On Tuesday morning, halfway through my physiotherapy, I got a call from Rook. Pookie had apparently shoved a screw up her nose. It was stuck in there. He was calling from the emergency room where a nice ENT specialist had tried to remove it in vain.
He told me she had to be hospitalised and the screw would have to be removed by endoscopy, during which Pookie would be under general anaesthesia.
She is five.
Now the thing about being a parent is you have to show up. “Sorry, pass” is never an option. And you have to at least appear to know what you’re doing. Even if you’re secretly shitting your underpants the whole time.
This isn’t easy. And the fact that it’s difficult isn’t as self-evident as it would seem.
See, there are many things you as a parent have to be when your child is in the hospital. Efficient. Decisive. In-charge. Rook was all those things. He was also stressed out. And he is the sort of man who cannot hide his anxiety. It spills from him in looks, expressions, gestures. He doesn’t come across as a bag of nerves or anything, but you can tell he’s worried.
Which means, I can’t come across as worried.
Not when there’s a five-year-old with a screw up her nose, navigating a hospital environment and a dozen strangers for the first time in her life.
So I was upbeat, cheerful, a veritable sack of serotonin, with extra endorphins on top. I read to her and played with her and answered all her questions for six hours. Because that’s how long they have to wait before giving someone anaesthesia if they come in JUST after breakfast. So, ignoring the IV drip in her little arm (okay, YOU try starving a kid for a quarter of a day) I acted like Mommy Most Optimistic for most of the day.
Luckily, all went well. The screw came out. Pookie was fine. She thought she was in a resort, once we shifted her to a private room!
And since my back is STILL home to two bulging discs, Rook kindly slept in the hospital all night keeping an eye on her.
By the time I finally got home, I felt empty. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe it. And a part of me just knew that all that tiredness didn’t just come from rushing around from the x-ray department to the operating theatre and coordinating with the insurance guys.
It was the acting.
All that pretending that things were fiiiiiine, they were going to be fiiiiine, when really I had no guarantee. All that being strong and brave and convincing myself that it would be okay, it was a small thing after all. All of it wore me down to the bone and filled me up with a weariness I couldn’t handle.
So I did the only thing I could: watched Ocean’s 12 with a Cookies & Cream ice cream generously doused with Kahlua.
And then, I woke up the next day and did it all, all over again.