December 25, 2000

I awaken in a heap at the foot of your bed after a couple of hours of disrupted sleep. It is Christmas morning at Boston Children’s Hospital. I look up at Santa Claus who is looking down at me. He is dressed as a doctor. A doctor dressed as an Indian. He stands behind me, holding a clipboard. In my sleep deprived stupor, I momentarily forget where we are. I suppose the impostor wished to not to disturb my sleep, so he waited for me to naturally awaken. My subconscious mind registered his presence, or he subtly cleared his throat. No matter. I am not use to this type compassion. Professional, gentle, soft spoken, he introduces himself, says he is a resident, your doctor for the day. “Merry Christmas,” I say.
Christmas Eve started off horrendously. You, receiving a pelting by another ambush of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome. This one, worse than the others, striking you fast and hard earlier that day. By evening Dad and I knew we could not wait any longer for you to rally.
I drive as always. Dad meets us there. At the E.R. Dr. Tim Drury takes one look at you, and says, “He needs to go to Boston. He needs to go now and by ambulance. He’s too sick to be driven.”
You have been ill in various degrees on and off for over a year, we in continuous hope for your full recovery. Little had been done to help you.
All three of us exhausted, you too ill to move. Dad upon hearing Dr. Drury’s words, loses it completely. He adamantly refuses to allow you to go to another hospital, saying, “No! No more hospitals!” loudly enough for the entire emergency room staff to hear. His words shock me. I have never seen Dad so indignant. I am seriously confused. I do not know what to do. Your father is refusing your recommended medical care. I stare at him in disbelief, but I share his feelings. I want more than anything for you to be home, feeling great, celebrating Christmas, never to suffer this cruelty again.
Dr. Drury speaks again. “Mr. O’Brien, your son is extremely ill. It is not at all wise for him to go home. The best place for him is in Boston Children’s Hospital. The doctors there are the best in the world.” “No.” Dad reiterates. The room hushes. It vacates except for you, Dad and me. Dad hugs you, his eyes tearing as he says, “Goodbye. I love you Jeff see you soon.” He turns and leaves the emergency room, says he is going home.
At the stroke of midnight, we are tearing our way north in a hurtling red van. Blue strobe atop ushers us through the ghastly walls of the Big Dig. You lay sideways on the gurney continually vomiting shredded intestinal content into pink kidney shaped plastic. I hold your needled hand silently begging God to keep you with me.
This Christmas morning, my son, you rouse to pain, bile heaves, intravenous alarms, the sight of Santa Claus aka Dr. Bhakta and me. Dr. Bhakta poking, tapping, listening, whispering considerate, broken words, “I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe. Nice to meet you, Jeff. As well you, Mrs. O’Brien.”
‘Merry Christmas’ I say.
‘Merry Fucking Christmas’ I think.
You reach. My hand grips yours, soft, warm, and enigmatically alive.

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December 2018

It takes a lot of courage. I hand over the pages. My sleepwalk life is held between his fingers. Over a decade which took me more courage than I had to survive. When resilience scratched out a scrap of renewed hope to go on. He reads a few sentences penning corrections. Exclaims, ‘Your writing is horrendous!’ Just like that, he betrays my trust.
I have done some work around personal growth, so I do not blurt what tumbles to the tip of my tongue. ‘Shut the fuck up you crazy old bastard! Did you even read page one!” I sit quietly letting him think I am a lady.
He set me back. But I have never easily caved.
So, to Mr./ Mrs. McJudgey with an overly critical voice, read a human story before asking sensitive questions with answers on page two. Not all lives are as simple as they may appear to an extended life of privilege. Stretch your mind. Step into the shoes of anyone who is living/has lived with true life adversity. Think like a child. Correct with kindness.
Cathy did not know me through those years, but she did have the testicular fortitude to ask, ‘How did you ever come back from that Nancy?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know.’ But I do know. Horrendously. Unimaginably. With eternal gratitude. I appeared with eager anticipation of decades of living my one cherished life. Wondrously at peace with myself.
I have reason, other than ego to want to share how I did it.
Skill can be learned. I am finally confidently in possession of the rare courage it takes to tell my story.

December 25, 2000

I awaken in a heap at the foot of your bed after a couple of hours of disrupted sleep. It is Christmas morning at Boston Children’s Hospital. I look up at Santa Claus who is looking down at me. He is dressed as a doctor. A doctor dressed as an Indian. He stands behind me, holding a clipboard. In my sleep deprived stupor, I momentarily forget where we are. I suppose the impostor wished to not to disturb my sleep, so he waited for me to naturally awaken. My subconscious mind registered his presence, or he subtly cleared his throat. No matter. I am not use to this type of compassion. Professional, gentle, soft spoken, he introduces himself, says he is a resident, your doctor for the day. “Merry Christmas,” I say.
Christmas Eve started off horrendously. You, receiving a pelting by another ambush of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome. This one, worse than the others, striking you fast and hard earlier that day. By evening Dad and I knew we could not wait any longer for you to rally.
I drive as always. Dad meets us there. At the E.R. Dr. Tim Drury takes one look at you, and says, “He needs to go to Boston. He needs to go now and by ambulance. He’s too sick to be driven.”
You had already been sick on and off for over a year, we in continual hope for your full recovery. Little had been done to help you.
All three of us exhausted, you too ill to move. Dad upon hearing Dr. Drury’s words, loses it completely. He adamantly refuses to allow you to go to another hospital, saying, “No! No more hospitals!” loudly enough for the whole emergency room staff to hear. His words shock me. I have never seen Dad so indignant. I am seriously confused. I do not know what to do. Your father is refusing the recommended medical care. I stare at him in disbelief, but I share his feelings. I want more than anything for you to be home, feeling great, celebrating Christmas, never to suffer this cruelty again.

Dr. Drury speaks again. “Mr. O’Brien, your son is extremely ill. It is not at all wise for him to go home. The best place for him is in Boston Children’s Hospital. The doctors there are the best in the world.” “No.” Dad reiterates. The room hushes. It vacates except for you, Dad and me. Dad hugs you, his eyes tearing as he says, “Goodbye, I love you Jeff, see you soon.” He turns and leaves the emergency room, says he is going home.
At the stroke of midnight, we are tearing our way north in a hurtling red van. Blue strobe atop ushering us through the ghastly walls of the Big Dig. You lay sideways on the gurney continuously vomiting shredded intestinal content into pink kidney shaped plastic. I hold your needled hand silently begging God to keep you with me.
This Christmas morning, my son, you awaken to pain, bile heaves, intravenous alarms, the sight of Santa Claus aka Dr. Bhakta and me. Dr. Bhakta poking, tapping, listening, whispering kind, broken words, “I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe. Nice to meet you, Jeff. As well you, Mrs. O’Brien.”
‘Merry Christmas’ I say.
‘Merry Fucking Christmas’ I think.
You reach. My hand grips your miraculously soft, warm, and alive, perfect boy hand.

Perfect Ricochet

Swiftly, I applied mascara in front of the mirror.
Barely enough to make my eyes pop a bit. A smudge of shadow, a hint of blush.
Once you charmingly asked of me “Why do you put make up on?”
I replied, “To make myself look beautiful.”
My answer seemed to suffice your ever curious self.
Naively, I thought only I possessed masterful skills of observation.
You keenly saw beyond what I ever imagined.
You, Grover dangling at your side,
regarding me in front of the morning mirror from your spot in the doorway.
You, in your fair from heaven wisdom saying,
“Mommy you don’t need make up to look beautiful. You’re beautiful just the way you are”.
Implausibly, flawless you.
Morning mirror moments, I see you, most seraphic gift of new life.
Skin porcelain, soft as velvet, lightly sprinkled freckles, round brown eyes,
sweeping dark lashes, lips of cherubs.
The pure innocent essence of you.
Today before the mirror I reach for the mask.
Toddler voice resonates, boy words reflect
My hand retracts. I look again, hear you, look again, see me.
A perfect ricochet.
There are days now, a few, when I believe because of you .
11.28.18

Perfect Ricochet

Swiftly, I applied mascara in front of the mirror. Barely enough to make my eyes pop a bit. A smudge of shadow, a hint of blush.

Once you charmingly asked of me why I put make up on. I, of course replied, “To make myself look beautiful.” My answer seemed to suffice your ever curious mind.

Naively, I thought only I possessed the masterful skills of observation. You keenly saw beyond what I ever imagined.

You, Grover dangling at your side, regarding me in front of the morning mirror from your spot in the doorway.

You, in all of your fair from heaven wisdom saying, “Mommy you don’t need make up to look beautiful. You’re beautiful just the way you are”.

Implausibly, flawless you.

Morning mirror moments, I see you, most seraphic gift of new life. Skin porcelain, softer than velvet, lightly sprinkled freckles, round brown eyes , sweeping dark lashes, lips of cherubs.

The pure innocent essence of you.

Before the mirror I reach for the mask.  Toddler voice resonates, your boy words reflect. My hand retracts. I look again, hear you, see me, look again.

A perfect ricochet.

There are days now, a few, when I believe because of you.

11.28.18