Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Year Ago

Your father and I took Clay to preschool, and then we ran home to gather a few things. "Do we have time to stop at the bank?" he asked. I laughed and said "Sure, and while we're at it, let's pick up some milk and bread." In the end, we decided to forgo all errands except for the most important one.

We arrived a little early, and had to wait for about a half hour. It was a lovely bright day, and the lobby had big windows that were understandably, but most unfortunately, bordering a covered driveway. Up the elevator to another waiting area, where we answered tedious questions. No, nothing to eat at all. Yes, I need to use the restroom. Yes to saving cord blood. Breast if possible.

And here's the doctor! She had just arrived from mass, which she attends before every surgery. I find this comforting, and refreshing to find a surgeon so humble. She squeezes my arm and goes off to change. I've already changed, and am laying in a most uncomfortable position listening to the swish swish of your heartbeat.

In comes the anesthesiologist with his questions. In goes the IV, which I do not look forward to but realize is not the worst part of this procedure.

And before we know it, it's time to go! They take your dad to change, and I'm wheeled into a cold room full of metal. Between the bright lights and the clinking noises, I'm told to step onto the table. My back is swabbed, and although they won't let your dad in for this, fortunately in comes the surgeon. She embraces me in a tight bear hug and whispers comforting words into my ear while I wait for the needle. A cold wash of iodine. A burning prick. Nothing. The anesthesiologist can't find a good spot. Swell. He withdraws and moves lower. Another burning prick, and I really REALLY hope this is it. It is, and now for the most amusing part. I'm instructed to lie down as quickly as possible, to allow the anesthesia to travel down my spine. Right. I'm 4 feet off the floor on a narrow table in a gown tucked under me and I'm supposed to move in one fell swoop, or else all of this has been useless. I manage it somehow, and my legs begin to feel the warm fingers of the spinal move to my toes.

In comes your dad! While my arms are pulled out to each side and all of the machines are hooked up, he is seated right by my head. Up goes my gown, and it serves as a little drape so we can't see the business end of this transaction. A nurse notices I'm cold, and gives me a toasty warm blanket for the half of me that can still feel. The room is really moving now. There must be 8 people here, none of whom we recognize. There's a man with a thick Russian accent, and I later learn that he was a surgeon in Russia, but immigrated here and now works as a surgical assistant. He certainly knew his way around the room.

Strangely, a white rope is tossed over my head and a technician grabs it and ties it off by my head. "What was that?" I whisper? Your dad stands a little and says "um, it's just an extra pair of hands." I wonder with eight people, how many hands do they need? Later the pictures show that the rope was tied to a clamp, which was attached to one side of my incision and held me open. Our doctor warns me that I'm going to feel a lot of tugging, and I remind her that she should hold you up! (The doctor who delivered your brother didn't do that!)

And next thing we knew, you were here! Red hair and hollering, with a patch of white on the side of your head ("How cool!" said one of the nurses). I cried and your dad jumped up to follow you to the bassinet.

Happy Birthday Drew. We love you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Er, isn't that what I said?

I was a spelling bee champ in elementary school. In 5th grade, I even made it to the final round in the all county spelling bee. I remember stepping up to the microphone, being given a really complicated word (triskaidekaphobia!), and looking at my mom in the audience as she closed her eyes and held her breath. "Don't blow it", my fifth grade self would say. "But don't take too long or Mom will pass out". Mom was usually the one to go through my spelling drills with me. I'll never forget "assassinate" because I would always screw it up with her. That is until she, full of exasperation that I finally understand (now having two kids of my own) yelled "Think Nancy, THINK! ASS ASS IN ATE!!!"

Although, I may be mixing this up with another incident close to that time when I put off memorizing a passage from Luke for the Christmas pageant. I had weeks and weeks to do it, and of course put it off. When I finally confessed to mom that I had one day to get it down, she pulled me into my bedroom, where I sat on the blue shag rug behind the door. Mom leaned against my dresser, and repeating after her phrase by phrase I finally memorized:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

It took us HOURS. The next night at the pageant, I recited those lines, watching her face in the audience. Again, she closed her eyes and held her breath. She has amazing lung capacity.

But I digress.

Today I have a dangerous vocabulary. I know a lot of words, and I know OF a lot more words. This just means that I sort of understand their meaning, but usually screw up the context. Just this morning, for example, I learned from's word of the day that 'having moral turpitude' is not a positive trait. Oops.

I'm not sure on what I blame my lazy vocabulary. After elementary school, I never really enjoyed spelling any more. I still read quite a bit, but words were never again all consuming. Maybe it was the new found freedom I found in a daily school bus ride. Or, from other interests. I started violin lessons in 6th grade (wisely NOT telling my mother when I was soloing until we were driving to the concert. Fortunately, I had to focus on the music and could no longer watch her eyes close.) I really wanted to be a cheerleader (never happened). In high school, I was fully ensconced in the theater offerings, as well as marching band. And those dreaded PSAT vocabulary lists were probably the final nail in the coffin.

Postscript: Last night we were driving home from dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. I rarely eat ribs b/c they're just so darn messy. However, I had the 'rib tips' because... I dunno... they SOUNDED less messy. They weren't. They were less appetizing in front of me, though. I was trying to explain why I thought they would be good, so I said to Mike "You know the Applebee's riblets? They were much less messy. You could enjoy the ribs, and would be left with a clean little scapular piece of bone."

"THAT's a descriptive way to describe it. Scapular." Mike explains what a scapular is. Hazards of growing up Southern Baptist, I am unfamiliar with most of the mechanical devices of religious discomfort used in Catholicism. We just had good, old fashioned guilt.

So now, I wonder if scapular is the right word. Isn't it a bone? Did I somehow confuse the word I meant with scapular? Did I mean clavicle? No... that's the collar bone. I mean something that looks like a teeny weeny shoulder blade. I look it up, and there it is: Scapula. The shoulder blade. I was right!

Except that I was talking about ribs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Angels we have heard on high

A little over 6 years ago, I interviewed a woman for one of two jobs that were available in my department. The positions were in member services, and she was a flight attendant who volunteered as a docent at a local art museum. I figured anyone who worked regularly with a couple of hundred people crammed into a tight space was worth interviewing. Plus, as a docent she must have an interest in the arts. Ultimately, I didn't hire her. There were two other candidates who were better fits, and they accepted the jobs. But, I was struck by two things. First, she had the most incredible voice. It was almost angelic, kind of high in pitch and very whispery. Second, I could tell she wanted out of her current situation. I didn't inquire why... it was none of my business... but I could imagine that the glamour and excitement of a job in travel would wear thin pretty quickly.

Five weeks later was 9/11, when life changed considerably. Mike and I were lucky. Although he used to work at the Pentagon, he had relocated to the next building over six months earlier. Still, his new building was right in the plane's flight path, and a 30 foot antenna on the roof was a casualty that morning. We both made it home safely, and did the mental tallying of friends and family and were relieved that we knew no one who worked close to the World Trade Center. Since Mike's colleagues had made the move with him, he didn't really know anyone at the Pentagon anymore.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the Washington Post published a roster of the people who died at the Pentagon. I was scanning the list, just to make sure that there wasn't anyone I knew, when I came across her name. It was the flight attendant who wanted the job I had to offer. The one I didn't hire, and who went to work that morning, got on her flight, and died.

To this day, I am haunted by her voice.


Just two short years ago, Clay started preschool as a tiny two year old, dwarfed by the four year old big kids. Today he arrived a "big kid" himself, comfortable and sure, with his trusty sidekick Josh. Here they are playing '911 Center'.