Taking my son, Little H, to my Oncologist’s office is a bit like that. He’s an anomaly, a tiny body of life and health running (sometimes loudly) through a space that is uniform with sickness and old age. Eyes naturally rest upon him, the liveliest thing in sight.
My oncologist’s suite is a particularly dark place, as places associated with pure awful tend to be. Tiny exam rooms curve around the front section, doctor’s and nurses’ stations form a bank of computers in the center, and a crowded row of chemo infusion chairs lines the back wall, forming one busy and bland circle of (primarily unpleasant) activity.
When I’m here without Little H, which is usually, I often feel the circle of gazes fall on me. My relative-youth draws attention among a population that is heavily skewed to an over-60 crowd. As I absorb stares, I imagine the brains of my compatriots taking-in my presence in this place and my bald head as confirmation that, yes, I am one of them. I too have befallen the tragedy of an interrupted life. I too am here to push back death.
But there is no tragedy in Little H; he is just life.In the small suite of ugliness, I want to share him with these patients and doctors. But at the same time, I want to shield him from the place.
He, of course, is oblivious to the weight of his surroundings. He lies with his face in the waiting room carpet and pushes his trucks around. He sets his half-eaten pear on the waiting room chair and then picks it back up to continue eating. He uses the pen from my purse to draw on the paper sheeting they put over the exam table. He rests his head right on the yellowing pillow of the table, just to the side of the protective cover. He serves me imaginary cheeseburgers and strawberry ice cream off the stainless steel over-the-bed-table. He touches every knob, screw, and jar in the place.
He keeps my attention on him, just where it should be.These people in here probably are not awakened from their nightmares and hot flashes by a little voice singing, “The Wheels on the Bus.” They likely are not in a stage of life where a small person is relying on them, every waking day. They may not have such a constant reminder that life is fast and beautiful.
Sometimes I share him with them, even if just for a moment as we move through this place.