Thursday, December 28, 2006

surgery and childhood

My six year old, Patrick, had minor surgery today. Actually, I don't know if it technically qualified as "surgery" in that there was really no invasive procedure. He had a few cavities, and needed a cleaning -- but, what with his autism, freaked out when we took him to the dentist's office a month ago. So she recommended taking him in to the local surgery center and putting him out so we could do everything in one fell swoop.

Which happened today.

There's just something about being a parent, watching as your kid gets carted off into the surgery room. Seeing him look at you, wondering, pleading, unsure of what is happening. Every moment with this vague sense of worry. What if something goes wrong?

And then when they bring him back, his throat sore because of the breathing tube they inserted and removed. Just lying there, groggy from the anaesthesia. So strikingly beautiful. There's this profound joy when he opens his eyes, mixed with a kind of empathy for his discomfort.

So he sits up, looks around, takes a sip of water. We ask him how he's doing and he says "I need to take a nap." And we laugh. The comment seems funny because he's been unconscious for most of the past two hours, but also because laughter gives voice to our profound relief. He is here, he is OK.

Someone once wrote that to be a parent is an act of profound courage -- for it is to have your heart removed and go walking around in the body of another. For me, it was to experience and understand what it means to love in ways that I hadn't previously understood or imagined.

To feel such love for a child changes you. For one thing, you look back at whatever dysfunction was there in your family when you were growing up, and you wonder why it was you never felt this way when you were a kid. Then you realize how much more love is possible for your other relationships.

And then you begin to think about what it would really mean for God to love you in this way, or what it would mean for God to love you in ways infinitely more meaningful and profound. Which is at once a lovely thought and somehow rather scary. For it calls out to make a relationship with God more than just about an idea of God. It calls for a relationship in its deepest and most profound sense, one that challenges, nurtures, encourages. My first reaction is to feel somehow not ready, not up to whatever might be asked.

But then, I can only think that our children might sometimes feel the same way.


mcewen said...

I know two families with two autistic boys, but I'm learning that there are many. I suspect that the majority are just too busy.
A pal of mine had a similar experience with the dentist and their son. A full anesthetic was their only option too. I don't know which was more painful, the bill or watching their son come around - I suspect the latter.
Best wishes

Magdalene6127 said...

This really tugged at my heart Steve. When Larry-O was 4 he needed ear tubes, and I remember vividly them carting him away quickly, and his imploring eyes. Augh. It still gets me to think about it.

Such love, the love of a parent. No wonder our most enduring metaphors for God are parental.

Blessings, Mags

steve said...


thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and for your kind comments. do you work with autism?


parentood really is a remarkable experience, isn't it? thank you for your kind words. I hope this finds you and your family happy and well.

more cows than people said...

thanks for a window into parenthood... and so glad your son is o.k.