking him about it. The boy explained that he’d had surgery for a brain tumor. “But I gotta get out of here,” he said, sounding confident and manly. “I gotta get home to my mom. My dad hits her, so I protect her.” I was impressed at his bravery. When I looked at my dad, I saw that he had tears in his eyes. I stopped off in the playroom to say goodbye, and my buddy was in there. “Wait,” he said, startled. “You’re a girl?” I was wearing a dress. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m a girl.” He shrugged. “Okay then.”
I don’t know what triggered it, but the other day I found myself remembering that kid, the one whose name I never knew. I wonder if he made it okay. Being a kid myself, I didn’t think about it too much then, but over the years, whenever we talked about the miracle, my father always brought up the boy. “He was so strong, that kid. A tough little guy.” Now that I’m an adult and a parent, that fuzzy memory buckles my knees. I’ve been thinking a lot about a 7 year old with a brain tumor whose biggest concern was taking care of his mom. And that sure has kicked the shit out of any petty nonsense I might be worried about. To this day, I don’t know what happened to me and why I suddenly got better, and I don’t know why little boys with abusive dads get brain tumors. Perspective, pain, grace, and unexpected, undeterred strength – those are my lessons, then and now. Also this: hope. Because you have to, right?
3 Things That Were Good:
- I can do real sit ups now. Using my abdominal muscles and everything. Like, all the way up without tucking my feet under something and pulling myself up with just my legs and willpower. There’s a reason I’m not putting this under “Things I Did Well,” though.
- I always forget and am always reminded that when you make yourself vulnerable and speak honestly, you are giving yourself the chance to connect with other people in a meaningful way. Which is scary but cool.
- My daughter, who was home sick for an entire week, and who consequently had gone a bit feral (ratty hair, emerging from the bedroom only for meals or snacks, playing WAY too much Pokemon while Mommy was working), let me shampoo her long, dark blonde hair. I massaged sweet smelling conditioner into the tangles and worked out all the knots. Then I brushed it smooth and gave the ends a trim while she told me animal facts. It was lovely and satisfying; I get why cats groom their babes.
2 Things I Did Well:
- I learned how to make cronuts from premade refrigerator biscuits. You just pop open the can (always nerve-wracking for me; I worry there will be some sort of doughy cataclysm), separate the little biscuit discs, core a hole in the center of each, and fry those suckers UP. When they’re golden brown, you scoop them out, drain them on a paper towel, and then roll them in sugar. I cannot explain how awesome and dangerous this new knowledge of mine is. We fell upon them like hungry locusts. Hours later, as my taciturn teenage son prepared for bed, he paused, stared mistily off into the distance, and murmured, “Those cronut things were SO good, Mommy. They were magical.” He sounded a little choked up. Friends, I really don’t think there is a situation in my life that couldn’t be improved by hot, sugary, fried dough. Not sure what that says about me.
- I picked up the phone and called a friend. On purpose. For someone with my sort of anxiety, this is like walking a tightrope. Not the Cirque Du Soleil kind. The Man On Wire kind.
1 Thing I Am Looking Forward To:
Taking down the Christmas tree, finally. I’m sure it will happen before February.
What is your Joyful Meditation for this week?