Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stepping Moments

Joseph wrote his name for the first time yesterday. The p and h had magnificently long stalks, the o was perfect and the capital J was dashed off with flair (he’s been practising this for a while). E has become a nervous letter for him. The tail wobbled out a bit and then took off on another journey altogether.
“It’s a hospital bed”, he said.

This is a golden season. My mother’s vegetable patch is overflowing, gentle sunlight filters and flickers through the acacias that surround our house, and the air is perfect. Joseph and I went on a picnic yesterday, riding a red motorbike through the green paddocks to Mailman’s Gap. We boiled the billy there a few weeks ago, when my brother Ben visited, and it was so good to find that the forked stick he wedged over the fire is still standing. My fire was pathetic, but Joseph loved laying out the lunch and making tepid tea. Afterwards, I lay back into the damp shade and looked up into the canopy. Silvery gums, dead and alive, fig leaves, a circling crow. I thought about beauty as deeply as I could, under the splash-downs, tackles, rolls, knee-borne aeroplanes and little fists full of grass.

I am waiting on a letter that will tell us when Joseph’s second operation is scheduled. In May last year he had a gortex tube fitted inside his heart to channel blood into the proper atrium. Now tests show that veins have narrowed around the fix. The blood supply to his lungs is impaired. When I asked the cardiologist if narrowing could happen all over again, he changed the subject.

Several times a day, my thoughts leap out of confinement and fly to horrific extremes. Beauty is not always a refuge. Where’s the humour?

Joseph’s grandmother accelerates the Prius towards a woman and a pram, in our desperation to get to a parking spot, as I lean out the window and scare off the stressed old man who is trying to bring things to a sick child.

Joseph throws food at the café in the lobby and the woman who turns to us, as her wheelchair bound daughter moans wordlessly at being tube fed, asks:
“Wanna swap?”

The surgeon visits us in intensive care, looks at me looking at Joe under his spaghetti junction of tubes and wires, and says:
“Happy now?”

Every day, six children are born in Australia with a congenital heart defect. The system for fixing them runs on a knife-edge between efficiency and failure.

Our moments are like stepping stones on a rope bridge, suspended between what has happened and what is to come.

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