I taught a boy once whose baby brother went in for a tonsillectomy and never came home. The boy bled the story into an English essay and it got all over me. I called him after class – asked him if it was true? His eyes told me and suddenly he made perfect sense.
I’ve never been able to wash off that story so when the doctor keeps saying it’s time for Scott to have his tonsils out I keep saying let’s wait and see, wait and see. Maybe they’ll just come right? But there are another five bouts of tonsillitis in about as many months and we concede.
I don’t want to voice my stupid terror in case I jinx something about this dead boring normal procedure. The rational part of my brain that isn’t strangled by weird terror knows that a ba-zillion kids survive to walk the Earth sans-tonsils (including our eldest who had his tonsils out before I read that essay) and I’m ashamed at how fear can turn me faithless and fatalist. Surprised at how fear can stick superstitious in my heart because of someone else’s true story. How it can sprout and spread cold shade. I try to keep the fear tame and trimmed though its gnarled roots are reaching deep and shifting the peace rock at my core.
The night before the op I lie in bed with Scott and squash the strange panic rising by reading chapter after chapter of the Famous Five until his eyes sink heavy with sleep and I breathe it slow – I will not fear, will not fear, will not fear.
I walk through the house, picking up the school holiday shrapnel of toys, cardboard, popcorn and paint. I will not fear, will not fear, will not fear. I line up preadmission details and medical aid authorisation numbers because maybe if I organise the fear so that it’s neat and well-prepared I’ll be able to subdue it.
We head to the hospital in the morning and Scott thinks it’s all a bit of an adventure, except for having to wear the hospital gown because what if someone sees his undies? We pray for him. He says he wishes Cam was with us. He’s wheeled into theatre alone and awake and I can’t believe how calm he is.
Murray says how hospitals are less about surgery; more about waiting. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve done this thing – at least twenty – probably more? – this thing of waiting in a ward for doors to swing and news to break, good or bad. It’s something that has marked our parenting. Marked our memories. Marked us. Hospitals, then, are a bit like life. The waiting marks us, because it’s there that we find God. In the waiting, He’s all we’ve got.
A nurse enquires – ‘Reyburn parents?’
And we’re up and through those doors and there he is moaning hoarse mommy mommy mommy and I’m trying to be normal but I’m so freakin’ glad to see my blonde baby’s blue eyes open. My fear looks small and silly now I’m on the other side of it but the fear forced me back to Big Truth:
My kids are God’s before they are mine and parenting is a holy lending. We hold their fragile lives in borrowed time. (There’s a whole chapter about this in my book. You could get it on your Kindle app and read it on your phone, on the loo, in borrowed minutes of crazy days?)
Saying I’ll follow Jesus no matter what, means that I should be prepared to follow Jesus no matter what. No matter what the what looks like, or how much it may hurt. Which is terrifying, but true.
We head home and there’s Coke and Milo Flakes, ice-cream and Stopayne, because we’re ridiculously generous with relief and life feels very near, very now.
Brief, and exquisite. Borrowed and brave.
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