Champion of the Underdog

A trip to Edaville Railroad at Christmastime virtually guarantees a magical experience, but what happened last night had less to do with trains and more to do with gleaning a small glimpse at Edgar’s huge heart.  As we moved through the line in the cafeteria, we spied some fine-looking gingerbread men cookies.  Since we were already spending roughly $30 for a couple of cold single-serving pizzas and a hot dog, throwing in a couple of cookies seemed within the bounds of our new concept of reasonable.  Oscar grabbed his choice and put it on the tray, and Edgar did the same.  As we neared the cashier, I noticed that the cookie Edgar had chosen had a broken leg.  I pointed this out to him and asked him if he wanted to choose another one.  He said, within earshot of the cashier, “I picked that one with the broken leg because no one else would, and that one needs love.”  The cashier heard him, touched her hand to her heart, and then did what any reasonable person would do after being knocked over by such a perfect sentiment: She offered him a candy cane.  (Then, because she is wise, she offered Oscar one, too.)  She looked at Edgar and said, “This is for being such a sweet boy!”  Edgar beamed as he made his way to the table.

Edgar has always been in love with people and animals and the world we live in.  But it is lately that I have discerned a true longing to reach out to those he deems most in need.  It started right after Halloween when I attempted to put away the decorations and he grabbed the Frankenstein’s monster we usually hang on the door.  He declared this monster his “baby” and he now sleeps with it regularly.  When I asked him why he chose Frankenstein’s monster as his “baby,” he simply said, “Because he needs a daddy.”

And there you have it . . . future defense attorney?  Quite possibly.  But undoubtedly a soul who is destined to make this world a more gentle, accepting place.

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Protecting the Heart

I just swallowed a fish oil capsule.

This really shouldn’t qualify as the “news of the day”–except for the fact that I am (or maybe was) a vegetarian.

But on Thursday everything changed.

I went to my doctor for my annual physical; and what is customarily a relatively pleasant or at worst an uneventful annual episode on an early December afternoon turned into something quite different.  I went in with a list of what I now see were fairly benign complaints–allergies and the like–and left with a preliminary diagnosis of Stage Two hypertension.  My blood pressure, which has always been low, had suddenly catapulted to 168/96.  My doctor asked if I were nervous or stressed or upset about anything; and when I replied that I nearly fell asleep in his waiting room I was truly that relaxed, he registered discernible concern.

He ordered the typical battery of blood tests and scheduled an appointment for me in February to check it again.  Tonight I received the results.  And while I am grateful that nearly everything came back, in the words of the nurse, “boringly normal,” my triglyceride level was quite high.  That coupled with the high blood pressure and a significant family history of heart disease has made me sit up and take notice.

I know what it’s going to take to improve my chances of avoiding a heart attack–exercising more, eating more healthful foods, which is what I have vowed to do–starting now.  However, one of the best known weapons in the fight against heart disease is fish (particularly salmon and tuna) and fish oil; and this, of course, runs counter to my vegetarianism.

When I made the decision to become a vegetarian, it was for health reasons to be sure but also philosophical.  I never was comfortable with the idea of eating meat and had a difficult time digesting it to boot.  So, crossing over, so to speak, was easy enough to do.  But now, eight years later, I have an even better reason–make that many reasons–to reintroduce at least fish to my diet.

When you are lucky enough to be married to your best friend and you’re given the honor of raising three boys with hearts as big as the world, I think you also have a responsibility to protect your own: And with that, I fully intend to walk into the doctor’s office in February, have him take my blood pressure and test my cholesterol and say, “Now, that’s more like it.”

Hanging on By a Thread

Since the day Oscar arrived on the planet he has always been a very logical problem-solver–brimming with common sense and wisdom that has belied his young years.  So I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that the concept of Santa Claus is causing him a little angst–not because he doesn’t like Santa but because everything that Santa is and represents is running counter to what he knows to be sensible.

We have always followed Santa from location to location–starting with watching his “arrival” in New York City at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to the symbolic day-after-Thanksgiving trip to Providence Place Mall for the obligatory picture.  There have historically been a few tears (usually right around age two) but never questions.

This, year, however, Oscar is noticing details that surely would have escaped me at his age, including the differences in Santa’s appearance from place to place (culminating in his recently noticing Santa’s tattoo under the loose sleeve of his red suit).

We have tried various methods to keep the magic alive for Oscar–including a visit from Sinterklaas, who left some candy in his shoe as he slept and an Elf on the Shelf.  There was part of me that sensed Oscar may have realized that was leftover Halloween candy in his shoe and that he was merely humoring me by participating; and his first view of his Elf on the Shelf resulted in his declaring that the elf was obviously made of plastic.

Santa recently sent an email to Oscar letting him know all about the “special helpers” that Santa designates in the month of December to visit stores and the like.  My astute son looked at me as I read the letter; and I could almost feel him looking right through me.  I persevered and added, “If you want Santa to come to your house on Christmas Eve, you have to believe.”

And this is where I have left it and will leave it–because this truly is where the story ends.  No more machinations.  No more tricks.  If you want to believe in the magic of Christmas, then you do.  And if you don’t, well, then things seem a whole lot less magical.  And that is what I wish for my ultra-logical son–a month or two of suspending your disbelief and giving in to the magic.

Because you should never be too old–or too logical–for a little magic once in a while!

A Boy’s Evolution

For the last week or so, I’ve had to keep something quiet–per Oscar’s request. But recently he has been telling the story himself; so I now feel I have at least tacit permission to share.

The day before Thanksgiving, Oscar was playing with a pinwheel he had made in school.  His fondness for his creation was obvious–which is an important detail to note.

When Oscar slipped out of the room to grab a snack, he gently placed his pinwheel on the dining room table.  Edgar seized the opportunity, shall we say, and in a moment of–how might I phrase this diplomatically?–less-than-kind brotherly retribution for some ancient but obviously unforgotten transgression took the pinwheel and crumpled it.

Oscar came back from the kitchen, saw his pinwheel in disarray, let his brother know he was not happy, and then proceeded to grab a paper turkey hat Edgar had made at school that week.  It was clear what he was thinking.

At this point I would have normally stepped in with Mahatma Gandhi’s wise adage, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and an admonition to avoid retribution.  But something compelled me to hold back, to see what would happen next.

Edgar looked at Oscar, then at his turkey hat, with true horror in his eyes.  He sensed his brother was about to rip it, to do essentially what he had just done to Oscar’s pinwheel.  He cried out, “Please don’t.”  And then he cried.

Oscar looked at Edgar, looked at the hat, then looked at me.  He said, “I can’t do this.  This means too much to him.  He wore it at assembly. ”

And then, “Here, Edgar.”

Edgar took the hat and simply said, “Thank you, Oscar.”

And as I reflect during this Thanksgiving season on what it is I am most thankful for, I might start with the joy I feel when I think of who these young men are becoming.