Monday, August 23, 2010

15 minutes

"Here, watch this," Brian said, handing me his iPod.

He had been showing Kathleen a short video of her from earlier this summer when she first learned to go down the little slide in our yard. She watched the first few seconds and then looked up at me and earnestly repeated slide, slide, slide. Then she saw herself go down and said Whee! 

When the clip was over, she poked at the screen, unintentionally starting the 15-minute montage Brian put together of Henry's life.

"Baby!" she said, and Brian told her it was Henry. They watched a few seconds, then he handed it to me.

He was in the NICU when I got it, in my arms, just waking up. I haven't watched any of this footage in a long time. I notice how much his chest moves, how hard he is breathing. Did I notice at the time? Did I get so used to it that it didn't register?

I'm okay until his smile the morning before his surgery. That's when I start to cry.

I watch a solemn me holding his hand a few days after surgery, waiting for him, willing him to wake up. I note the angry gash down his chest. I half-smile through my tears at the cordless dance, when we twirl around the CICU, free of oxygen for the very first time.

I beg him not to pull his NG tube out as he fiddles with it in a later clip and notice that his scar has healed nicely. I smile again as our favorite nurse bends over his stroller to say good-bye to him and another favorite hip checks her out of the way.

And then we are home. Henry is asleep in his swing. Brian pans the camera over to me. I am not listening to the sound, but I know I am telling about our efforts to leave the hospital, being forced to turn around in the storm, stumbling back to the hospital through the snow carrying Henry and his oxygen. I am daunted by the med schedule ahead of us, but so, so glad to be home.

You can see the haunted look in the back of my eyes from what we've been through, but over that the relief. We are home. It is incredibly important to me that we got Henry home, but it is never enough. I see that relief now, see the me who had no idea that within hours everything would come crashing down.

While I watched and cried and felt myself go limp, I was also pretending to laugh as Kathleen tickled my toes. My baby who's here, my baby who's not.

I find myself wondering again, how did we get here?


  1. I wish I knew. I wonder myself every day.
    What's more, how do we keep going?

  2. Your memories always take me back to my own. Such similar paths you and I took.

    I don't know how either. I wish I could seen Henry's smile, and I really wish I had tried harder to capture Jordan's on film. We were so focused on getting our kids home, weren't we, we just didn't see what was coming. Always thought we'd have more time.

  3. 'I see that relief now, see the me who had no idea that within hours everything would come crashing down.'

    Oh it breaks my heart Sara. It all just seems too, too unfair. I wish that things had been different for you and your family.

  4. Sal, I started asking myself how I got where I was when Henry was in the hospital. There was a particular point in the walk between his floor and the rooms where parents stayed where I would find myself swimming in disbelief and wondering how this could possibly be my life. And then of course we went from roller coaster ride to roller coaster off the tracks and here I am today.

    Sophie, we caught Henry's smile by accident. I actually didn't know we had it recorded until after he died. I thought we always missed it, because he often was camera shy. But on his first birthday we sat down to watch the video we had of him—and there it was, his face going from serious to beaming. It saved me that day, as his actual smile had saved me so many times.

    Catherine, that looking back on the me that didn't know resonates in your latest post. I wish things were different for you and your family too.