I read a book once in which each chapter began with the moments right before a terrible event occurred. Laying out, rather plainly, how the characters were going about things, living their ‘normal’ lives, worrying about an overcooked pot roast, or a mildewing load of laundry forgotten in the washing machine. I was fascinated by the retelling of what happens right before the characters find out terrible news. Not how they’d retell those moments, with inevitable hindsight once they knew the bad news, but the honest retelling of the mundane events leading up to tragedy. Life can change in an instant. One moment it’s laundry, the next, cancer.
The words describing a normal piece of everyday life actually aren’t all that entertaining without the knowing of what comes next, without the hindsight. The juxtaposition of the moments before we find out and the moments after. There you are sitting on the same hard, vinyl hospital couch you’ve been on for many nights over the last month, but one moment you are there for a viral fever thats hanging on longer than anyone expected and the next moment, the next second, you are there because your child has Leukemia. At 11:07am your concerns are if you neighbor can pick-up Jude from preschool and at 11:08am you have all but forgotten that you even have other children because your firstborn baby has cancer.
Selah had come down to the hospital with Josh yesterday morning. Although the oncology floor prohibits children under 14yo from visiting, Selah was permitting because she is a nursing sibling. She bee bopped around the room, pulling-up on the IV pole while we all worried she’d pull a cord connected to Beau’s arm, thrilling herself in pursuit of the toilet that had no lid to limit her fun, crying out to be lifted on to the bed with Beau- laying back and smiling to herself, pleased to be sitting with Bubba- then promptly crying to get back down. She was so busy. I remember thinking it was a mistake to have her there, the room wasn’t toddler proof and she wanted it all.
The doctor returned shortly after morning rounds and said she had news. She needed Josh and I together. And that’s the point when I can’t remember where Selah went. I am sure she was safe, sure I was mindlessly removing random things from her mouth, tiding her over with puffs. I don’t say I cant remember where she was with fear that she was neglected, but just to put words to the blackout of heavy news. She was safe, and I was likely even parenting her, but I cannot picture anything about her.
I can’t remember anything from the moment I made eye contact with the doctor who said she needed Josh and I together to 12:30pm when we headed to the hospital lobby and she started crying and I thought, “Oh gosh, 12:30, it’s way past nap time.” Two hours with a busy toddler in a hospital room and I don’t have any idea about her. She was there, right?, she was safe, surely? I really just don’t know. All my coherency was tunnel vision focused on Beaudin, or rather, on Leukemia.