My granddaughter Carmen demonstrates how I feel about life sometimes.
She keeps popping in and out as I work at my desk. Every few words I have to stop typing to see what she needs. Her tiny flashlight that’s blue and not pink. A Beanie Baby kitty that sits among my books. Paper from my printer to draw a green robot.
Finally, she bounces in wearing totally different clothes and shoes.
“Why did you change your clothes?” I’m amazed she’s such a quick-change artist.
“I want to look beautifo.”
“You know where you look really beautiful?”
She eyes me expectantly.
“In your chair watching Sponge-Bob.”
She sucks in her breath and runs.
My firstborn gave me a gift last October. Well, he and his wonderful wife. A most precious gift. Carmen joined our family and took up permanent residence in my heart. There is no greater joy, no medicine more effective than my two precious granddaughters. Their pictures surround me as I work. Thoughts of them buoy me throughout the day. Here’s the other love of my life.
I love you, Carmen!
Waking up to café con leche and a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel. There’s nothing better than that. Unless it’s having it served in bed. We’ve established a give and take that has only taken us 32 years to perfect. Or try to perfect.
The only thing missing this morning is a little voice saying, “Na, I want some juice.” After a week with her, I got used to having my granddaughter around. But, her mother came yesterday morning and whisked her away. Now I feel robbed, but strangely rested.
My heart, though, needs no rest. There are vestiges of her presence about the house. A pile of Legos on the floor by my bed. I left them there all day on purpose. To remind me of her, and anyway they weren’t on my side of the bed. I needn’t step over them on my travels and her Pa was gone to work all day.
The living room is littered with her books and crayons, her throne askew, her pint-sized easy chair in which she installs herself and pronounces, “I want SpongeBob, Na.” Thankfully, SpongeBob is usually on TV when she requests it because Na forgot how to work the Xbox, and the Blu-ray player, forget it.
She is back to her usual self, thank goodness. And Na must get back to her usual self and her usual duties. There is an editing class final to do and another writing class to sign up for. And seriously explore setting up a freelance editing business. Why not? I do it for free already!
The clock is ticking and my nursing license expires in a few weeks. I’ve lost the debate with myself. I will renew it, but that means I have to order a Continuing Ed class and pronto. I’m still toying with the idea of having a job where I have to punch in. Keeping my license active gives me the freedom to keep toying.
I just don’t want to learn any more about breath sounds or heart sounds, and definitely not bowel sounds! I want to learn something interesting. Something that suits my needs and interests of today. How about health care journalism? Now that I could sink my teeth into.
But, I might settle for a class on humor. I’m a big believer in humor therapy. Laughter is the best medicine. I used to give up precious sleep back when I was a nursing student. M*A*S*H came on at 11:30 at night and I had to watch, had to laugh. To wash away the stress of the day. Working, studying, keeping house and raising my young son while going through a divorce was no picnic. And there was nobody to bring me coffee in bed then.
She throws up her little hands before pronouncing the last “more medicine.” She is reclining on my bed, relaxing against a bunch of pillows. I am setting up her nebulizer for her 1 pm aerosol when she starts reeling off the “more medicines.” But, she is complaint to the nth degree. She knows the drill. Sadly, she knows the drill.
Her compliance breaks my heart. No three-year-old should be hogtied to a medical regimen. No toddler should be thinking about more medicine. They should be free to run and play and the only concern should be how to avoid naptime. Or how to delay bedtime.
But, here we are. And thankfully, here we are. We can employ the verb “to be.”
Amid all the hubbub of her illness and hospitalization, my “more medicines” became less medicines with my having forgotten my own drill. It hardly seemed important at the time. Vaguely I knew I was due to take something, sometime, and I managed to get around to it, sort of.
I missed some. I know that. My hand knows that. My ex-friend/lover, insidious little entity that he is, came calling. Wanted to renew the relationship. I said OK, for a little while. I kind of like having a flexible right hand. So I let him give me ten kisses today, I mean ten milligrams. Tomorrow I am cutting him down to five.
And I’m thinking I will allow him to hang around for a fleeting moment each day. 2.5 milligrams worth. For a while anyway. Prednisone, he is both enabler and disabler. Need to walk a fine line with this guy.
But in the end, I want the “more medicine” story to be mine, not hers.
I’ve been told I put too much stock in dreams. And perhaps I do. For a reason. A few nights ago I dreamt that a family gathering had been canceled because someone was in the hospital. It seemed a very strange dream and it bothered me. Made me feel as if the earth was unsteady under my feet.
I felt something akin to impending doom, but I tried to shake it off. It was silly; it was just a dream.
And then, out of the blue, a family gathering scheduled for next month was canceled. The reason given was time constraints and travel expenses, but when that happened it made chills run up and down my spine.
For you see, my granddaughter was being seen in the ER at that very moment. A follow-up from the previous afternoon’s visit to her pediatrician. Her cough was not improving and my daughter took her to be seen again.
When that trip-cancellation call came in, I knew she wasn’t going to be sent home with the regular medication regimen. She was admitted to the hospital with a respiratory virus known as RSV. It was so sudden and so overwhelming that her little lungs couldn’t handle it and there was talk of putting her in the ICU.
I knew what that talk meant. A vision of her surrounded by machinery and a myriad of lines tormented me. Immediately, I attempted to strike a bargain. Give me the biggest, baddest flare. Give me the pain and the suffering. Let her get better. She’s so little. But a speck in that huge hospital bed. Let me lie there instead.
I sat at her side and prayed as she struggled to breathe through her constant chest-wracking cough. Watched helplessly while an aggressive treatment was implemented. Medicine to be breathed in, medicine pushed through her IV and medicine given through a needle into her little body.
Thoughts of all the people I knew who also knew her passed through my mind like a repeating slide show, and I mentally willed them all to think good thoughts for her. I silently read the faces of all who entered to attend to her. My daughter, her mother, accepted all she heard at face value. But, I heard the real story and it terrified me.
And then, after hours and hours of aggressive treatment, the doctor listened to her lungs for the umpteenth time and then smiled. She gave a thumbs up as she replaced the stethoscope around her neck. No ICU, she said.
Tomorrow my baby is due to come home. This evening she sat on my lap for hours, her monitor wires and IV lines tangled around us like so much spaghetti. She was tired of being in the bed and wanted to gaze out the window.
“I want to see the moon,” she said.
Half of February is gone already. Where did it go? What did I do with it?
All I know is that my to-do list gets longer by the day. Though I don’t always know which day. It’s my own fault somewhat. This past week I got to spend two whole days with my Cutie. She came laden with Valentine’s Day candy and she brought me my own Valentine’s goodie bag. M&M’s, yum!
Though by the time we left the restaurant, it had turned cold and rainy. What kind of nasty trick was that? This is Miami!
And this morning the cold persists. My hands don’t appreciate that. I have a quilt to finish. I’ve let it simmer for almost a week or so and it’s due Saturday.
Yesterday I spent the day recouping from following a toddler around. That is an activity best reserved for the young, not the young at heart. And while I rested up, I did get to accomplish one of my New Year’s resolutions. Update my blog(s) a little. I have to say it was fun.
But now, back to my list of things to do. First up, finish that quilt!
“Na, I want some juice.”
The feathery voice sounds distant, yet near. I bury myself deeper into the bundle of pillows surrounding me. I don’t want to open my eyes. Not yet, not yet.
“Naaa, I want some juice.”
There it is again. I’m surfacing. Against my will, the tide of awareness returns. I remember now, the padding of little footsteps inching their way into my room. A little body climbing into my bed. Half-asleep, I’d set the TV on cartoons and passed out again.
Now came the reckoning.
“You want juice?” I mumble.
“You want a banana?”
“Yes. I want banana juice.”
Okay, that wakes me up. Banana juice? I open my eyes and look at her. She gives me that expectant trusting smile that drills right through my heart and into my soul.
I glance at the clock; it’s barely eight! Na is definitely not a morning person.
We make our way into the kitchen, she bouncing down the hallway, me shuffling behind. At the table, she hops into her favorite chair, the one that affords a view of the living room TV.
After breakfast, I try to work. My brain is running on four cylinders, and I need eight. Eight hours of sleep, that is. I’m missing a couple, but I try to concentrate through the fog. I stick to safe activities, like writing, reading and studying. No sharp objects for me today.
She keeps herself busy playing with her toys and watching a movie, all the while popping into my office at regular intervals. She loves to mimic what I do and asks for pen and paper. I help her write her name. A-L-Y-S-S-A. Her grin blinds me.
Around lunchtime, I give up trying to work. I go to the living room to join her and decide to stick to my crochet project for the rest of the day. Can’t hurt myself with a crochet hook.
But, I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I lie down on the loveseat and call her over.
“Come, it’s naptime.”
“Naptime for you,” she says, with that smile.
Oh, yes, naptime for me.
“I want SpongeBob, Na.”
I check the Guide; it’s on. I’ll just lie here and OD on SpongeBob and Patrick.
Before I know it, I’m carried away, with her little body snuggled up against me. Precious sleep.
But all too soon she’s up again.
“I want to go to school, Na.”
“You want to play with your friends?” It must suck being stuck in the house with old Na.
“Yes,” she says, nodding.
I watch her as she paces back and forth on the couch gazing out the bay window.
“I want my mommy,” she says.
“Your mommy’s at work.”
“She’s at work at school?”
“Yes,” I say, surprised she understands her mommy works at a daycare center. Usually they go together, but she’s to spend two days with me. Her mommy works a second job.
I busy myself preparing dinner while she pushes her doll in its stroller around the kitchen. This morning, orange juice made her forget about banana juice and I pour some OJ into her Sippy cup.
Before we can sit down to eat, my daughter calls. “I’m on my way to pick her up.”
“Yes, my work hours changed.”
“OK,” I say, looking out the window. Outside the sun still shines, but inside my world is dim. My light is leaving a day early.
I had an epiphany this morning. I woke up as I usually do, with my youngest child on my mind. She is far from home and worrying about her comes as natural to me as breathing. She was hoping to come home for Christmas, but that won’t be feasible. That in itself is disappointing, and though I miss her dearly I can deal with it.
What I do have trouble with is the fact that she is living all alone in New York City. These past months I have made several attempts to get her to come home, but she is bound and determined to stay there and try to make it into the journalistic world. Free room and board is not enough to entice her; she’d rather rough it up there, working at whatever she can find while she keeps “writing on the side.”
I’m glad she’s writing, and though at this point the publications she writes for don’t pay, at least she’s adding to her portfolio. I suppose I could romanticize her present status and think of her as a starving artist, but the starving part doesn’t sit very well with me. Besides, she’s already tiny enough that a stiff breeze could blow her away.
I try to convince myself that she is all right; that she is an adult now, capable of making her own decisions. I tell myself that I don’t need to hear from her daily, that I don’t have to wait up for her to text me she’s safe in her room anymore. I remind myself that I must keep my stress level in check, that RA loves any and all enablers. And RA has had its way with me for long enough.
And then this morning it hit me. Why am I worrying about her walking the streets of New York when she’s walked the streets of Casablanca, Tangier, Accra, Cape Town, Penang, Ho Chi Min City, Hue City, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Delhi, Tokyo, Yokohama and Puntarenas during her Semester at Sea voyage around the world? And before that were the streets of Paris and Amsterdam during her European trip, which seems so long ago I barely remember the other countries on the itinerary besides Germany and Norway.
Added to that are the four years she spent trekking up and down busy Commonwealth Avenue attending university in Boston. There was no set apart campus there; she was right smack in the middle of the big city. And how can I forget the months she spent roaming the entire country by car the summer she was twenty, accompanied by three other twenty-year-olds. If she could handle driving the L.A. freeways, something I couldn’t get myself to do when I lived there, what exactly am I worried about?
She’s logged more miles than the rest of her family put together and at this point only Australia, South America and the North and South Poles lack her footprints. She has no fear of new places, meeting new people or of being alone. Her school teachers weren’t off the mark when they noted that she was self-directed and self-sufficient in her yearly reports.
She’s known to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to and her wish now is to become a travel writer. I suppose she has compiled more material during her 22 years than most people will in a lifetime. I have to say I don’t know anyone else quite like her.
“She’s different, isn’t she?” my son said to me while I visited him last month.
“Yes,” I responded. “She is.”