Monday, December 25, 2017

This Christmas (Dammit, James Taylor)

Sometimes expectations simply have to make way for reality. That seems to be generally true during holiday seasons anyway, but we have had a double helping of way-making this year.

The short version is that Twin A started yesterday acting not much like himself, and things just devolved from there. By the time we were supposed to be sitting down with my in-laws, we were instead checking in to our local ER. From there, it was on to a room where we are waiting out some viral action (rsv) while undergoing respiratory therapy, iv fluids, and oxygen hosery. Twin B is just fine, so there is a bit of parental juggling going on, and a bunch of presents that aren't getting opened today. The low point was probably a bunch of adults holding down a poor, sad six month old child in order to shove a needle into his arm. (I know plenty of parents have been through plenty worse things, but I haven't.) Meanwhile, family is not getting seen, and every awful thing that ever happened to a child is roiling back up. This morning Healthy Twin and I drove through sideways snow along deserted roads to get back to the hospital and as I pulled into the lonely parking lot, James Taylor came on the radio singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," a song I don't even like, but I had to sit in the car and finish bawling before I could head inside. Dammit, James Taylor.

I don't want to make this seem more tragic and fraught than it is. Both of my siblings have been through far worse. But it reminds me of a few things.

1) Christmas is just a day.

All holidays are largely arbitrary and created out of unicorn wishes and manticore farts. Christmas in particular (all discussions of the "reality" behind it aside) is such a cobbled mess of random choices and co-opted bits of other belief systems. The cynical conclusion here is that holidays are just imaginary baloney and should be mocked and/or treated as foolish jokes that humans play on themselves. But they also stand as a testament to the tremendous power we have to bring Important Stuff to life, to fill literal nothings with the most weighty somethings.

We should remember to use that power only for good.

2) Can we talk about insurance?

Once again, I wonder what people who don't have insurance can possibly do in these situations. Every Congressman who has failed to get CHIP reauthorized should be ashamed to open a single present today.

3) Children are a big deal.

Every person who thinks that children can be handled like meat widgets whose purpose is to generate actionable data should have to spend a month in a pediatrics ward. Children are small and fragile and helpless and staring directly into our responsibility to care for them should be scarier than floating over the Grand Canyon in a hang glider. "We'll just make them sit down and do academics for an extra hour" or "We'll just hold their advancement to the next grade hostage so the little bastards understand that we mean business" are awful, indefensible thoughts to even come close to.

Also, if you think Those Peoples' children are somehow fundamentally different and less than and not as worthy as, then something is terribly wrong with you.

4) Connection is everything

If you ask me to rattle off the meaning of life in a sentence, I would say that we are put here to watch out for each other, to take care of the people we are in a position to take care of. Connection means everything. Work we do with other humans has to honor that connection to matter. The connection doesn't have to be warm and mushy, but the notion that we can sit behind a desk and manage or handle other human beings in any effective way without a personal human connection-- that's just faulty thinking.

5) The Story

The story that goes with this day (again, I'm not here to argue with you about historical truth)  has several powerful features for me. One is the idea that what you want or expect is not always what you get-- and sometimes what you get is way better. Another is that anyone telling you that he knows exactly what God ants or precisely what God intends-- that person is full of it.

It has taken all day to finish this post. I' m typing onehanded, in bed with my son. Tests, drugs, treatments. They say he'll probably get worse before he gets better, and if he gets too much worse we'll be sent to a larger regional hospital. It's dark outside now. My wife has gone home to be with our other son. My son and daughter have been checking in. This has been a long damned Christmas. Anyone who thinks they know the answers before they've met the problem is a dope. Hold on to the ones you love and try hard to love the rest, too, because we only have a few years together.

I may go quiet for a few days, or I may come here for distraction. I swear I'll get back to education. Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one


  1. I hope your son gets well soon. Nothing makes a parent feel more helpless than a sick child.

  2. Get well soon, little guy. And hang in there, mom and dad. Thinking of you guys tonight.

  3. You and your family are in my prayers. A sick child is incredibly frightening,been there done that. Hang in❤️

  4. My prayers and thoughts are with your dear little son and with all of you who are doing everything possible help him get better.

  5. Dammit, now I have to bawl in my car before I can go to work this morning.

    But seriously, I'm so sorry. All of this sucks in so many ways. I hope it all gets better and soon. No one deserves this, least of all you. I'll be thinking of you and sending positive vibes your way.

  6. My son and I spent his second Christmas Eve and numerous days after (he was just over a year old) in the hospital with RSV, as well. This was after the pediatrician just the week before had said 'he just has a cold' and after the resident ER doctor threatened to call Children and Youth on that Christmas Eve if I didn't take my son home because 'he just has a viral infection'--I knew something worse was wrong and refused to leave. The nurses on the pediatric ward (including the many who had to hold him down, as well, as they tried to place an IV line in his completely dehydrated little body) said if I had taken him home that night, he would have died. After he was better and as we were going home, I filed a grievance with the hospital and never took him back to that ER again. I am so sorry that you are going through this; I hope you know you are not alone...

  7. Best wishes for your family, Peter. Despite your worries for your own, you still remember the families with similar worries but no insurance and poverty to compound the anxiety. There but for fortune...

  8. From a teaching of the Buddha on the practice of Lovingkindness, I offer this with love and respect:
    “May your infant son be well and safe, may he be at ease.
    May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.
    Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,
    Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,
    Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.
    Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.”
    - Translated and adapted by Bodhipaksa from the Pali Metta Sutta.

  9. My thoughts are with you. May your dear little one come out fine and have a wonderful New Year of growing and loving. You are doing all that any parent could do. Wish you the BEST!

  10. Peter: A floor full of presents and wrapping paper at my son's house on Christmas morning were nothing to me, compared to what I felt when my grandchildren unexpectedly hugged me. But I remember that all-consuming fear from a long time ago. Your experience, and that sweet little face in the picture, puts what is so very important to us, beyond all else, in high relief. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  11. Peter, I'm wishing for a speedy recovery for your small and fragile one. Love from California.

  12. Heartfelt prayers from our family to yours.

  13. Thinking of you and your sweet little boy. Hope the doctors are wrong about him getting worse before better.

  14. Peter -

    My wife was diagnosed at the end of 2016 with ovarian cancer. We spent 2017 going through surgery, recovery and chemo. I can state categorically that knowing people around the world were praying for us made a huge difference.

    Your baby’s too little to get this, but I’m praying for you to be the man you need to be for your family.

    By the way, that particular version of the song is the most palpable presentation of what the tune was intended to present.

    Hang in there, and here’s to a better 2018 for all of us!


  15. Praying for your little one, and for you and your family.

  16. You have given our community so much: insight, facts, hope, we will give you our thoughts and, yes, our prayers, for your little guys and your family. Hug them both for me. Tell them we all love them.

  17. My heart goes out to you, your wife, and your son. Hope that by the time you see this, the worst is past and he is on the mend. Thinking of you all!

  18. Get well, little one. Sending light.

  19. Hoping things go very well. We have twins (now in their '30's. One of them had significant medical issues and lost an eye but he is doing very well now. I wish the same for each of your children.

  20. Peter, this is heartbreaking, indeed. We lift you, your family, and especially this little baby up to the Light.

  21. Peter, all the very best to you, your family, and especially to your little one. We'll be keeping you in our prayers.

  22. Healing thoughts to you and your family. I am so sorry this happens to anyone, ever. It is scary and you and your wife will remain strong. I can't say I know how you feel but it can empathize and also wonder how some families without insurance do it. Doctors know what they are doing. Be well, stay well.

  23. Peter, I'm sending you, your wife and little ones healing thoughts.

  24. My thoughts are with you, your son and family. As I'm sure you know, let your little one know you are there, speak with him gently, hold him as much as you can, human touch communicates so much. (I say this only from experience with my own children's illnesses and surgeries). It may not seem like we can do much in comparison to the docs and nurses but what we do as the parent is just as important and perhaps more comforting to the little one.

  25. There's something about raising twins that always seems more fraught than one at a time - I had recurrent dreams that I had left one behind someplace in attending to the other one.

    Wishing you both peace, strength, calm, and a better day tomorrow.

    Christine Langhoff

  26. Hope things have improved since the last message. Health issues can certainly strike at any time. Wishing you well!!