Breathing, Being

Sometimes (OK, many times), it’s hard for me to know what to write about.Life is so extremely busy, so unending, so consuming — it keeps my husband, kids and I super busy, even though we know we are far away from loved ones in our new home. The fortunate thing about a busy life is that it gives you little opportunity to wonder what it would be like if you did not take those great leaps forward and away from familiarity. Instead, a life well lived is so consuming that you can do nothing but enjoy it, and let the adventures waft past you as you attempt to take deep breaths and drink them all in. The air passes by me much more quickly these days. It’s hard enough to let the joys of a tickle fight consume me as I think to the day’s tasks tomorrow, charts to be created, people to be managed, patients to be treated. But tonight was  one of those super fun nights. Ok, it had a little share of whining, but miraculously my little tykes ate their quesadillas, flavored with chipotles in adobo, no less, the kitchen was decidedly NOT in utter ruins this evening thanks to my cleaning lady and my lovely nanny taking charge, and the kids were bathed and dressed for bed, basking in the joy they had earlier where they went to a large sporting goods store and bowled with their nanny.  Baby steps, I think. Maybe they’re not consumed by activities yet, but we are taking it in and having fun.

So after the cleaning routine and a little cartoons for the li’l uns, L and I had a monster game of tag where he got to direct the safe zones — which alternated between the bedroom and our downstairs office — in other words, wherever he was and I wasn’t.  To join in this revelry I’d hoist my daughter R to my hip as she raised her hands upright saying, “Godhi, Godhi” (or “Pick me up and carry me, mamma!”) and go scampering past L.  Meanwhile my husband T was mystified; someone (presumably the cleaning lady) had corrected the arrangement of strings in the office tchotchke the kids had entangled upon his desk.  So up and down the stairs we all ran, round and round the house, enjoying ourselves right up until little R took her dolly — the now 40+ year old doll Clarissa who both I and my older cousin owned — and brushed her teeth, sang her lullabyes, had her wave goodnight, and climbed into bed with her. The doll is practically as big as R, so it’s a pretty funny site watching her extend her little arms to balance the giant doll and teeter her through the bathroom to the bedroom.

Now that I am in the basement, taking care of the little necessities — like cleaning out my ancient phone of excess pictures so that I can get it to function reasonably well — I find another wonderful reason for being. A dear picture from my last job, where I painted henna on a teenage boy who was dying of cancer.img_0681

It was somewhat unexpected to get the message. I had started at the hospital not long before, but I happened to get a call via a friend of a friend who knew me from my henna days way back when.  They didn’t know that I happened to now be a pediatrician at the hospital, but once I heard that there was a young boy who was terminally ill and that his dying wish was to get a henna tattoo, I was too happy to oblige.  And then began a really nice afternoon getting to know a boy, his best friends, and his parents, as they slowly said goodbye to him.

Once I painted the “survivor” design on his palm, everyone was thrilled to get in it and get matching tattoos — listing his nickname, his high school mascot, a “fight cancer” theme despite everything.  And I sat, painted, watched as he asked for more pain medication to ease his discomfort, listened as family members looked at him, spoke to nursing staff, scheduled a massage appointment to help keep them comfortable as they went through these most stressful days, and hopefully brought them some peace. It wasn’t profound, it was very plain to do my art, give my good wishes, and part ways. But I hope that it helped ease their minds and took them away, if only for a short while.

Even after working in a health care environment, I cannot imagine having to spend day in, day out in a hospital NOT of my own volition. How it must be as a family to pack up your things and to go to a place where you know your child is NOT going to leave. He’s not going to get better, and at the end of the stay you’re going to lose him. There are so many fortunes which we have in this world — which includes all that glorious time we have with one another before we, too, depart.  As you can see from this young boy’s tattoo, he may not have survived to see today, but he is a survivor, and his story and his memory is with me and with those he loves.

When I sit back and think of my kids scampering back and forth, shouting and laughing gleefully, I see the fortunes and the joys in the world, the reason for bringing joy to others in a day. Even if I’ve handed my sanity over to a crazy thing 1 and thing 2. It’s for kids that I am and because of them that I breathe.