Five slight fingers, a three inch palm. The trust of a child who knows he is loved and secure. My hand wrapped warmly around his soft little hand. Reminding one another that we are OK and we love each other. This bond between Gregory and I is strong and unique.
Gregory had an appointment today to have two of his upper teeth pulled, to make room for his front two adult teeth. The last time he had a procedure at the dentist it did not go very well. I’m hesitant to admit that the dentist actually made me feel a bit small and belittled Gregory a bit. Maybe we were overly sensitive at that point in time. Maybe what we have been through just plain makes us sensitive to certain things. This experience, combined with Gregory’s history, contributed to a bit of PTSD today. For both of us.
As Gregory was climbing into the dental chair, the panic, fear and anxiety started to settle in. Thankfully the assistant today was perfection. She did her best to calm Gregory, but I knew he just needed me close. I did what I do best. I climbed right up into that chair, straddled it backwards, stroked his legs and feet, simply offering my presence. As they were applying the nose piece for his ‘Happy Gas’ I could see thoughts flit across his face. He asked about ‘Sleepy Medicine’. Having been sedated only three weeks prior, things were awfully close to the surface. We assured him that today he would not need Sleepy Medicine, just Happy Gas to help him relax. Once the nose piece was settled, he started to cry and bravely wiped away his quiet tears. Taking deep breaths to calm himself. At this point there really is not much I could do to help him. I just have to let him work it out. Which he did, though it did linger for the rest of the day.
This patient and compassionate dental assistant was also in the OR on March 25, 2009 when Gregory had his pre-transplant dental work done. He had eight crowns and four caps placed that day. This protective placement of caps was THE BEST thing we could have ever done for Gregory’s mouth health. As she was walking us back to the procedure area today, she confessed to having cleaned my teeth when I was small. It was a day of full circle memories.
The Happy Gas kicked in and he started chatting between the ministrations of the dental assistants. The numbing in affect, Dr Dentist arrived and gently removed the two teeth. Long roots and all. It was actually quite amazing to watch him perform the task. He was gentle and firm in the handling of those teeth within Gregory’s jaw. After a few minutes it was time for us to go. Gregory picked out his prize and we left the procedure area. We gathered our coats and headed out the door.
Not being too sure about the expiration date on my Tylenol at home, we stopped at the store. As were were walking toward the store, Gregory had his little hand in mine. There was something so startling crystal clear in that moment. His sweet little hand felt to tiny in mine. Tiny, warm and secure. As I looked down at him, I had a wave of ‘Don’t forget this moment!’. This moment where we were both silently and subconsciously supporting and comforting one another. We were feeling reverberations of shared trauma. His upper lip was terribly numb and he was quietly talking with me about random observations. I couldn’t tell you what they were. Only that his tone was very tender. A tone I’ve only heard him use with me during times of intense emotions. We were both feeling the past and the present.
He feels so very small to me today. I can’t help but wonder what races through his mind during times like today. He was so terribly young during active treatment and his immediate recovery. So young to have to experience what he had to endure in order to have a chance at survival. Those memories and feelings lie dormant. Too young to process them and too young to really remember the details. Yet…….. some part of him remembers. I witnessed it happen today, clear as day. So I continue to be his touchstone. The one to keep him grounded and secure.
What he doesn’t realize is that he does that for me, too. If I begin to have a moment of selfish, silly anger, judgement, jealousy, pity or you name it, I spend a millisecond holding the wonderment of his survival in my mind’s eye and nothing else matters. At this moment he is sleeping beside me. He still does not sleep alone. He will only fall asleep with me at his side. Selfishly, I’m not ready to give up this little luxury. There will come a day when he will not want to sleep next to his Mommy. Probably about the same time he quits calling me ‘Mommy’.
For now, I will take what is offered and try to engrave these moments into my rememory. The little hand in mine, the cuddling next to me, the wanting to be close together, the sweet kisses and perfect squeezes. These things have been hard won. I’m not about to squander what’s right in front of me.
Crying, AGAIN and thankful.