My dad died in a car accident thirteen years ago. The lasting effect of that loss is that I have a very keen awareness that bad things can happen to me and mine. Some people, having lost, turn to faith. But I’m not religious. Instead, I look to ritual. And so, over time, I’ve adopted a habit of carrying around a cautious respect for the possibility of harm, hoping that respect will keep the wolves at bay.
I learned the hard way. Before I lost my dad, I’d absorb others’ tragedies with sadness, but from a remove. Bad things happened to others, but could never happen to me. The night I got the phone call about my dad, I was at college, out with friends, celebrating our impending graduation. I giddily told my friends that we were lucky, that we were going places, and that nothing bad could happen to us. I distinctly remember those words, because of what was to come. Three hours later, in the middle of the night, I got the call from my brother, who was 19 and so young.
A small part of me still believes that my dad was taken away because of my hubris.
I no longer assume the best. I just try to prepare for the worst. Now that I have kids, the anxiety is almost omnipresent, and the stakes are so much higher. My blogger friend Joan wrote movingly about this phenomenon in a recent post.
Last week, Tate had routine surgery to have his second set of ear tubes put in and his adenoids taken out. I say routine, but no surgery is routine in my world. Bad things happen, even during routine surgery. And how can surgery ever be routine, when the patient weighs 25 pounds, most of it noggin? Friends checked in throughout the day, assuring me that things would be fine. And they were, but I stopped breathing when they wheeled Tate away from me, and only started up again when I saw his eyes fluttering awake, 45 minutes later.
In that bustling, beeping recovery room, I felt a rare calm run through me, like that first sublime moment when an epidural kicks in. And then, there was only this. This cheek, this tiny hand. A moment to be grateful– for my child, delivered safe; for the time I had with my dad; for every other sweet, good thing that I have ever known.