The clanking noise of played with toys filled the room. I was trying to read the latest magazine issue that I had found lying on the table while also trying to keep my siblings quiet.
They probably weren’t even very loud, but it felt loud to me since I wanted them to be quiet. I guess it always happens that way.
For some reason, I had volunteered to go with my parents and watch 4 of my young siblings while my parents and their 8 day old baby went back for their appointment.
I knew nothing was going to end up wrong. This was their 9th baby and the worst thing that had ever happened to any of us was a broken bone or a few stitches. You know, normal childhood things.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had been in a waiting room. Mom had always been a crunchy mama, so we only used doctors for serious things like that broken bone or those stitches. Things that mom couldn’t fix herself.
The midwife had heard a heart murmur while going through the new baby’s check up and recommended that we get it checked out. I suppose that would fall under “serious”. We needed to make sure nothing was wrong. Just to be sure.
I could have easily stayed home with the kids, but going seemed logical at the time, so there we were. Waiting.
The minutes turned into an hour and the hour turned into 3. The poor siblings had explored every toy, the bathroom, and even the fish in the hall way, but our parents still hadn’t shown their faces again.
I had begun to feel discouraged and slightly annoyed that the appointment was taking so long. That’s how it always was with doctors. Just waiting and more waiting.
When our parents finally showed back up wearing unpleasant facial expressions, I figured they too were annoyed with how long the appointment took.
After gathering the kids and putting those clanking toys back in their places, we headed out to the van. As we rode down the elevator, I wondered why mom was upset when*I* was the one that had to deal with the little kids for 3 hours while they were gone.
After all, trying to keep them from scaring off all the other patients wasn’t exactly fun.
As we got off the elevator and made sure that no man was left behind and all fingers stayed intact, I noticed the tears streaming down mom’s face.
I didn’t have an opportunity to ask what had upset her until dad left us alone to pull around the van.
I asked, and she explained.
Something WAS wrong. Rowan had hypo plastic left ventricle. He would have to undergo 2 surgeries and still, his heart would never work normally.
You know that feeling that you get when you hear something bad? Like it almost feels like someone just knocked the air out of your chest? That’s how I felt.
Her words sent my mind spinning. This couldn’t happen. We were a healthy family. Things like this don’t happen to people like us. Was she serious? Were the doctors sure?
So many questions, so little understanding. What now?
I spent the whole way home staring out the window at the blur passing me by. I couldn’t think. I didn’t feel. Numb, I guess is how I would describe it.
Life in a big family was hard enough. But then another baby was added. I thought that was hard enough; now add in doctor visits, surgeries, and just the added mental strain that we all had to bear when we thought about what Baby Rowan would have to go through. I felt foolish for thinking that life was difficult before.
Why hadn’t I thought to cherish health? Why hadn’t I thought to appreciate little things like life and family and healthy, whole baby brothers?
We pulled down our long, bumpy road toward home and everyone rushed inside.
I stayed outside. I needed some time to breathe, to think, to collect myself.
I walked around, kicking up sand and rocks as I fought back the tightness in my throat and chest and tried to hold back the confused tears that threatened to spill. I needed to be strong. For mom. For dad. For my little brothers and sisters. I was supposed to be the unemotional one of our family.
I couldn’t begin to imagine how my parents felt. This was their baby, their precious tiny baby. Why him?
My intense thoughts were drowning out the noise around me, but I soon became aware of my 2 younger, but bigger brothers shooting balls through their well worn hoop.
I almost envied their oblivious, clear minds.
They noticed me and I tried to make conversation, but I couldn’t hide my emotions from them. They know me too well. They told me to spill it, so I did, but not without also spilling the tears that were still trying to escape.
We 3 stood there, staring at the ground. We couldn’t speak. There wasn’t anything to say.
After awhile, I ran inside and shoved open my laptop. Surely I had some assignment that was due. I looked at the tabs I had open; the tabs of things that I once thought were important; things I wanted to remember. I began deleting them all. None of those things mattered anymore.
That was the day that I decided to shift my focus. I was taking too many things for granted.
It was time to recognize and be grateful for the little things.