It was a busy little morning here at Villa Songbird. #2 Son and the Little Princess were getting ready for school. I had plans for a morning of writing at the office, followed by a year-end lunch with our nursery school staff. #1 Son had an appointment at the allergist’s for his first regular allergy shot. He took off first, using my car. After he left, as I was standing in the shower, I thought, “I wish I had asked him to call me after the shot, to let me know it all went smoothly.” And when the phone rang around 8:30 a.m., I thought, what a good boy, calling to give me the relief I crave.
Well, not so much.
“Mom, I’m having a reaction. I’m breaking out in hives, and I’m having trouble breathing.”
Okay, Mom is making it a point not to vocally freak out and asks, “Don’t you think you should go right back to the doctor’s office?”
“No, I’m coming home.”
The long and short of it is, he came home to use his epi-pen and when he snapped the cap off, it shot him in the thumb, where it remained lodged.
We went back to the allergist, where they got the reaction under control with epiniephrine and albuterol, but they sent us to the ER to deal with the epi-pen. X-rays indicated that it was stuck because it had lodged in the bone.
When the pain meds made him sick and he turned white and yellow and grey, and then the anti-nausea meds made him feel better and he dozed off, I found myself looking at his ear. He’s 19, grown up for most intents and purposes, but in repose, weakened and miserable, he’s my baby again. His right ear doesn’t curve on the top, because it folds over just a teeny bit more than the usual; it is flat. I remember the first time I noticed it, running my finger over his tiny little ear and feeling its softness. I was young and sleep-deprived and, oh! so in love with this little boy, the first person I ever knew who was actually related to me.
I had to leave the room when they actually pulled the point of the epi-pen out with forceps later in the day. I stood in the hall with my friend, the Protestant Chaplain, who was there for me, not for him. He was stoic through the whole experience, but I was weak in the knees each time I looked at the needle protruding from his thumb.
“I can’t stand to be there,” I said, “knowing they are pulling it out of his bone.”
“Well,” she said, “he is flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone.”
Yes. Yes. Bone of my bone, cartilage of my cartilage, eyes of my eyes and head of my head, with the hair that grows to a little point at the nape of his neck. And even the parts that aren’t like me–the flat ear, the allergies, the qualities that came from someone else–are of me now.
When my parents adopted me, a friend sent my mother this poem:
Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn’t grow under my heart – but in it.
— Author: Fleur Conkling Heylinger
I don’t know if it was ever really that way for my mother. I don’t know if she ever looked at my hair or my eyebrows or my hands the way I have done with my three, at #2 Son’s freckles or the Little Princess’s hair or #1 Son’s ear, and really owned them. I don’t think she was ever besotted with me as I have been with each of them. But I do know how she loved my boys, how she marveled at #1 Son’s “expressive feet” and how she loved the mischievous twinkle in #2 Son’s blue eyes. I know how she would have treasured my daughter if she had lived long enough to know her.
Before we left the hospital, I used a washcloth to wash a little blood off my son’s hand. It’s a young man’s hand, but not so far from the little fingers that used to wrap tight around my pinkie. It’s not so long since the big baby eyes met mine the first time he was placed in my arms: from me then and of me now, grown in my heart, bone of my bone.