The Tiny Green Pig I Keep Giving Away

8603999856_8930354694_bPhoto Credit: Thomas van de Vosse Flickr via Compfight cc

“We knew something was wrong when he asked for Mommy. He never asks for you.”

I’d just arrived to pick up my three year old from daycare and that’s what his teacher tells me. I laugh, and she apologizes, but it’s fine because I know what she meant.

He’s my tough guy. I held him the first time and couldn’t get over this sense thatsomething was wrong. A week after his birth I couldn’t shake it and told my mom.

“He just doesn’t seem as hearty as his older brother always seemed.”

We agreed it was just because his brother was born a mini linebacker and so the 1.5 pound difference was throwing me for a loop.

Over the next three years he was chronically sick. Thankfully nothing life threatening. But by the age of three he’d already had two surgeries and anitbiotics were becoming a concern. He’d had so many of them, so frequently, that we were worried about him building an immunity to them.

All of which solidified for me the trust I feel for my intuition when it comes to my kids. The connection I feel to them.

He’d been relatively well though the previous six months. “He doesn’t have a fever,” his teacher said, “And it was almost time for you to arrive anyway, so we didn’t call.”

He was lying on a cot, all mushy and tired. I scooped him up and, together with his older brother, we made our way home.

Once there, he seemed fine. A bit tired. He was resting on the couch but laughed and played with his brother. I was getting ready to cook when I heard it.

“Ow. OwowowowowOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!”

I ran into the living room in time to see him leap up from the couch clutching his right lower back.

Within two minutes we were in the car and I was on the phone with my husband telling him we were headed to the hospital.

My gut reaction was that it was his appendix. The whole ride to the hospital I only half watched the road. My eyes pulled to the rearview mirror that I’d aimed at his car seat in the back. I hated that I really had no idea where the appendix was in the human body at that moment. What kind of mother am I? It’s in the general lower back area, right?

That voice returned. Loud. Something is wrong with him. Relentless, the entire ride there. The entire time we waited to be seen. Even as he perked up in the waiting room and started horsing around with his brother. Climbing up the plastic burnt orange chairs and leaping off to land in a squat on two feet.

When we were called into triage the nurse gave me side eye. “His appendix, you say,” she said with a smirk. Then she asked him to stand on the table and she held his little hands. He was never afraid of people. Of anything really. He took her hands without hesitation and she asked him to jump in place. He obliged, with his grin that lit up any room that tried to hold it.

The nurse looked back at me as he hopped like a kangaroo while holding her hands. “Typically the first sign of an appendix problem is that when they jump, they scream in pain.”

I gave her a wan smile. He didn’t have a fever. He didn’t have any pain. Right now. Yes, he’s got quite a bit of energy for a sick kid. But I repeated what happened, from the daycare pickup to the living room.

“Always trust your gut, Mom,” she said. “We’ll call him back soon.”

Once called back he was given a gown and we waited. My husband arrived and I told him to go home and eat with our older son because I was sure we’d be waiting. And I was half sure we’d be sent home with a diagnosis of neurotic mom.

A doctor examined him and at this point he’d started to run a bit of a fever. They drew some blood and gave him some tylenol.

A family arrived in the next bed. A grandmother who’d fallen ill, with her daughter, son-in-law, and grown granddaughter. We exchanged smiles whenever our eyes met. All of us waiting for test results or more tests ordered. They thought the grandmother may have had a stroke. They couldn’t get my son’s fever down. His blood tests came back normal. Hers came back inconclusive.

The doctor returned to tell me they wanted a CAT scan. Despite thinking it wasn’t his appendix, they wanted to be sure. He would have to drink half a bottle of oral contrast. A thick, white, chalky drink that I kept trying to convince him was a milkshake.

He knew I was straight up lying to his face after the first sip.

With every sip he looked at me like I was nuts. “It will help the doctor figure out how to make you feel better,” I told him. The moments between sips started lasting longer. It became harder and harder to convince him to take just a few more.

Before long, the young girl from the family in the next bed area joined us. Her mother soon after. The three of us laughing and cajoling my son into drinking the heinous substance. Performing like circus monkeys.

My stomach turned watching him struggle to work up the fortitude to bring the bottle to his mouth once more. The mother would sneak off to go check on her elderly mother in the next bed. She’d tell her mother, in Spanish, about the little boy and how cute he was, even though the old woman never responded. The young girl would translate for me.

It felt like days, but I’m sure was just 20 – 30 minutes or so, before a nurse came by to say he had to drink just a little bit more. At this point he was lying back on the bed, his cheeks flushed. Despite the tylenol doses they had repeated, his fever kept rising. They needed him to consume enough contrast to get into the CAT scan as soon as possible.

The young girl leaned in and told my son about her tiny green pig.

She held up her key chain so that it dangled before him.

There, among the keys and a few other random keychains, hung a squat, almost circular, see through plastic pig the color of emeralds. It was a thick acrylic, solid, but only about one inch in size.

She told my son that it was her favorite thing in the world and that it had always been there for her, ever since she was a little girl. But if he drank just a bit more, he could have it.

As long as he promised to one day give it to someone else who needed it more.

So he did. He promised and he gulped down more of his drink. She handed him the pig and she and her parents celebrated, clapping and gushing over what a brave, big boy he was being.

Minutes later we were wheeled in for the CAT scan. They shot dye through his IV and the very second it hit his arm he started screaming. My boy who hadn’t uttered a peep through the blood tests and drinking that awful shit they made him drink and getting an IV and taking tylenol, was now screaming blue bloody murder.

By the time we were wheeled back to our bed area, he was spent. Flushed, exhausted, whimpering, and with a fever they couldn’t bring down. The nurses took the blanket off him, pushed his gown down past his shoulders, and brought him ice pops he had no interest in. He sat and shivered, silent fat tears rolling down his bright red cheeks.

The family from next door cooed over him and frowned. He clutched the green pig in his burning hand, but didn’t have any smiles left to offer them when they tried to make him laugh.

A few minutes later the grandmother was wheeled away. We all wished each other luck, and the young girl told my son she knew he would be fine. “Take care of the pig,” she said. “But give it away when he’s needed.”

The doctor returned with the CAT scan results.

“It isn’t his appendix,” he said, “But we did find something.”

Only a split second between that statement and the next. Between the vague we found something and the reality of that something. Between my life as I knew it and what could possibly come next. Between my son, the beat of my heart, andsomething.

“The scan ended up picking up the very, very bottom of his right lung and it’s filled with fluid. He has pneumonia.”


He stayed in the hospital for three days, as a precaution they said. Over and over again, nurses told me what a tough guy he must be for him to have pneumonia like that and not complain. That’s just how he was. Brave and stoic. Through all the illnesses he had up to that point. The two surgeries. All the medicine, some of it vile, that he’d taken in his short three years.

He held the pig the entire time he was in the hospital.

After getting back home, when the newness of the pig wore off and I frequently found it laying around, I took the pig from him. We kept it on a shelf in his room and often he’d ask to hear the story of the pig. Of the young girl who gave up her “prized possession” and what it meant. How she thought of him even while she was worried for her grandmother. How she trusted him to give the pig away when he decided someone needed it.

In the years since, the pig was lost. I admit to being upset when I first discovered it was missing. But I’ve never, ever forgotten about that pig. We still tell the story of the pig. And I know now the pig itself doesn’t need to be in our hands. We don’t need to give it away.

We just need to never forget it. What it meant for her to give it away and for us to receive it.

I give that pig away every chance I get.

Until writing this, I’d never thought before of googling “green acrylic pig keychain” just to see if actually popped up. Google never disappoints. Same pig, minus the lettering.

My Mechanic’s Broken Thing 

Photo by Allison Bedford

He patched and painted the ceiling in the dining room after I took a step in the attic without the knowlege that one must only step on the beams.

One year, our Christmas tree just would not stay up. Until he screwed the stand to the floor. Right through the carpet.

I’ve watched him open up computers, fiddle around, button them back up and suddenly they work again. But once they’re loaded up, he’s got no use for them.

He has six children. Six times (Daddy, fix this times the number of toys each child has owned and/or touched and/or played with) plus (the number of friends who have visited our house times all the toys they’ve broken while here or brought because the toy was broken and they wanted him to fix it) equals roughly a metric fuck-ton of broken. 

No child has ever walked away without a working toy and a hug.

Ever.

He’s fixed tons of motorcycles, including that one I wanted to try. That little Sportster a woman rode. So I said, “Hey I bet I could ride that! Let me walk it into the garage!”

He stood back. I hopped on, kicked up the kickstand, took one step forward and then just keeled over to the side, unable to hold up the weight of the bike.

He fixed that, too.

Cars. Appliances. Skinned knees. Bruised egos.

He’s fixed all that.

The one thing I love the most, I can’t fix.

He’s said that to me a lot over the last three years. With a sigh and a sense of regret so thick I sometimes can’t breathe in the same room with it.

It’s not your job to.

That’s always my response. With a sigh and a sense of shame so thick I feel my throat closing.

Only I can fix me. We both know that.

But I’m no mechanic.

I flounder, searching for things that will work. Things I can manage. Things that will stick. 

Therapy and vitamins. BDSM and yoga. Old friends and new. Reading and writing. 

Changing how I view myself and the world around me. Changing how I confront the things that make me uncomfortable. Changing my life and how I want to live it.

That’s a lot of change to try and understand, let alone embrace.

He can’t fix me.

But every time he hugs me and tells me he’s proud . . . 

Every time he sits with his discomfort while I flit about in the breeze . . . 

Every time he lands a kiss on my forehead and a good girl in my ear . . . 

Every time he supports and encourages . . . 

He helps put a piece back in place.

He’s a mechanic who loves nothing more than when things are fixed. 

Except me. Even if I’m broken.

The Improbable, Possible Things I Seek

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By Jonathan McIntosh (Own work) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As a child I curled up under the Christmas tree to read. Every year I received books as gifts, in addition to some toys. While the shine and glitz of a new toy tended to wear off quickly, the books were forever.

The stories never ended.

I’d hide under the lowest branches of the fake tree my family put up year after year. My grandmother had crocheted a large tree skirt that wrapped around the base and splayed out in a circle on the floor beneath. I’d lay upon it, my book in hand, and read my way to someplace else.

Somewhere quiet and less chaotic than the world I inhabited.

There were moments though when I’d look up, through the branches twinkling with light and adorned with tiny whimsical figures and shiny, gleaming globes, and I’d stare.

Up through those branches I found silence. It waited for me in every tiny nook. I’d hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing and the faint whisper of a magic that only exists in timeless moments. In moments where the real world falls away and one can believe with absolute certainty that something fantastic can happen.

I stared up through the galaxy of stars that blinked through the branches andfelt them upon me. Shifting shades of red and green and blue and gold. Nothing else existed for me then except the lights that danced across my skin and a tree that breathed with possibility.

I curled up, small and silent, with stories dancing through my head and it was a tiny thing, that moment. A young girl in the corner of a silent living room in a small house that stood in a small town on a tiny plot of the earth.

But it was big enough for me. Big enough to transport me. Enormous enough for me to believe that maybe something existed in that tree that I couldn’t see. It felt so magical, like a place where fairies could be found fluttering or tiny mice in clothes bustling about their errands.

There was silence enough beneath the Christmas tree that it became sacred.

Now I wonder if that’s what I’m seeking. Moments, where I believe in something. Something outside of myself and my experience.

A silence. A connection to something that feels big to me.

A something that leaves me believing in the magic of how improbable, yet possible, everything is in this world.

If someone lets go of all else, and believes.

The Showman (A Dribble*)

willow tree.jpg
Photo credit Allison Bedford

They meet beneath a tree.

She doesn’t care about the pieces of him that they get. She wants to see his face without filters. Without the shine and polish. Minus the studio lights.

There’s a pureness to him she never expected.

And a layer of dirt she wants to taste.

 

*A dribble is a writing of exactly fifty words.

He Looks For Me in the Sails

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By Alexander Baxevanis (Flickr: Sailboat & Sunset) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I want to be the sails.

I want to unfurl myself into the wind and be caught up and set free. I want to see all the things, travel to all the places, meet all the people.

I want the only sound to be the rushing, whipping force of moving forward. The only thought through my mind that of where I land. What’s ahead. I want to be focused only on me, the sails, and getting better at steering myself into the storm. I want to feel lightness against brutality and the freedom that comes from holding up against the wind.

But really, I’m the anchor.

I’m heavy with doubt and every chain is built from leaden thoughts of why I shouldn’t and how I can’t.

I sink.

I’m holding myself down, and anyone who might be on the journey with me at any given time. I’m the anchor that keeps us still, stagnant. While there may be rocking now and then when the sea kicks up, the wind can’t take me anywhere but in circles.

He’s the steady crewman.

Hands on his hips. Shaking his head now and then, but generally with a cocked eyebrow and lips always on the verge of smiling. He’s the one who claps his hands together and rubs them for a bit as he eyes the situation and springs into action.

He pulls me up, hand over hand, out of the muck I’ve sunk myself into at the bottom of the sea. Makes sure I’m back on board, even if I’m just curled up at his feet coughing up water.

Then he raises the mast, unleashes the mainstay, and steers into the wind.

Even if he’s warily eyeing the storm.

Even when he’s worried he’ll be tossed overboard.

He holds on, steady and true. Because no matter how low that anchor sinks, and how much I think I’m wrapped up in its chains . . . somehow he still believes I’m the sails.

When he looks for me, he looks up. Eyes squinting against the sun, sure that he’ll see me there in the wind.

I love that he looks for me in the sails, even when I’ve slid off to sink into the sea.

This Is Not Marriage Advice. Sort of.

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By Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The season for bridal showers came when I was younger. That rush of marriages taking place every few months. Friends and cousins and co workers all at that age where they start tying the knot.

With it come the bridal shower invites. At least, where I’m from they did. Is that a regional thing? You’d all gather around with your gifts and sip mimosas (or beers, depending on the crowd) and inevitably a journal or index card would get passed around the table for you to write down your best advice for the couple.

I was, during that season of my life, frighteningly unqualified to be handing out relationship advice.

I still am.

The difference is, now I know it. Back then I wrote little quips like Never go to bed mad and Always make time for one another.

Which, yeah, is valid. Sure.

Brilliant advice? No. It’s not.

Because that shit they can figure out on their own.

There’s no advice I would offer to couples today if asked. I can only offer my perspective. I can only share what’s worked for me in my current relationship. None of it worked in any previous relationship I had. All of it is particular to me and my husband. But I think perhaps people can extrapolate from it some juicy nuggets they can chew on, digest, and crap out some helpful morsels of their own.

(That sounds so gross. Sorry. Analogies aren’t always my thing.)

So there’s the first thing I’d share: Stop asking for advice. Because what works for one couple may be disastrous for another.

Also, the person you’re with today is not going to be the person you’re with years from now. Not because I’m fatalistic and believe you won’t stay together. But because people change. Yourself included. It’s natural.

It’s also scary.

There may be times you look at the person beside you and ask if you even recognize him or her any longer.

Does it matter?

The better question, for me, has always been Do I want to take the time to get to know this person? If the changes he’s shown haven’t changed the kindness or the humor or the tenderness that I so love and value in him, then it’s me I need to confront. Not him. It’s my aversion to change I need to examine. The same applies to him when I change.

You’re going to argue and it’s going to hurt. A lot of the time it won’t even be over what matters. You’ll be dealing with a sick child or a lost job or money trouble or all three and more, but it’s the laundry on the floor that will cause the big blow out. It’s hard though, in the heat of the battle over whether or not it’s a big deal for your partner to just throw the goddamn laundry in the hamper versus whether it’s a big deal to just pick up what your partner was too fucking distracted to care about and throw it in since you are already on your way to the hamper if you really feel so fucking passionate about it, to remember that your partner is as stressed as you and needs you to maybe hold some space for him.

You’ll want to throw things at the wall.

Remember that the more peanut butter there is in the jar, the bigger the dent it will leave in the sheet rock. Just saying. I mean, that’s what I’ve been told. Let’s move along.

You’re not perfect.

You’ll do things like scream for help while you cling to a wooden beam after falling through the ceiling of your kitchen because you didn’t know you could only walk on the beams in the attic. And he’ll come running and unwrap you from the wires tangled around your legs, help you down with a gentle hand, and dust you off while checking to be sure you are injury-free before calling your mother to laugh over it. Meanwhile, when he trips down your porch steps as you are both walking out to the car, you’ll spend your entire thirty minute drive with him next to you watching as you struggle to laugh in silence with tears streaming down your cheeks and your O-ring struggling from the strain of trying to hold in all those guffaws.

It’s ok though, because he isn’t perfect either.

Sometimes he’ll make you feel you’re not enough and sometimes you’ll make him feel like he has no voice. You’re both going to make each other feel lots of feels. Some of them, if you’re lucky, will feel so damn good. Some of them, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, will hurt.

There’s never a win or lose.

Except for this . . . if you both find ways to make the other feel loved enough that it carries you through the times when you feel otherwise. When you feel less than. If you both still hold onto that . . . you’re winning.

I have no advice.

I only know that it matters when he’s the calm one in the room. It matter when I pack his lunch. It matters when he reaches back to hold my hand as we’re walking. It matters when I encourage him to chase his dreams. It matters when he does the same.

There is no magic guide book that will help you navigate this, or any other relationship. But it helps to find the things that matter to you both.

I sort of can’t wait for the next bridal shower invite.

I’ll be looking for them to pass around the journal or hand out those decorated index cards. I’ve reached the point in life where I know that the flowery sayings are just that. They’re nice and pretty, but ultimately will end up as dry and fleeting as a flower in a vase.

No, I won’t write out any quips or advice. Instead I’ll share a story filled with laughter and heartache, highs and lows, pain and joy. It’ll be all about me and my husband and our life and the particulars, most likely, will never apply to you and your relationship.

But the hope?

That always applies.

Sometimes I Just Want to be Right

Like when I ask him a question and he says he already told me the answer.

When did you tell me that?

When I called to ask you about that other thing, he answers. 

Which is wrong. More wrong than saying Courtney Love had all the talent in the relationship.

He didn’t tell me during that conversation. He called and asked me for a password. I told him I’d have to look it up and text it to him. He thanked me and we hung up.

Clearly, he’s wrong.

So we end up in a bit of a spat over whether he did or didn’t tell me the information he claims I should already possess. (He didn’t.)

But he’s right. It doesn’t matter how absofuckinglutely sure I am that I’m correct. He’s equally as sure he’s correct.

That right there is one of the most difficult things about being married (or in any other type of relationship/entanglement.) Having to back down from being right when you know, you fucking know, how right you are.

Because sometimes it’s not about something stupid like the example above. Often it’s the two of you trying to navigate life together while also working and maybe raising kids and trying to achieve goals and worrying about a metric shit ton of things that could derail all your dreams. It’s two individuals trying to make a partnership work.  

It’s two people moving through life as a cohesive unit but also fiercely holding onto their sense of self.

Sometimes I just want to be right.

So he backs down. 

I forget that he does that. In the heat of the moment, when I’m pissed he’s arguing with me, I forget about all the times he backed down. All the times he knew he was right but walked away anyway. I forget until he does it again and I’m reminded we both get our moments of basking in the smug.

Sometimes I just want to be right.

Then I remember that even when we argue, we don’t call each other names. We don’t put each other down. Aside from that time I threw the peanut butter at the wall, we’ve never forgotten that respect for each other is more important than being correct. We can dig our heels in and tug back and forth and still love each other at the end of the day. 

Sometimes I just want to be right. 

Until I take a breath and realize that sometimes being wrong just means I love him. And he loves me, too.

I know because he’s wrong way more than I am.

Kidding!

(Sort of.)