If you can watch your child slip into the pseudo-coma of anesthesia and not get teary-eyed, you are a better parent than me. Because my face immediately started leaking.
This MRI was a long time coming.
For four years, my son has complained of right leg pain. After no longer tolerating the “growing pains” explanation of our doctor, (or Jesse’s nocturnal wailings that “my leg hurts!”), we found ourselves in the hands of one of Kennedy Krieger’s best orthopedic doctors – Charles Silberstein. Dr. Silberstein monitored Jesse’s leg for another six months, and when the pain didn’t abate, he told us at our next visit what he suspected. But here I am at this point, where even the little medical issues, the niggling, non-critical stuff – like what is likely a discoid lateral meniscus – feel like too much to handle. Enough already with the medical things in this house. I’m sure I keep my doctors’ kids in private school. Aetna, on the other hand, has probably already burned me twice in effigy today.
While this was a simple MRI, my child required anesthesia because I will let you take a guess as to how well a child with Asperger’s does in a closed metal tube with howling magnetic fields and a voice in the speaker instructing him not to move. Yes. You guessed it. Super well.
“You want a picture?” I told the screening nurse, “He’s going to need some drugs.” I suggested they MRI his other knee, his spine, and his brain while they were at it, but no one took the bait. Apparently these things require pre-exams, and insurance approval. Stuff like that. Whatever.
I just know I don’t want to have to do it again. And yet, if I were a betting woman (just slots, and only when I have nothing else to do at the hotel) I’d lay down a few clams that he’ll need another one. Of the three, Jesse is my “sick kid.” He has from his birth been attended by medical concerns that seem to be growing bigger with age.
The day after the MRI, there were squirming, half-alive carcasses of ants on my bathroom floor. I was brushing my teeth and watching them crawl their broken bodies in circles. Matt and I had stepped on 10 or more that morning alone, because our house is overrun with ants. You wouldn’t believe I was the junior entomologist who once mounted her bug collection to Styrofoam and labeled each one in Latin (NERD!) the way I was stepping on ants that day. I wanted them dead.
And then I realized that little as they were, I was big enough to take their lives. Just ants. Insignificant, a bother. Meaningless, really. But I felt conscious of how between us, there was a complete imbalance of power. I held all the cards.
So this is God’s position, I thought. Every day.
He is able, at any moment, to summon mankind for eternity. He makes a judgment as to when and where and how a person’s life concludes. Easily and swiftly, or after a lengthy, painful journey. He might have chosen that Jesse would not awaken from his anesthesia at all. And that is frightening.
No, not frightening. “Frightening” is not enough. It does not sound enough like the choked half-sob in your throat when your son reaches his still-chubby hand to your face and grabs at it as the gas takes effect, as though he does not want you to leave. Frightening is not close enough to the ice in your gut when you realize what is happening is in someone else’s hands, and that there is a chance, however small, of his being summoned by God.
But God is also the giver of life.
Life that though it sometimes looks like a birth defect, or autism, or downs syndrome, is still good. It is still perfect, and ordained, and untainted. We are a tribe, we parents of special needs children. And we know that parenting doesn’t often feel manageable, let alone perfect. But it’s both, just so. Because the Lord has given these gifts to us in His way.
Not in our way. Our way might have been different. Easier. Simplier. But that wasn’t His plan for us. He’s given us the gifts of our children, with unique imprints as He saw fit.
He has held all the cards.
That day in the hospital, I remembered that Jesse’s Asperger’s was a part of why he needed the anesthesia. Asperger’s the Lord permitted. Anesthesia for a leg defect the Lord permitted. In a hospital, the very best, that the Lord permitted to be available. These things all, He gave us. Just so.
He, always in charge, and never truly us. Because He is the giver of all great things.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.