This morning I’m up at 6:45 for my son’s annual cardiologist’s appointment scheduled for 9:00 a.m., which suggests I have ample time, but after preparing the kids breakfast (frozen waffles), checking in on the blog and returning emails (first order of business), loading the dishwasher, listening to a snippet of news regarding Sheryl Sandberg and doing a quick wipe down of the bathroom because I need to clean it before I clean myself, I finally jump in the shower. It’s a little after 8:00. I already know it’s too late.
Moments before I’d briefly debated forgoing the shower due to the time crunch, but I hadn’t showered in two days because I pretty much work around the clock, and I don’t have time for everything so I’ve started sacrificing stuff, one of which being my personal hygiene, but by day two I could barely pull a brush through my hair so this precluded the unbathed option. With no turning back, I twist the knob in the shower and my fate is sealed.
I will now have to do the impossible.
As with nearly every other day, today I’ll again attempt the impossible because I don’t know what else to do. I’ll be late to the appointment. But I’ll apologize. I’ll want to stress that while I’m often late, this is my first time being late to this appointment, and that ought to buy me a free pass. Instead, I’ll slink away from the receptionist’s desk, cringing under the weight of being considered inconsiderate and inept, and as the scornful looks of the staff bore into my back, I’ll want to shout, I’m doing the best I can. Because it’s true.
When I dash from the shower, dripping, towel tied hastily around me, and hustle down the hall to my room, I check the clock while struggling to pull clothes over my wet body to see I should be leaving in five minutes. I yell to Crazy, who thankfully is dressed but hasn’t completed any other tasks, to finish getting ready. “We have to leave. Now!” I twist my wet hair into a clip and smear on makeup, which is streaked down my face because my skin is still damp and this makeup requires careful attention because it’s the wrong color, a shade too dark for my skin and a bit orangey because I bought it for the summertime when my skin is tan and my regular ivory foundation no longer matches, but I ran out of ivory a week ago and haven’t had time to replace it so now I’m using orange because it’s all I have, and while I’m nearly 40, I’ve never outgrown childhood acne and still can’t leave the house without makeup.
Hunched over my son who’s now at the bathroom sink brushing his teeth, I apply the foundation, and when I finish I see I look a little like John Boehner, but my acne’s covered. I tell Crazy to go outside and brush off the snow, which has fallen overnight and covered my car, congratulating myself on the brillance of this time-saving idea. I have no time for snow. No margin of error.
Crazy goes out but is back in a minute because he forgot the gloves I told him to put on before he went outside. There is no time for this. No time to retrieve gloves! I think as he grabs the gloves and heads back outside. And then because I’m out of time, instead of brushing my teeth, I grab the Listerine bottle and swirl the green liquid around in my mouth. Spitting it out, I race for the door to find Crazy has only brushed off part of the windshield and nothing else. Dammit. I hop in the car, cram the key into the ignition to start the defrost, and jump out to finish the job because at this rate we’ll never make it to the doctor’s appointment, and looking up at the dashboard clock I see it’s already 8:57.
Once I’ve cleared off enough to see out a patch of the front window and a portion of the back, I reverse down the driveway at top speed before slamming the brakes seconds prior to crashing into the minivan parked directly opposite my driveway. Although I’d looked around before pulling out, in my haste I didn’t think to look behind me and so never saw the van.
Maneuvering the car around I tear off down the street, hanging a left at the corner and speeding 4o mph down a neighboring street while getting dirty looks from the residents. I’m sorry. Racing to the end of the block I notice the last portion of the street is coated with snow. A clear line indicates where the snow plow stopped. The road is like a runway of snow.
I hit the breaks hoping to slow down enough before reaching the corner and careening out into the busy street. But it doesn’t happen. I’m not going to make it, and with my son in the backseat I pray no cars are coming. It’s then I see the Jeep. There’s nothing I can do. I charge into the street aiming for the far lane, which is empty, and just barely missing the Jeep, we make it. We’re alive.
I continuing to speed all the way to the doctor’s office and manage to be only ten minutes late. Taking a breath I yank the car handle to step out, which is when my stomach growls, and I realize I haven’t eaten. No matter. I hurry Crazy, who is now whimpering because he’s nervous about the appointment despite having been through this painless exam before, into the building and pause for a moment while scanning the directory for the room number. Rushing down the hall in search of the door, I try to soothe Crazy’s fears while silently berating myself for not preparing him for a visit that might cause him concern. It’s my fault he’s worried.
When we get to the office the receptionist is lovely. We are taken straight back to the examination room. Everything’s fine except Crazy is still upset and won’t relax, and I have to talk him down, but my words are unable to calm him, and he won’t stop groaning. As I stroke his back, my phone rings unexpectedly, and I ignore it, but when it rings again a moment later, I’m concerned there’s an emergency. But I’m in the middle of the appointment, and I’m trying to calm my little boy and can’t answer it.
Once the official exam ends, I grab the phone and see it’s only the school and my husband. There’s no emergence. My husband was supposed to notify the school of Crazy’s absence, but the school’s number appears ahead of his, which is how I know he never did.
By 10:00 a.m. we’re done, but not before getting heavier news than normal. My son is healthy, he’s fine, but next visit will require more extensive tests at a specialize children’s hospital. Start researching. He’ll need sedation and an MRI. There’s talk of surgery. All standard procedure of course, but I wasn’t prepared. I always knew, but I wasn’t prepared. It was never real.
It’ll be fine, I know. But the fear creeps in anyway. My son will have to undergo open heart surgery in fewer years than I am prepared to handle. All of a sudden it’s very real.
The irony of the whole thing is my son, born with a heart defect, has the best heart of anyone I know.
With the appointment over we collect our things, and I’m there to see Crazy pull the red knit hat with the gloves still tucked inside onto his head so that he has a big, lumpy pyramid atop his little, earnest face, and I laugh. I’m grateful I’m here. With him.
I promise to take him to lunch, just me and him, but first we have to stop home where I can sit at my desk and put this all down because if I don’t do it now, it will never get done. So I sit and three hours later I’m still there. We still haven’t eaten lunch. We’ll just have to run around the corner and grab something quick and come back. And as I sit to finish writing the doorbell rings. I’m puzzled by who it might be in the middle of the afternoon when no one was expected.
It’s Fred. Of course it’s Fred because Crazy has guitar lessons with Fred every Friday only I completely forgot because there’s only so much one person can do and remember and manage in one day. But I try.
And tomorrow I will try again.