Edgar found the spot behind my bent knees as I lay on my side curled up in our oversized chair. He put his head on my chest, listened intently, then whispered in my ear, “I don’t want your heart to stop beating.”
August kissed me on top of the head and said, “I love you, Mommy. You’ll be right back from the hospital, in five minutes, right?”
And Oscar did what Oscar does—stared through me with the most soulful eyes you ever did see, worried but not wanting to make matters worse for me, thinking beyond himself because that is what he does, what he always does.
On Sunday I was sick, in the greatest physical pain I have ever known; and tonight, though I am no longer in physical pain, I am overcome with the angst borne of having come face to face with my children’s fear of losing me.
To be clear, I have no intention of going anywhere. I fully intend to stick around well, well past my prime. But our health is our health: When it’s good, everything’s fine; and when it’s not, little else matters.
My mother died of a heart attack. Immediate family members have significant heart-related health concerns. And, thanks to genetics, I do, too. So far I’m managing it pretty well. But every once in a while something happens that reminds me of my vulnerabilities.
A blood pressure cuff sits on my desk. My children see it and know I take it, keep track of it. They know I have to take medication. They know it’s important and why.
But so far they haven’t been scared. And maybe that’s because so far I haven’t been scared. On Sunday I was scared, and I saw first-hand how my fear affected my children.
And while shielding my children from the vicissitudes of life is never something I’ve espoused, seeing them scared for me, because of me carries with it an intensity unlike anything else.
It made me want to stand up, declare myself just fine, disguise the pain with a smile, a joke. It made me want to comfort them, to put their minds at ease, to take away their fear.
So that is what I did. I minimized, rationalized, hugged them and kissed them and told them I’d be fine, that I’d be back “in five minutes.”
Right or wrong, comforting or not, believed or disbelieved, it’s all I could do. Because in the annals of pain, being the cause of my children’s fear is the worst, and most assuredly more than my heart can take.