Friday, May 18, 2007

Saying goodbye to Mommy for the night

This was a hard night. I brought kids 1-5 into Spokane for a reunion with Mom and baby Jack, who is in the Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. They haven’t seen their Mom since Tuesday morning at 6:45 am, at which time we all thought they’d be home the next day at the latest.

As it happens, Jack’s “failure to thrive” has him in the hospital much longer, possibly a week, maybe less, maybe more, depending on whether he can prove that his little body can begin to keep calories in him and gain some real weight. They’ve put Jack through a battery of tests for everything from possibly horrible diseases like Muscular Dystrophy to simple potential allergies to some element of his mother’s milk diet. They’ve taken tissue biopsies all the way down to his intestines, numerous blood draws and “sweat test” patches to keep ruling out things we don’t want to think about.

All of this while he has a feeding tube inserted through his nose that goes all the way into his tiny tummy. It doesn’t seem to bother him but it’s taped to his face like spray paint on the Mona Lisa – it just shouldn’t be there.

So tonight, after a week of unbelievable help from literally dozens of people, flowers and calls of support from more than that, not to mention the most sincere, genuine, unexpected and moving offering of personal and group prayer I think I’ve ever been blessed with from our schools superintendent and members of the School District 271 leadership team, we reunited the older kids with their little brother and their Mom.

I realized tonight that I’ve been more frazzled by all of this than I was aware of. And I’m more than a little embarrassed by the realization (again) of just how much hard, important work my wife does every day as a stay-at-home parent. I have known for years that she works much harder than I do, which is not at all false modesty. But I really hadn’t processed in a while just how many constant and all-consuming details go into life as a single parent. Because when I travel on business or am gone from home for extended work periods, in many ways that’s what she is. Even with all the help and support I’ve received from all corners of our life, I still am feeling pretty wiped out as I sit and type tonight. She does this much stuff 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the last 12 years without the slightest complaint. Me I’m grousing about lots of little things.

But in all that what has struck me the most is that the hardest part so far was when a weary set of kids had to say goodbye to their Mom at the elevator after 3 hours of wonderful plain togetherness. Our 2-year old was almost totally distraught. Our 9-year old was silently crying in a way I hadn’t seen her do in I can’t remember how long. Our 4-year old was bleary eyed and kept asking Mommy why she couldn’t go home with us. Our 7-year old was a trooper in helping carry things to the car while she stared off into the distance not fully comprehending or wanting to leave. And our 11-year old eldest was a proud big brother champion who didn’t want me to see his tears as we sat in the car in the parking garage getting ready to pull out for the trek home from Spokane.

And most of all, the strongest woman I’ve ever known, my wife, was trying gamely to be strong in front of the kids while grappling with the emotions of day four of an uncertain hospital stay for our smiley happy three month old who is clueless that anything is wrong.

This week has been one of those focusing events in our life, in mine anyway, that seems like a message from above saying “be still, watch your kids sleep quietly, and be reminded that this is truly the most important thing you’ll do on this earth.” I don’t reflect on those times enough.

These last few days I’ve been working to remind myself of the little blessings that permeate our lives. I’m glad that modern medicine is as good as it is. I’m deeply touched by the cheery, varied, and unending assistance that friends and family have provided all week. I’m blessed to have health insurance so that at least a big chunk of this major expense will be covered (fingers crossed). I’m happy that if this had to happen at all it did so in the spring and not the middle of a snowy winter. And the list of dumb things I’m forcing myself to be thankful for goes on an on.

But more than anything else I wish Kathleen were in bed in the next room with baby Jack in her arms - anticipating in her ever-vigilant “Mommy sleep” the inevitable 2 am visit from a partially sleepwalking child of whatever age who climbs into the bed and snores the gorgeous music that only a child can create. I wish the dog were in the house standing sentry at the foot of the bed always on Kathleen's side while I’m in the other room typing or reading something with half an eye on a fake news comedy show.

Maybe one day this week will take its place as a little gift to my memory, reminding me that in the small, routine times when the world is totally in order it’s then that I need to pause and give thanks. Maybe.

Get better fast Jack. Gain some weight and get yourself back home. And please don’t forget to bring your Mom with you. She’s the glue holding together the lives of seven people who love and miss you both very much.

18 comments:

Thom George said...

Mike, that just might be one of the single most thoughtful and penetrating pieces I've ever read. Hang in there, this too shall pass.

Chuck said...

oh well that freaking broke my heart. Hope all turns out well, Mike. Blessed are the children.

MarmiteToasty said...

(((((((Kennedys))))))))) you bought me to tears...... I wish and hope you all the very very best.....

When things like this happen it does make one realise so very much in life, and just how fragile it can be..... my 4th son was rushed into hospital when he was 6 weeks old unable to keep his feeds down.... and as little jack he had tubes and monitors and tests for the very worst of things we didnt really want to think about..... the only time I left his side was when the doctors told me to nip out and watch my 4 year olds xmas nativity..... they said it was important not to miss it... so with a trembling heart I left Jacob and his monitors sleeping and nipped out for 2 hours to watch that special nativity...... I dont do god, no as such, I want to, but I dont get it, but during that navitity I screamed inside for someone to help this baby.....

When I got back to the hospital my child had taken a turn for the worst and had a tube inserted into his neck so that he could breath, it was the most frightening thing, and I had left my child while this was happening.... the guilt I felt was almost unbareable.....

But ya know what....... after only 4 weeks in hospital, we bought him home...... happy safe and healthy..... the hole in his neck healed and its dead centre and dead round lol and as he grew the circle grew with him, its about the size of a penny..... we tell him its where he was kissed by an angel but of course now as a young man, not quite a child but not quite a man, he knows different lol

((((((((((kennedys)))))))) sorry for rambling on ....... my thoughts and best wishes are with you all........ peace

x

doug fredericks said...

Mike - What a wonderfully written piece. Being retired from the military and the father of two, I realize the tremendous burden that moms take on when their adult, leaning post has to go away. My prayers are with your family. God Bless your little Jack.

Phil said...

Beautiful words at a terrible time. I pray that Jack turns that corner soon and is home with his family where he belongs.

Yes, we all need to slow down and think about what's important. Your kids are lucky to have BOTH of you as parents.

JBelle said...

Sometimes,these things happen. Only later do we find out why. Lighting a candle for each one of you.

Bay Views said...

Oh, Wow! If a fallen Christian's
ayer will help, you have it.

Herb

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you and your family. My 3 children and myself send you warm hugs and happy thoughts and we will remember you in our prayers and thoughts daily.Sean .

HoorayForSaturday said...

Our son was born three months premature and he had the same tube up the nose and taped to his face, but know that as bad as it looks it's helping him in a huge way.
Wishing the best for your family from ours.

Anonymous said...

you and your family are remembered in prayer out here in the blogosphere.

Mike said...

Wow - I'm catching up now and am reading all of your wonderful posts. Thank you very, very much. I really think the knowledge that people are pulling for you and praying for you makes a big difference. Thanks from the bottom of our family's hearts.

Jump to the Left said...

Beautiful expression of beautiful feelings in trying moments. Best wishes and prayers for each one.

Anonymous said...

Mike please know that our thoughts and prayers are with your family...
From my family...

Darren said...

I came over from Phil's site. Our prayers are with all of you.

Hann said...

Hi Mike, visiting via Phil's blog from Australia. Firstly wishing you all strength until little Jack and his Mum comes back home again, I will pray for your gorgeous little boy and he will soon recover.

We've been where you guys are now, and I also remember the tears on my older two kids' faces when saying goodbye after hospital visits, it is heart wrenching, but please stay positive and know the doctors are doing every thing they can to find the problem and solution.

Not long now and he'll be back home again, I truly believe it.
Warm Aussie regards, Hannelie

vanetten said...

I always knew you were a good guy at heart. I am sorry to hear about Jack. It is not a great way to start life here on earth but what a blessing that he has you two as parents to hold his hand while it happens. I am sure this is not by chance. My families prayers are with you.

Mike said...

You guys are terrific - and all the way from Australia! How cool!

Things are going well, Jack's been gaining weight, and we're following the regimen closely.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers - they are all appreciated more than you know!

Holly said...

I send my hopes and prayer from Tacoma, Wa.
Things will look on the bright side.