By the end of tomorrow, both my nephew, NWTP, and my niece, MAR, will have gone under the knife to have their tiny tonsils removed. NWTP was well enough the day after surgery to crave toast, and MAR is exuberant at the notion that she can "eat all the popsicles I want and then SOME MORE!" I have strong olfactory memories of Hawaiian Punch, so strong that the smell of it even now transports me back to Upstate Medical Center, the teaching hospital affiliated with the state medical school. On the phone tonight my mom said, "I hope she comes through this better than you did." "What happened to me?" I asked. And then my mom told me the story of the blood clot at the surgery site rupturing while I was in recovery, which resulted in my appearing to vomit blood uncontrollably. I was rushed back up to surgery to have the incision cauterized a second time. Suddenly my older sister's story of being so afraid that I was going to die that she walked tens of miles from our home to the hospital (in the snow, uphill both ways) to visit me because my parents wouldn't (couldn't?) bring her. I know the surgery was preceded by three hospitalizations for severe infections accompanied by 105 degree fevers and trips to the emergency room. I remember visiting our pediatrician, Dr. Cantor, so often that I became bored with the fish tank and the games and the same old tired books in the waiting room. My tonsils were what young doctors call "a finding" and I distinctly remember medical students being endlessly rotated into my exam room to peer into my throat.
It was good to hear stories of my childhood as told by my mom, however briefly. My memories of growing up are, like everyone else in the world, skewed towards a particular worldview. In this case, my world view is undoubtedly affected by my child's understanding of the break-up of my parents' marriage, which was happening at around this time. You know the rap - either the break-up was my fault or I was going to be left alone because both of my parents hated me. I felt comforted hearing my mom talk about rubbing my back as I rested in recovery, and hearing her recollections of being afraid when I was rushed back into surgery. I have a different understanding of my sister's story of walking to the hospital (seriously, like seven miles) in the snow to visit me because she was so afraid I was going to die. (Or maybe she thought mom and dad were fighting so much that they couldn't possibly be paying attention to me?) Regardless, I understand that place of sisterly caring just a little differently tonight. And I'm grateful.