Tuesday, April 9, 2013

So Many Good Things

Three months old, she has never left the hospital.  There is a hole in her heart and that is the least of her problems.  Her kidneys look like Swiss cheese and her esophagus has scarred from the surgery to close the hole that connected it to her trachea.  So they cut a tiny incision in her belly and snake a gastrostomy tube into her stomach and feed her from the outside.  She is three months old, she has just learned to smile but will only really do it for her mom, and when she cries, she makes no noise.  Her tracheostomy  is hooked up to oxygen twenty-four hours a day, it bypasses her larynx and so when she wails, all that comes out is a breathy wheeze and the insistent beep-beep-beep of her monitors that tick out her escalating heart rate - 148, 162, 210.  All she does is fight.  She doesn't know how to do anything else, and so I change her diapers and learn how to suction, and research her condition.

He is 85 years old, and his health is failing quickly.  He still speaks clearly and articulately, though he takes a breath every few words.  He has lived long and well and he tells me that his trusty body is giving out and that that's okay.  I sit by him and I'm supposed to be asking questions but all I can do is listen, rapt, while he tells me that this is the greatest country there is and that I should never forget that and that I should use my skills and be an achiever and a lone tear slides down his cheek as he tells me that his wife of sixty years, who died one year ago, was a magnificent woman, and a woman of great wisdom.  He tells me his children are the best thing that ever happened to him and he tells me that I should have a plan, but that I should always remember, there are so many good things.  I shake his son's hand when he comes to visit and I bring him more ice water and a new stack of paper cups.

I bounce my neighbor's baby on my hip tonight, in the seventy degree evening air.  We're chatting and laughing, there are four of us on the porch and there are families walking down the sidewalk and I have soup on the stove in my little yellow house across the street and the baby is drooling and so unremarkably healthy that I feel as if the world is splintering in my hands when he blows a bubble.  The horizon slides away and then springs back against my eyes as they fill with tears and I want to lay down in the street and sob because there are so many good things and even though things are so good they can still be so hard and what is hard for a baby who can't make noise or eat or breathe on her own?  And what is hard for a man who is dying with his mind fully intact?

I lay in my bed, the window is cracked and the spring air comes in and I soak my pillow with tears for them all, and still in my head I can hear him saying, There are so many good things.

1 comment:

Allison the Meep said...

This is beautiful. There are so many good things, you are right. The old man who has lived a full life is right. And despite the good things, I still question the unfairness of a world that would cause a tiny baby to be born with such horrible physical hurdles. None of it makes any sense at all to me, but all of it is beautiful regardless.