Mama, Col, 6, whisper-squeaks after choking down a droplet of juice, can you make me an apple pie?
A strange request, coming from someone whose tonsils have been newly hacked off, whos given up on talking and eating. Earlier, Col asked for chicken noodle soup and also beans. Honoring his culinary fancies, I flew to the store; he later slurped one nano-molecule of broth, grimacing like he was swallowing a chicken whole.
On the way to the hospital, Col was chatty and cheerful, wondering bravely, What do you think my mouth will look like after my tonsils are out?
Oh, maybe like a smooth cave, I replied and we all laughed as if we were actually headed to the carnival ride, tonsillectomy, and not to the operating room.
In the pre-op room, Dan read theatrically to Col from a National Geographic magazine, Look at those humongous whale vertebrae! while medical personnel bustled around us. Soon we were waved off to the lobby to eat elk sausage sandwiches and wait for the eternity of a 30-minute operation to conclude.
After the toothy grip of anesthesia wore off, we transported Col home, and he quickly fell asleep on the couch.
He woke up an hour later and whispered, But, did they actually take my tonsils out?
They really did honey, I said.
I didnt feel it, he replied.
I know. You were sleeping.
The last thing Col probably remembers is being wheeled away from us on the hospital bed, crying and protesting, flanked by a team of green-scrubbed staff who were so gentle and friendly it could have been an episode of Sesame Street goes to the OR. I stood by the lobby door watching the bed sail down the hall, sniffling to Dan unconvincingly, Im so excited for how Cols life will improve.
And that was the hardest moment. Sending Col off alone and afraid. Now its just extreme caregiving, which is like returning to the germination of my own motherhood, when my seed-shell cracked open and a root threaded its way underground and I understood, instantly, that my singular job was to love and care for this baby.
And caring for postsurgical Col is almost like caring for an infant. We cheer when he eats, pees, sleeps and smiles. Our house has become a cocoony nest where we leave only to restock juice; yesterday the four of us watched the entire original Wizard of Oz in bed while the sun bounced around outside, invitingly.
It must seem to Rosie that Col is living in her dream world, where every other second someone is offering him popsicles, juice, ice cream, Jell-o, movies, snuggles, presents and more ice cream. Were practically begging Col to chew gum, rumored to help the pain, and he refuses, while Rose would happily chew her weight in gum every day.
But it is Rose who coaxes the most smiles out of Col, and what she wants most of all is her old playmate back.
Rachel Turiels column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Check out her blog at 6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.