Lately, Bennett has been giving Tom and me little performances in the evening, usually a combination of dancing and karate moves. He twirls and then chops the air with the heel of his hand, or bends over and kicks his back leg up into a handstand. By this time, Avery has joined him and they jump and spin all around until they become dizzy and fall down. I always worry they’ll bump into each other, accidentally konking heads, or that a stray kick will land in someone’s eye. Especially, I worry about Avery.
When he does the kick-into-a-handstand move, my mind imagines the steel staples that hold his breastbone together, and everything becomes blurry for a moment. Was it 6 weeks, or 8, before he could wear a backpack? I try to remember what the doctor said, but what does it matter? It’s been 16 weeks already, plenty of time for everything to have healed, surely. Why can’t my own heart let go of it?
Sometimes when he snuggles next to me I can feel his heartbeat through my skin. It’s strong and sure, he’s bright and full of life. There is no sign that anything is wrong; there is no reason for me to hold on to him so tightly, or to demand that he go slow, be careful, and always, always hold my hand.
Just as it seems like yesterday that we were watching great white flakes of snow fall from the sky on the 11th floor of the Hotel Deca in Seattle, Avery freshly released from the PICU, still smelling like the antiseptic soap I bathed him in twice (per instructions) before surgery. He sat in the big bed surrounded by pillows (I was afraid he might fall) watching Horton Hears A Hoo.
The boys watch the same DVD here, in our new place, in our new life. A person’s a person, no matter how small. I think of the small hole in Avery’s heart, now repaired. I think of small changes that can make a big difference. I think of the small things I can do: email a sad friend, cook dinner for my family, put clean sheets on our beds.
The little boys dance and spin and fall down, they dance and twirl again, they fall again and I watch until my head spins. They say, “Look at me, look at me!” and I am. I’m looking with my whole heart.