We lay there, in separate beds, in the same hospital room.
It was déjà vu, a hearkening back to the time, 14 years earlier, when my youngest son was inside an enclosed plastic bubble, under the lights. He had turned the color of a banana when we’d brought him home for the first time, which the doctor had warned us wasn’t good. Babies were not supposed to turn the color of bananas.
This time, it was a skiing accident. He’d taken a jump a bit too fast and landed a bit too hard. His left arm was broken, as was his right leg. Thank god it was just that.
Then my husband called, I had cursed the stupid sport that had brought this on. I’d been skiing since I was a kid, but I was a slow, nervous skier, always happier on the nearly-flat un-crowded trails than the ones where the hot-rods raced and dodged around me. At Wyndham, someone told me the slope I liked was dubbed “The Mom Slope.” But I’d always skied like a mom.
Yikes. It is the call you dread, the one that changes things, the one that requires that you to put all your mindfulness and meditation training into practice to stay calm for your child, for yourself, for your family.
I handed off the pets to kind friends, and put a few comfy outfits in a bag. Who knew where I’d be, or for how long.
The sheer experience of not knowing what’s next, not having any clue, is scary. Of course, it’s true all the time that we don’t know what’s next, but we feel more in control when things stay on a certain course, when we are able to stay within the parameters of what we know.
This was all new. I was headed upstate, to the hospital where they’d brought him from the slope, where he was with his father and brother and the friends they’d gone skiing with. My husband called when I’d been on the road for a half hour or so to tell me to stop, because they were bringing him to Westchester. I had time to kill then so I chatted with a friend in a parking lot off of I-95 for a while, then picked up another friend in the city, outside the Museum of Modern Art, and went to the East River, to meditate.
As we sat there in the heated car, eyes closed, taking up a valuable parking space, my mind raced. I tried to do what they say in meditation which is to just name my thoughts “thinking” and watch them go by. I tried to do what they say and not think back into the past, or forward into the future. I tried to stay in the present, to imagine the view I’d just seen of the twinkling lights over the beautiful city I lived in, to appreciate the friend who sat beside me, trying to help. I tried to stay in the moment and to be so grateful that I would see my son soon, broken but fixable, to be grateful that I would be able to kiss his sweet face and let him see my smiling hopeful one, the face that said “I love you no matter what, and we’ll get through this.”
Those many years back, in the hospital, after he was born, when he had that jaundice that turned him yellow, the nurses had told me not to take him out of the bubble, to leave him under the lights. I thought of that as I meditated, thought on the pain and difficulty of leaving my little baby alone, untouched, in that bubble. He needed me and I felt helpless, as helpless as I felt now.
Parenting is hard. You wish you could protect them from everything, but right from the beginning it is clear that you can’t. Lying in my little bed in this hospital room now, post-surgery, waiting for him to get well enough to leave here, I am helpless to stop the pain he is forced to endure. I am helpless getting doctors and nurses to arrive when he wants them, even to getting the food to arrive when he wants it. But I am trying. That’s all I can do. Be here by his side, and try.
I keep asking him if he wants some relaxing essential oils under his nose, or to meditate with me, but he rolls his eyes. He wants to watch Adult Swim on The Cartoon Network, and listen to music on his headphones. Even in this condition, my baby is who he is. He’s a fighter and, as my mother is wont to say, this too shall pass. The important thing is that he knows I’m here for him, right here, right now.