Saturday, January 19, 2013

Keep Calm and Parent On

I spent the earlier part of yesterday in the local ER.  Everyone is fine.  It’s all good.  No worries.

It didn’t start that way.  It started like any other day.  Up at the crack of dawn, or January in the northeast, predawn.  Alarms, snooze buttons, second alarm round up, coffee, bathroom jostling (there is just the one), shower…rallying the lanky tall one off the couch to wake-up and jump in the shower because ITS LATE…He wakes up in incremental steps-several alarms, crash out of bed, always a crash, stumble down the stairs, lands on couch for one more sleep fix.

Lanky, tall one, of mono-syllabic responses and monotone mumbles at this predawn hour, monolithic of stature is curled up in a ball.  Not an easy feat at over 6 feet tall. He is attempting to share he is not OK.  This is enough to let me know he is not.  He is stoic and brave and has an unbelievably high pain threshold- confirmed by medical professionals, not by me.  I have watched over the past couple of years to see just how OK one can be when he has endured the devastating loss and upheaval that he has had to.  And believe me, I have watched like a ravenous hawk, waiting to swoop down and I’m not sure what.  I have only just perfected the ravenous-hawk-like-watching, very nuturing-like, if maybe, you are a cute little baby hawk, which he is not.  He is asked if he is OK at various junctures in his day or week, if the wind is moving south west instead of northeast, if he is tired from swimming as opposed to tired from crafting scientific gadgets or speakers made from Tupperware, or dishes that were not chained to the cupboards, he is asked if he is especially quiet as opposed to ordinarily quiet.  I’ve been looking for OK like only a hawk-like, mama bear type mother can. But he being stoic and stealthy, is always a step ahead. I think feigning OK but I'm watching.  Closely.  With a narrow steady gaze.

Of course when it is quickly assessed that he is not OK in the predawn hours of the day, the next phase of responding is supposed to kick in.  The what-do-I-do-with-this-information-now? Phase.  He is not OK.   I start to check things off.   It is flu season.  But the flu doesn’t usually sneak up on you like this.  I start to reveal anxious.  It looks and sounds a great deal like frustration and anger.  I don’t have a great range of reactions and I have an even smaller repertoire of revealing my reactions in a manner that is to be taken seriously.  I get louder.  I speak a bit faster.  I move around.  Walking.  Pacing.  Looking for things.  Well I’m not exactly looking for anything, it’s more that I am attempting to deny or avoid or downplay the fact that I don’t really know what to do.  Hold on to this, I will be revisiting that thought.

I think aloud.  I ask my questions LOUDLY.   The questions I know the nurse or doctor will ask as I dial the number.  They won’t be able to stare, hawk-like and ask, “Are you OK?” What does it feel like?  What kind of pain?  Is it sharp, dull, shooting?  On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you describe it?  What was the last thing you ate last night?  (The bowl and glass and napkins left on the coffee table have already given him away.)  When I reach the answering service, because I’m not absolutely certain this calls for Emergency Room care, just yet, they add a few more questions.  Can he walk?  Can he jump?  Is he able to walk upright?  Hmmm...well, he is a teen age boy…it’s more of a slouch, sometimes it’s a swagger, it might even be an occasional lope, nah that was about 5 years back…I know where we are going and I’m not sure I really want to go there.  It’s on the lower right side of the abdomen, there’s clamminess, low fever, and nausea…  Oh, wait add vomiting, fast and furious.  Pain is still not subsiding….OK ER it is, lets find, or rule out Appendicitis.  Burst, Ruptured? Surgery? Will the car ride cause more trouble?  Being a ravenous, mama-bear, hawk-like occasionally crazed mother is not easy. 

We get to the local ER with ease and a few laughs.  I make a choice to let go of my own LOUD fears.  He is recognizing calm.... it comforts.  I recall the way this works-muscle memory, but I have not flexed these muscles in far too long.  Calm brings comfort. We are the only ones here. The staff is great.  We are quickly registered and seen.  I called in to work and sent in my plans.  My mind can be here fully.   We go through the ruling out phase.  The tests, the monitoring.  The CT scan.  It’s not Appendicitis.  We are relieved, and we are also much more informed about the need for an appendix and it’s potential uses for repairing or being reformatted into other body parts in cases of other emergencies. Really. Just Google it.

It’s all OK.  The findings are unfortunate but they are manageable and early identified and not of any crisis forming magnitude.  By the time he is released, the pain has subsided and he is set to go home and wash his dishes and locate some missing Tupperware.  Normal, status quo, regular ordinary events and activities are restored.  No biggie.  Why all the fuss?

I had been bumping and crashing into fuss and chaos more often lately than suits me.  It didn’t start out that way.  I had at one time been relied on for being the calm center in the midst of occasional chaos.  I have been upended momentarily by life's road-bumps and I haven’t landed right side up quite yet.  I second guess and question and feel the burden of parenting alone.  I don’t have anyone to confirm or challenge my responses, or I forget to reach out beyond my insular immediate surroundings.  This factor makes so much of my life seem not normal.  I feel like I have been functioning in between this maybe ravenous hawk-like stance and this jack-rabbit fast leaping mode. 

The closer we got to the hospital, the quicker some of my fears subsided.  I realize there will be others to help and make decisions with.  I don’t really know what I’m doing here.  After 24 years of parenting and with just a few more of the normal and intense day-to-day type months of parenting left, before the tall lanky one is college bound, I truly still don’t really know what I’m doing.  But it turns out I have fairly good instincts.  I have a pretty firm grasp on reality.  This truth surprises me just slightly.  I have forgotten this over the past 2 years.  Stress and upended-ness have altered my faith in myself as a parent, a person.  I no longer have a husband, a spouse, a co-parent to look to or even contact during these not so regular times.  But I have some choices.  I can get carried away with my fears or I can support and love and be comforting to the tall, lanky one that can’t wait to get home and do some dishes. His older siblings, still need love and support and assurance that I am OK and available even as they enjoy doing their own dishes far away.

A growing faith in myself as an individual has allowed me to build upon incredible friends and it has strengthened my ability to reach out to family with more ease.  I have stopped trying to make sense of circumstances that have very little to do with me, but that I had allowed to impact me until I was beyond recognition.  Without that faith, it seemed I was relentlessly being pummeled with catastrophic events.  And perhaps I was, but responding from a place of calm as opposed to battle-scarred chaos makes life a whole lot easier to manage.  Life is going to keep coming at me and every so often I am going to want to get up and play and dance and sing my way through it scars and smiles, all. 

This morning I awake.  Almost exactly as I did the previous day.  Except today I am scheduled for surgery.  No biggie, it is my day for stoic and stealth.  It begins.  Tall, lanky one is not awake in spite of the complicated alarm system that he has rigged up.  “Let’s GO!!!  I have to get to the hospital in 20 minutes!  Oh my God! I can’t believe you left all of those dishes on the coffee table!”  Loud. Fast. Picking things up and misplacing them so that I will have something to look for the next time chaos and uncertainty arrive.  Maybe I know exactly what I’m doing….  

The bunionectomy will help with the sure-footed calm and the wild nights of dancing to come.  It's all good.  No worries.  We are all getting closer to fine.

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