Friday, August 28, 2009

The Tonsillectomy

Seeing your child hurt or truly afraid will bring any parent to his knees in a matter of seconds, which is how my husband Jim happened to promise our five-year-old son he'd build a Haagen Daaz factory in our backyard following this morning's tonsilectomy.
William huddled beneath his dad's big arm shaking and whimpering as two impatient nurses in blue scrubs and mushroom-like hairnets pushed a vial of purple liquid towards the shrinking child.
"You can choose to drink the Silly Juice or we'll have to squirt it up your nose," said the one wearing too much makeup.
"No! No! No!" wailed William, his giant hazel eyes terrified and wet with tears. "I don't want to do either!"
William looked imploringly at me then at Jim.
Jim hated these droids as much--maybe more so--than William did, yet his parental duty to ultimately ensure our child could breath normally required he endorse this Silly Juice plan as well as a surgery that would cause significant pain and suffering for upwards of 12 days.
Crusted with guilt, Jim was teetering on edge of his own dark delirium.
"Listen, Will, I hear there is a Tonsil Fairy," Jim whispered hoarsely into William's hair. "I bet he'll bring you a Wii game if you drink this up."
The little brown head swiveled upwards to meet his father's gaze.
William was intimately framiliar with the supurb power of fairies. Just five days ago, he bared witness to the work of the Tooth Fairy. She had liberally dusted his twin sister's bedroom carpet with gold glitter before leaving a crisp dollar bill beneath her pillow.
"I'll take the nose spray," Will bravely said.
The nurses advanced quickly and sprayed the serum up one nostril.
Thirty minutes later, our baby lay sobbing and shivering atop a cot in the recovery room.
Jim scooped William up and sat heavily in a nearby rocking chair. Someone tucked a warmed blanket around them as I scoured the room for a box of Kleenex to sop up my own rivullets of hot tears.
"It's all over now," Jim cooed over and over as he kissed William's head.
"Can I see my tonsills?" Will barked through chattering lips.
I scanned the recovery room looking for a jam jar or any type of container that might suffice to hold such bounty.
Luckily, Jim's cooler head prevailed.
"You know, the Tonsil Fairy has already been here to pick them up," Jim said. "He said he'd swing by our house tonight to leave you a present in exchange. And actually, I was mistaken: There is no Tonsil Fairy--he's an elf."
The Tonsil Elf, it turned out, only has availability to do present deliveries at night as he was preoccupied for the rest of the afternoon picking up various prescriptions from Kroger, fast-forwarding the scary scenes in Scooby-Doo videos and sopping up vomited purple Capri Sun from new and as of yet unpaid-for cream wall-to-wall carpet.
But I knew in my heart the Tonsil Elf would be back and make good on his promise.
After all, he knows where he's needed most.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Death and Dying

Our five-year-old twins handled the death with more poise and strength than we grown-ups did.
My father-in-law--their Papa Jim--passed away somewhat unexpectedly on August 12 at age 63. It was an untimely, unfair and painful ending for an individual who had a big personaliaty in life and, as an investigative television reporter, an even bigger one on the small screen.
My husband caught a flight up to Michigan as soon as he heard things were souring.
Then, suddenly, there were plans to be made. Paperwork needed to be done. An apartment needed to be cleaned.
Meanwhile, I was left in Texas 35 weeks pregnant. My role was to hold the fort, which included explaining things.
I've tried my best over the past two years to decode the circle of life--to make it normal when it doesn't seem so understandable to me despite an upbringing in the Episcopal church.
We'll drive by a graveyard, for example, and the kids will want to know whey there are fresh dirt mounds.
"Well," I say, "When your body becomes a problem, you leave it behind you when you go to Heaven. Sort of like when spring comes and you get rid of your heavy clothes. You wouldn't want to wear a winter coat during a Texas summer would you?"
William and Elizabeth seem to get that one.
"But I'm really going to miss Papa Jim," my daughter said.
I told her it is okay to feel such emotions--we all do--but we're happy he's an angel now.
"Mom, only God picks the angels," Elizabeth said in an attempt to clarify.
I told her that Papa Jim was probably one of the lucky ones. If not, he was likely interviewing them which might be more to his liking anyhow.
"Well," she wanted to know, "Does he part the clouds and look down on us?"
Most likely, I said.
"How old are you when you become an angel?" she continued. "Like, are you a kid again?"
I told her as much as I could.
"I've never been to Heaven to see what's it's like, Babe," I said, "and few people report back when they get there so we don't really know much."
By the time Jim got back from Michigan five days later, Elizabeth was still processing things.
"Dad," she said at bedtime last night, "it would really stink to die on your birthday."
Her face then lit up.
"But you know, the good thing would be that if you were an angel, you could eat angel food cake to celebrate."
That's the thing about being five years old: You see a bright side to everything.
I know her Papa Jim would be pleased.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Tooth Fairy

Elizabeth's bottom front tooth had been nearly horizontal in her mouth for more than two weeks so I had had plenty of time to prepare for any and all questions regarding the mysterious workings of the Tooth Fairy.
In fact, I readied much like I would if I were working for a client who needed to face the national press corp.
I began by listing typical questions that might be asked. Then, I put together talking points.
These included but were not limited to:
Q: What does the Tooth Fairy do with the teeth she collects?
A: She plants them in her garden where they grow into flowers.
Q: Does the Tooth Fairy know Santa and the Easter Bunny?
A: They went to college together in New Mexico.
Q: Why do some kids get more money than others?
A: The Tooth Fairy delivers treats based on each participant's tooth size and geographic region.
Q: Is the Tooth Fairy tax exempt?
A: The Tooth Fairy runs a 501C3.
But leave it to a creative child to think of the one question I did not.
"Mom," said Elizabeth after she carefully positioned her tooth beneath her pillow, "I have a question for you, you know, because you're a mom and all."
I braced myself.
"How does the Tooth Fairy get into pirates' bedrooms?" she asked. "They sleep with an eye patch over one eye but keep the other open at all times. They would totally notice the Tooth Fairy."
I suggested that perhaps the Tooth Fairy had high-speed wings that made her travel at the speed of light similar to wireless Internet service. After all, we never see the computer actually hooking up to anything.
"No, no, no," said Elizabeth. "I'm so smart, I even see mosquitoes coming to bite me."
I tried again.
Maybe she disguises herself as a housekeeper coming to clean up the cabin?
"No, Mom, there are no really very tiny maids," Elizabeth said.
I began to grasp at straws.
Possibly the Tooth Fairy camoflagues herself and darts between hiding places such as overturned spyglasses or pirate pants left on the floor?
Elizabeth sighed.
"That's not it either, Mom," she said.
Well, I asked her, what do you think? How does the Tooth Fairy give one-eyed pirates the slip?
"I guess," said Elizabeth, "it's all just magic."
I suppose it is. For all of us.