Spring Broken

Callen and Olivia shared a bedroom until they were 4 and 6 year’s old, respectively. One afternoon, when they were barely 2 and 4, I put them down for their (my) much-needed afternoon nap. I listened via monitor to the precious toddler banter that was eventually replaced by quietude, save the sound of gentle even breathing. An hour or so later there were sounds of stirring. Then giggling. Faint pitter patter around their room. Then silence again – only this time it was the kind a parent intuitively recognizes as meaning that somebody is up to no good. Or, as the case may be, two somebodies.

I smelled it before I saw it. My feet were barely on the first floor landing when a faint but unmistakable odor hit: cod liver oil with a twist of menthol. My gait quickened as I ascended the staircase. So did my breathing – perhaps driven by the altitude change, the pace of my climb, or the thickening fumes. I could almost taste it by the time I pushed through their bedroom door.

There stood my diaper-clad bare-footed brood, grinning, caught Kabuki-faced and white-handed, their bedroom walls now adorned with a thick coating of freshly applied Desitin® reaching as high as their tippy toes could take them.

My “Mom look” must have spoken volumes: Olivia’s face crumpled and dissolved into tears. Without so much as a question, she quickly and fully allocuted for her crimes, ending summarily with “I wish I were you and you were me so that you wouldn’t have to be so disappointed in me.” Callen, on the other (white) hand, broke into a broad grin and began jumping up and down, gleefully exclaiming, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”

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It was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Sure, there had been a few other moments of intuition in my life that had proven somewhat premonitory. During my OB/GYN training junior residents came to understand that if Tyson suddenly wanted to simulate a ruptured ectopic or shoulder dystocia, you’d best pay attention because it was likely moments before one rolled in through the ER or labor ward. My ability to “gut out” what a call night or surgery or delivery would be like became the stuff of legends. Well, not really. But more than a few times it served our training team – and thus our patients –well that I could sense trouble brewing before it presented itself.

So it was deeply disturbing to me that, on the night of Thursday March 6, 2014, it struck again. But with unparalleled intensity.

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We never saw it coming. And, in hindsight, it was probably better that way. No hype. No anticipation. No expectation – and thus, no chance for disappointment. We’d certainly experienced our fair share of that recently: the “almosts”, “about tos” and “hopefully soons” have been the landscape and language of our lives for months.

Predicting and planning had long ago yielded to guesstimating, not that this entirely obviated the letdowns. But at least it kept things consistently inconsistent. Nearly everything in our lives was predicated upon caveats and clauses. “If…thens”, “I don’t knows” and “maybes” were the likely answers to just about any question, and the expression “cautiously optimistic” made our approach to life seem boldly decisive.

Callen was particularly keen on the “when” questions: When will I / can I / will my blood be strong enough to”… And our answer had so often been “maybe tomorrow” that he once quite pointedly asked, “How many tomorrows will there be?” I struggled not to read too much into that one.

So there had been a lot of “tomorrows” in the making of that day - which I suppose was, in and of itself a build up to it. Although having lived it, it sure seemed like more of a beating down.

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It's Just a Phase...

New Year’s Day dawned cool and clear and calm - the weather, yes; but more importantly - particularly after the maelstrom that was New Year’s Eve - my mind. As I walked from my room toward the kitchen, I stopped to admire the Christmas tree. I mean, really admire it. Not just pass it by, peripherally aware of its continued existence in our living room. But really study it. Appreciate it. Take it in in its majestic entirety. I breathed in its deep woodsy fragrance. I turned on the tree lights, watched them glow and twinkle in the pre-dawn twilight. I studied the ornaments on the outstretched branches, reliving precious memories of when each was acquired or made.

It was a beautiful, living, breathing tree full of our family’s history as well as presence. And in that moment I realized that I had not given that tree its proper due. Thankfully, in keeping with our tradition of celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas, it would be up for five more days. And so, as I headed out the door, I resolved to come home and return to that place by the tree. Afraid of being consumed by the nostalgia of Christmases past, I had held the holiday spirit at arm’s length long enough. I was finally ready to embrace it.

Two hours later, Jim sent me a text message: the tree had toppled over shortly after my departure.

I. Was. Crushed.

So were countless of our ornaments.

Jim went on to assure me that somewhere, in some culture or universe, having your Christmas tree come crashing down on New Year’s Day was considered a sign of good luck in the coming year.

And while I have been unable to validate this, we’re going with it!

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