Orion Nebula: The Hubble View (NASA files)
I have a picture in my head of my parents, with my brother and me in an ocean. It is dark. Waves wash repeatedly over us. Our heads are in and out of the water gasping. We try to fight our way towards land. At last we feel a tremendous shove. My brother and I reach out, our fingers touch the rocks of an island and we are saved. We look back and our parents are washed away, their last best efforts spent pushing us to a shore they do not reach.
In my mind I see my own parents, yet I am coming to think the picture is simply a story of parents. Whatever our failures, we dream of our children safe on the land. Whatever our successes, we want them further than we got. A yearning for life programmed into our DNA.
It is July. Life on our little farm is at triple forte. Chickens lay eggs with abandon, contented and pleased with this year’s offering of bugs. Until recently, it was a good year for the raccoons. (Four caught now in defense of the chickens.) Buster the March calf is nonchalantly bursting at his seams. Thank goodness we don’t have to cloth him. Grass, trees, kids are sprouting every which way.
Life tenuous and tenacious sings. Beckons. The magnitude of things to be done, the tedium of little things, threaten to capsize us. Tired and overwhelmed, we are pulled back again by the longing to be part of the chorus.
In the space of a few days we trap raccoons that are too many and cut back a wagon load of hedges attempting to redefine our lawn. We spend hours in emergency rooms for a son that needs help to live and we buy medicine for an ailing lamb. Life strives incessantly to triumph against cessation. Dogged in its persistence, it is also surprising fragile.
On one side, life must be held at bay, contained for others and its own sake. On the other side, life must be coaxed, aided along for a bit by outside forces. With strength and frailty we stumble along leaning first to one side and then the other. We learn to admire the capacity of life. Respect the bandit faces in the darkness of the chicken coop. And we learn to walk tenderly, with an eye to the lamb who isn’t walking right, the little webs beginning in the corner of the branches of an apple tree, the stomach ache that isn’t getting better.
A mystery and a grand confusion. Only sometimes do we even know on which side of the line our efforts would yield the best results. Leave it to Mother Nature or stage an intervention? We try to know. But the picture is too big.
The impossibility of knowing betrays our smallness. Against the immensity, it begs the question. Is our smallness meant to drive us to madness (if so, it’s working) or does it offer a peculiar kind of mercy?
For the three long days and short interrupted nights that my sick son needed me, I was not really all that tired. I took some short naps, but mostly I was on ultra focus, watching, waiting, praying, and paying attention to every everything that nurses or doctors said or that Boy two did. They said he didn’t have a fever, I felt him and had them take it again. Second reading confirmed a definite fever. After the surgery, he had some kind of mild allergic reaction. His face went very red with white raccoon markings around his mouth and nose and eyebrows. He was very hot to the touch. Well, no fever, the night nurse said. Could you take it again, I asked. Still no fever, she said triumphant. Touch him please, I said. With her hand on his head, there was no argument. He was one hot little boy. I wiped him with a cool cloth and melted ice cubes on his face, she got him some medicine, and in an hour he was resting more peacefully without all the red hot glowing.
We arrived home to unmowed lawn and unmopped floors. It seemed like heaven. An hour at most (with bucket) away from perfect. The first afternoon, I noted the other children were a bit testy. To be expected, I smiled. No frazzlement here. Later it was obvious the husband was out of sorts. Interrupted routine and processing constant foreign stimulus (like covering for me) makes him crazy after awhile but I felt almost affectionate observing it. Hugs and smiles all around. I went to bed that night wondering if maybe the tired would never hit.
I awoke to a horrible house, an unbearable lawn, an inexcusably cranky husband, and three uncooperative children who should know better. The only one without blemish was Boy two, resting on soft chairs, walking slightly bent and slowly to get from place to place. But the most frustrating thing about my current life . . . lived so far from the ladders and loops that used to make up my days . . . is that there are so many fewer things to decide to quit when things are rotten. The best I could do was to tell my husband that I was never typing another word. In fact, I was selling my computer. As usual, he was unphased.
I said my prayers, went to bed, and in the morning, I got my hair cut. I found a picture of Maggie Gyllenhaal with approximately the hair I wanted. It said, “Maggie in a bold pixie cut.” The bold settled it.
The house and family seem ok again. I now have a new three step treatment plan to suggest to myself for future melt downs: say prayers, go to bed, get hair cut.
Saturday, June 29th, my husband and I had one of the most lovely delayed birthday celebrations I can imagine. That night, Boy two woke up complaining of stomach pain. By the end of Sunday, we were on our way to emergency with what turned out to be appendicitis. Due to the long holiday weekend and a little human error, Boy two’s ordeal was long, even by Canadian standards. Monday morning saw us off to a children’s hospital an hour from home where we got behind some fairly major emergency cases. By 2:00 we had made it to the list for surgery and met with a surgeon. Somewhere around 6:00pm on Monday, still waiting for a spot in the operating room, a tired Boy two observed sincerely . . . “I can see why they make you sign a paper not to sue them.” In addition to exhaustion and pain, he was very hungry. “I just want some meat and some oil,” he burst out a little later. “Mrs. V told us those are the things that fill you up the most. I just wants somebody to get me meat and oil.”
A little after 7pm the call came and we were at last on our way. Boy two was a trooper. The surgery went well, but he needed extra antibiotics and wasn’t well enough to go home yesterday. A visit from his siblings Tuesday afternoon cheered him immensely. We are hopeful, he’ll be home by dinner time today (Wednesday). The nurses and most everyone else we have met are kind and lovely.
As you can imagine, I have not been writing or even thinking about it. All prayers for a speedy recovery for Boy two are much appreciated. The hospital is wonderful but we will be glad when he (and I) can come home. The bees have at last arrived at County Road 21. Swimming lessons begin today. We miss our kittens. And we tolerate most everything better when our family is together.