I mentioned in my last post that Ethan just started first grade. It causes me to remember my own experiences during first grade. Mostly being bored and losing my front teeth. It's kind of a trick because you get your kids excited to go to school when you know very well they are bound to hate it. But too late; they are stuck in the cycle.
Seeing my son in first grade has irked me. It was the year of my life that I made my first of many trips to the hospital. Yes, it's been one of those lives. But from the perspective of a parent, I look back actually glad that I was the one getting IVs and stomach pumps and being gutted like a fish. It was painful but I knew it wouldn't be forever. I never thought my life was in danger. I know that, as a dad, I have a hard time just when one of my kids gets a fever. I have new respect for my mother who had to stand by helplessly seeing the six-year-old body of her little boy doped up, cut up and stitched up. Over and over. I dread that I should ever have that experience with any of my kids and it's not just because I don't have health insurance.
It's also funny how I miss the hospital. There were nosy, annoying roommates and involuntary hunger strikes, but there were also nice nurses and no expectations on you but to lie in bed and get well soon. I became the champion on the Space Invaders game that someone had donated to the hospital. I watched Mary Poppins about a hundred times on a VCR they wheeled from room to room. I even miss the faces of the zombie kids, all pale and lifeless as they hobbled around the halls in their ghostly gowns. I was one, too. You would never expect that people would be so proud of you for shuffling your way out into the hall way and back into your bed after a surgery, leaning on your IV pole.
Here are some "firsts" I had in the hospital:
The power of laughter - I shared a room on more than one occassion with some chubby kid who loved to stuff his face in front of me. I was on a steady diet of nothing, soon to be upgraded to one tiny cup of ice per day. Would I eat it right away or drink it when it got slushier? I had hours and hours and days and days to think about it. Soon I would reach the paradise of Jello and popsicles. Just hang in there.
Anyhow, the chubby kid was loud. He and his father would freak out every time a Micheal Jackson Pepsi commercial would come on TV. He made several requests a day for a Micheal Jackson poster to hang on the wall. He would also poke his head through the curtain at those key moments like when you were getting your temperature taken AbuGraib-style. After he had his surgery, I realized anytime he bugged me I could do a Mr. T impersonation and he would laugh for a second, then grab at the zipper the doctors had attached to his skin and cry. I pity the fool who doesn't stay on his side of the curtain!
Drug addiction - After the surgeries the nurses would come in a couple times a day with a needle full of "Medicine for pain." I liked that stuff. I planned my day around it. It didn't really make you feel good. It actually burned as it crawled up your arm through your IV and then it made you fall asleep. A good way to get through those crappy soap operas, I found. Boy did I get angry the day I asked for pain medicine and the nurse handed me some Tylenol instead of producing the syringe. No lady, give me the good stuff! "THE GOOD STUFF!" I would yell, throwing my cup of ice against the wall and wishing for the satisfying sound of shattering glass instead of crumpling paper. Okay... there was no way I would waste a day's ration of ice like that but that was how I felt for a split second when I found out my friend Morphine was being taken away. It was my first and last brush with drugs. Okay for sleeping through Days of our Lives but not worth throwing away your life for.
Asshole doctors - If you were between the ages of six and nine and you had a rubber tube punched through your abdomen and connected to your intestine and your doctor just strolled in one day and said, "Let's get that thing out of you" and continued to grab the tube and pull it out of your guts like a chain of colorful handkerchiefs, wouldn't you feel justified in squirting a couple of tears, even if just from fear and unknowing? And if the doctor saw your tears and used his angry voice to say, "Oh be quiet, it doesn't hurt" wouldn't you feel justified in thinking that doctor was a prick? Me too.
First grade was also the year my parents got divorced. My mother told me that upon splitting up, my father told her he put an Indian curse on her and that my health issues may have been related. She also reminds me that my father didn't visit me in the hospital until my third or fourth stay. But I remember waking up one day and there was my dad. He had flown across two states to see me. I woke up and before I said anything else, I asked, "Did you bring me a present?" It seemed reasonable as everyone else had showered me with Legos and stuffed animals and coloring books. But I like it the way my mom tells it where it's dad who was the thoughtless and selfish one. He said his trip to Colorado was my present. I asked him for $5. He asked why. I told him, "To help mom buy food." A couple of weeks later he sent me $5 dollars in the mail. I spent the rest of my hospital stay trying to decide what food to buy with the money. I looked forward to TV commercials for inspiration. I decided on Saltine crackers. I can't remember if I bought them or not but I will blog about being poor another day.
So if boredom is the worst my son has to deal with this year then we can both consider ourselves lucky.