When I arrive at the hospital, my Dad smiles and hands me two small pumpkins. After Ryan and I first got married, I got into the habit of making scratch pumpkin pies. I’ll roast the pumpkin, scoop out the filling, mix it together with milk, eggs, sugar, and spices, and pour it all into a graham cracker crust. I laugh nervously as I accept the pumpkins – an omen that after all of this, he and my mom will still come over for his favorite dessert. That he will be okay. That despite his diagnosis of a 90% blockage in his left anterior descending artery (a broken heart), he will be okay and somehow a cinnamon custard concoction would make this whole mess a little bit easier.
Earlier this year I listened to a psychologist speak about anxiety in children. She explained how when they are stressed or sad or angry, the brain’s limbic system kicks into overdrive. She compared it to a jar of glitter after it’s been shaken up. She held up her own jar – blue glitter swimming around like a tiny hurricane. Until the glitter settles, it’s nearly impossible for them to make a rational decision. My brain has been swimming around since my dad’s first visit to the hospital before Thanksgiving, but today, the glitter will finally settle. We give him a hug, and then we wait. Just as my son waits watching the glitter fall to the bottom of his jar after he loses it when a toddler wrecks his lego creation or water gets in his eyes in the shower. To him – real threats. To us, we know that legos can be rebuilt and water will not actually cause him to go blind.
But today, the threat is real. A quick google search of the diagnosis calls it the “widow maker” artery – because a blockage in the largest artery is often fatal. The cardiology floor waiting room television plays the Ellen show. I hold my mom’s hand. We listen to her stories of working in a factory decades ago. I get up to pee. My sister talks about her diet. My brother eats a clementine I brought along in case anyone got hungry. All the while, the glitter swirls around us – an invisible fog in the air. Finally a tall man in scrubs scans the waiting room. “Are you John’s family?” Then something about his procedure went well, and a blood thinning medication he’d be taking, and he’d get to go home. I take the first deep exhale since before Thanksgiving – suddenly allowing myself to sort through the feelings – like when my son sees the last speck of glitter falling slowly to the bottom of his jar, and he can verbalize why he felt such big feelings in the first place. I was scared. It didn’t feel fair. I didn’t want to lose something so special to me.
I hope this season finds you in a place of deep joy, but this doesn’t require us to deny our suffering. We simply have to embrace peace while we wade through it. Easier said than done. And harder still when we hang our hope on the outcome of a surgery, an election, or whatever else keeps us up at night. It’s why in the very humblest way, Jesus came lying in a manger. So today, we get to claim hope, not just because we got a positive answer to our most earnest prayers, but because we know our hope is grounded in something greater.
I clutch the bag of pumpkins as we make our way through the cardiac floor to the pod where my dad sits – still hooked up to monitors and IVs – scarfing down questionable looking hospital food. I think about how grateful I am for new life. I squeeze a packet of mustard onto a piece of cold sandwich bread for him. It’s not much, but I suppose it will tide him over until he can have some pie.
Tonight Hudson stands quietly in front of the warm light of our tree. Taller than last Christmas and each day looking more like a miniature young man. Somehow that chubby baby grew into a kindergartner this year. A polo shirt adorned with his school crest tucked neatly into crisp navy blue shorts, his brand new tennis shoes a radiant white the sandbox had yet to sully. He looked at himself in the mirror and beamed nervously. “My heart just started beating this fast,” he exclaimed while patting his chest as quickly as he could.
A year full of heart-fluttering milestones for us all: A first day of kindergarten for Hudson. Ollie’s first steps. Her first words. Hudson losing his first tooth in the middle of our favorite restaurant – his excitement so palpable, the entire wine cafe erupted in applause. And the moment when early one August morning before Ryan had gone to work, two blue lines appeared on a stick in our bathroom.
So many significant moments, but in a year that has been so hard for so many, it reminds us to cherish the mundane ones as well. The lunch boxes packed, the tantrums endured, the bedtime stories told. We cling a little tighter to each other and to the hope we find in this season.
As I whisk Hudson away from the tree to his bed tonight – his sister already sleeping soundly in her crib – he remarks, “You know why I love the tree so much Mama? It reminds me of Jesus and makes my heart feel warm.”
“Me too, Bear,” I tell him, as we snuggle into his bed for another bedtime story.
I made the mistake of telling Hudson we’d dye eggs two days before we actually planned to do it. For 48 hours, he wanted to “at least practice.” So here we are practicing his now very advanced dipping method after church yesterday.
Finally the time came!
Good thing he had all that practice under his belt. Just look at his focus.
Love thinking about the idea that we are just now creating Hudson’s earliest memories, and so happy they are full of joy and framily.
“You have to get to sleep or Santa might not bring you presents!” I only felt a little bad for threatening him; this boy needed to get to bed!
“Oh mom, I already have plenty of toys,” he responded, stretching plenty into three syllables. “I really don’t need any more!” And Mom: 0, Hudson: 1.
The thing he’s most excited about this year? Selecting gifts for a 3-year-old boy named Isaiah whom we found on the Salvation Army Angel Tree. “How about we get him a Buzz Lightyear, mom?” – a toy he had been eyeing for himself ever since he “borrowed” his cousin’s Woody doll. I feel all of the proud mama feelings about this boy. Since he’s about had it with consumerism, we decided on a more experiential gift and made the short 2-hour drive to this winter wonderland. Waking up to snow falling outside our window definitely beat any present under the tree. Too excited to put on real clothes, Hudson played in the snow in his Christmas jams.
He nailed his snow angel technique.
Made a quick coffee run for this guy before the snow trucks had a chance to clear off the roads. Magic!
More than anything, Hudson wanted to build a snowman, but the powdery snow wouldn’t compact. (Or maybe we are just snow novices?) He settled on this mini snowman.
Loved him so much he gave him some sugar before we left.
This Easter, we ordered a whole bunch of temporary ink from Tattly for the stinkin cutest Easter eggs ever. Hudson’s still a little young to use dye, so this was the perfect alternative.