Life is fragile… and absurd

standard May 4, 2015 1 response

On Saturday morning I woke to the news that Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg had passed away unexpectedly while on vacation. Now, to most of the world, this is a sad news tidbit people learned about over their morning coffee and forgot long before the day had grown warm, but to our corner of the country, where he was well known and loved, the news threw everyone for a loop.

Successful, healthy men aren’t supposed to die at 47.

To me, the news was particularly poignant, as is all news about dead parents these days. It doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes or make me relapse into my grief funk.

I rallied as best as I could. Took the little and a friend to a skate boarding lesson and rallied as best as I could.

And then, while meandering around downtown, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and discovered that she was battling bone cancer.

I felt panicky for the rest of the day. Short of breath. Shaky. Terrified. Life felt just too fragile to bear.

Most of the time, we live in happy denial of all the things that can tear our friends and family away from us. We don’t know about most of the illnesses that can claim or radically alter lives. We conveniently forget about how dangerous it is to even walk down the street or up the stairs.

And then, sometimes, you get hit in the face with one reminder or three. And BAM, the mere thought of how fragile life is, of how easy it is to lose someone, brings you to your knees and steals the breath from your lungs.

I’d love to say that this temporary epiphany made me more loving to my family, made me want to hug everyone close, but really, all it did was make me want to hide under the covers and lose myself in a book. Even when fictional characters die, they’re never really gone. Just flip a few pages back, and presto, they’re back.

I’m sure that in the not so distant future my denial will be securely back in place and I’ll be, once again, able to get on with my life without gasping for breath every time I glimpse what life would be like if it were missing more of my people.

In the meantime I feel about as fragile as life really is.

Life is Fragile

The lump on my baby’s head

standard July 20, 2009 10 responses

It’s OK now. She’s OK now. But for a moment this afternoon I wasn’t convinced that would be the case.

It started with a ton of crying. Not Little L’s tears. M.J.’s tears. But really that’s not true either. It started with a fun afternoon at the beach. After which we decided to clean up in a hurry and grab a quick dinner before heading back over the hill to our respective homes.

C chucked her sippy cup towards her suitcase and somehow hit M.J.’s head instead. She buried herself under a couch cushion, devastated to have hurt her baby friend. M.J.’s parents did their best to comfort their inconsolable, very tired baby. M and I were running around cleaning. And Little L? Well, I don’t actually know what she was doing.

We all heard the thunk at the same time. When you have a gangly 4-year-old and a rambunctious almost 2-year-old there are always a lot of thunks or thuds. After a while you know which ones are worth investigating and which ones can be ignored. The dull, hollow sounding thunk this evening sounded very much like a head hitting something hard. Hitting something hard, hard. Something like the sharp edge of a plaster wall.

M reached Little L first, gathering her up from her prone position at the base of the wall. I got there a split second later, pulling her into my arms even before the first wail worked it’s way out of her throat. Her eyes stretched wide open and circled madly as she opened her mouth to let lose and I waited, holding my breath.

The amount of time that wail takes to come it directly proportionate to the extent of the injury. This wail took forever and a year. By the time her ear splitting shriek pierced my eardrum I was looking for blood.

I didn’t find any. Instead I found a lump on her forehead that was growing horrifyingly in front of my very eyes. I’ll admit I might have freaked. I yelled for M to get me some ice. I couldn’t stand to see that bump grow any bigger. It just didn’t seem possible that at some point the skin wouldn’t burst open and I really didn’t think I could handle that.

Once some ice had been applied I busied myself trying to look deep in Little L’s eyes. I’m no doctor, but I know that when it comes to head injuries the big things to look for are weird looking pupils, vomiting, and excessive sleepiness. Little L had no desire to let me look into her eyes. She was very focused on snuggling as closely as possible and fighting the ice pack. I didn’t give up. Neither did M.J.’s mom.

We both started intently at her pupils which reacted fine to the light. No vomit spewed forth. And despite having skipped her afternoon nap Little L didn’t seem all that sleepy. Her complaints that the ice was too cold were crystal clear despite the pacifier firmly lodged in her mouth. And after a while I had to relax my hold on her for a moment and concede that there was probably no serious damage.

She danced and sang all the way home, ate her dinner, and chatted her way through her bed time routine. Now she’s sleeping sweetly in her crib. I’m the one who’s still shaking and feeling nauseous. You never know what you’re going to get when you hear that thud. I know all too well that we were unspeakably fortunate that Little L’s run-in with the wall turned out to be just another bump.

Fear makes you drive faster

standard April 17, 2009 6 responses

The phone rang and when I saw the daycare provider’s name pop up on the screen my heart skipped a beat. She never calls. I mean, she only ever calls if it’s a dire emergency, which is never. I’ve gone to pick up the kids only to find one of them with almost a black eye and any explanation is always accompanied with a dismissive wave of the hand.

So, when they call, I know it’s going to be bad.

Today it was about Little L.

“She went down fine, but then she coughed so much we went in to check on her. She was just sitting there. And now she won’t sleep.”
“Is she still coughing?”
“Yeah, she can’t seem to stop. We gave her some of her medicine around two and it didn’t help at all.”
“Is she wheezing?”
“Yeah, it sounds pretty bad.”

They never call. Little L coughs and wheezes all the time and yet they never call.

I dropped everything and told her I was on my way; that I’d call the pediatrician on the way to get an emergency appointment. And then I took what felt like the longest drive in the world.

The daycare is all of 15 minutes away, plenty of time for me to imagine the absolute worst. It’s been a sad couple of weeks online and two dead babies is two dead babies too many and causes a mother to instantly jump to terrible dark places.

What if this is it? What if this is the really bad attack that lands us in the hospital? What did she mean ‘she was just sitting there?’ Is she lethargic? Lethargic is bad, really, really bad. Oh God. My baby, my baby is having trouble breathing. Why is this guy driving so damn slow? Doesn’t he realize I’m in a hurry?

I have to get there. I have to see for myself. I bet she’s fine. That’s it. She’s fine. They’re overreacting. Ha, I bet she even fell asleep while I was getting there. No, no, she wouldn’t have, they’d have called me. OK. I bet she’s playing and having a grand old time. Yeah. That’s it. Or not. Maybe she’s not fine and she’s sitting there, waiting for me, struggling to breathe. Oh God, why can’t this guy drive any faster?

My mind raced much faster than my car, but I finally pulled into the driveway and threw the car into park. I took a deep breath to try to settle myself and I climbed out. As soon as I walked into the door I heard her voice. My baby’s chipper happy voice. And then her laugh.

I almost cried. Little girls who are struggling for breath and are suffering from low oxygen saturation levels do not laugh. They do not talk. She saw me just as I walked into the room and she called out gleefully “MAMA!” and ran to greet me.

My eyes met those of the daycare provider as I scooped her up and held her tight, tight, tight. She just shrugged and I echoed her gesture. Little L was fine, very congested and rattly sounding, but fine. Not struggling, not lethargic. Just fine.

I took her home and tucked her in for her nap, and as she drifted away I stood over her crib and watched her sleep, saying a silent thank you that our incident was ending like this, and not any other way.

Sunday Scribblings – Scary

standard April 13, 2009 11 responses

He places the cardboard box on the table and even before he opens the flap or says anything my heart drops like a stone and threatens to stop. My mouth falls open and I freeze. I can’t tear my eyes away.

There has been no warning, but there’s no doubt in my mind. There are birds in that box. He’s going to open it. I just know it.

I was right. He opens the box and at the first hint of a fluttering wing I’m unfrozen and instantly turned away from the scene, my arms protectively curled around my face.

Breathe. My mind whispers. Breathe. You’re OK. It’s just a TV show. There are no birds in this room. They’re on the other side of the screen. Breathe.

I know it’s just a TV show. My rational brain knows there are no birds in here, and, after a tense moment, I actually manage to convince myself that it’s OK to open my eyes. It’s safe. No wings will flutter near my face, no tiny boned feathered bodies will hurl themselves at me today. But it takes a while for my heart to stop hammering and for my breathing to return to normal.

I do not like birds. OK. Clearly that’s an understatement. I loathe and fear birds. I’ve always shunned any winged animal – they’re the only thing in the world that can make me completely lose my composure and my right mind.

When I lived in Paris, I was hard pressed to avoid the million pigeons that littered every street corner and rooftop in the city. My friends knew better than to question my erratic way of walking down the street – first one sidewalk then switch to the other at the first sign of a cluster of pigeons and then back again at the next sign of trouble.

Here in the Silicon Valley suburbs pigeons are few and far between and just a few loud expletives are enough to scare off the odd swallow or scrub-jay that cross my path. The crows are harder to scare so we have a tacit agreement, they don’t flap their wings near me and I pretend they aren’t loitering on my front lawn. It’s not ideal, but it works. In fact, I thought I was safe. Who could have guessed the hateful things were lying in wait inside my beloved TV?

This post was written in response to the Sunday Scribblings prompt Scary. Click through to read other fantastic entries.