Sunday, September 3, 2017

What Did He Say?

 [This is a rough draft. The Muse bit hard tonight and I had to put this to pixels]

June 18, exactly two months after his accident, started out looking like a normal day in skilled nursing for Arif.
In the middle of the night, vital statistics gathered, two attendants turned him over in his bed. This scenario repeated every few hours, of course. Several times during the day, the respiratory therapist came to service his trache. A physical therapist and an occupational therapist executed their routines. The speech therapist came to give him a swallow test. She declared that he was not yet ready for food by mouth. So the nurse came to pour his meals into the G tube. She liked to speculate about what he might like to eat. Mom applied oils and liquid nutrients to his arms and legs, and sneaked a few drops of the nutrients into his mouth. It seemed to cause no ill effect.
Yet, a certain air of excitement hovered.
Today, Arif’s brother, Steve, celebrated his fourteenth birthday. Steve was about to take on responsibilities akin to those of young men in pioneer days. Life promised nothing but change, with no assurance of what shape those changes might take. His fourteenth year held much that required of Steve: courage, fortitude, and self reliance. Certainly, the whole family faced these same challenges, but today, we focused on Steve.
Arif and I prayed for Steve in a special way on that day. I spoke to him about how special the birthday celebration needed to be. Yet, I knew that limits must prevail. The situation required the celebration to be toned down from what we desired. A family dinner out, and a trip to the store to get a few presents appeared as the only possibilities.
After Joe finished his work day, he stopped at home to pick up the rest of the family on his way to Joplin. Honnah left work early to join in the celebration.
Steve chose a Chinese buffet for the festivities.
Dinner conversation, of course, began with the latest updates on Arif. Soon, we heard from other quarters. Honnah spoke about work and her band. Steve regaled us with tales of the animals at home. Joe talked about the people at work and their interactions. We also reminisced about Steve’s incomparable birth.

After Joe’s father received a cancer diagnosis, we moved to Mobile, Alabama – a two hour drive from where Dad lived.
We arrived the beginning of March, 1988, three months before Steve’s birth. The company put us up in an apartment, while we looked for a house.
Soon after we arrived in Mobile, it snowed for the first time in decades.
Our apartment overlooked the playground. When Joe arrived home from work each day, the two kids petitioned for some time to use it.
Once on the playground, Joe found himself surrounded by the other kids playing there. He pushed swings, sang songs, and told stories to entertain the crowd. Meanwhile, I fixed dinner uninterrupted.
During the next month, we settled on a house to purchase, after looking at many. The kids fell in love with one house because the yard was covered with early spring foliage, especially featuring dewberries.
“Let’s get the Dewberry house!” we heard for days. Indeed, it became everyone’s first choice, for a variety of reasons.
At the same time, we hunted down the resources we needed to support our lifestyle. Since we chose to birth our babies at home on our waterbed, we needed a midwife. Because of the shortness of time until the anticipated birth, we settled on the first one we found: Renata.
We met with Renata every three weeks for a couple of months.
Just three weeks before the due date, Renata excitedly announced that she signed up for midwife training in Texas. She planned to be gone for two months for this training. We prepared ourselves for the possibility that she might not be available when the time came. It turned out, she returned to Mobile just two weeks later.
We met with her again when she returned and discussed plans for the upcoming Day. Honnah was born in two and a half hours, so we suspected that time would be short. Renata changed her phone number upon her return, so we made sure to make note of it.
Through the following week, contractions came and went.
Saturday morning, the day before Father’s Day, arrived. My day started with a beautiful dream:
As I lay in my bed, I sensed a warm, calm presence. I opened my dream-eyes to see a beautiful young woman, surrounded by light. She wore a pale blue tunic with a rose colored belt, above her obviously pregnant belly. She said nothing, but smiled at me and nodded. I felt we received a visit from the Blessed Virgin Mary, leaving me with a sense of peace. This apparently was a very special child, with divine patronage.
After arising and fixing breakfast for the littles, I called Renata:
“I have a feeling something may happen today.” I told her. “Not right away, but soon. We planned to run errands. I will call you when we get home to give an update.”
“Make sure that you take it easy and sit down whenever you feel like it. Don’t push yourself.” Renata replied. “Call me as soon as something happens.”
Off we went to get groceries. We stopped for lunch at our favorite buffet.
Arriving home in the late afternoon, I lay down for a nap while the rest sat down to watch Star Trek.
When I took a bathroom break, I realized that the amniotic sac hung quite low. So I called to Joe to get Renata on the phone. He also called a friend we met recently so she could come and help with the youngsters.
Lo, and behold, Renata’s youngsters told us she went out house hunting. They did not know where she might be or how to get in touch with her.
It looked like we were indeed on our own.
As I labored on the bed, the two other children snuggled up. Arif stroked my hair, while Honnah held my hand and lay her head on my shoulder. Joe set up to take pictures.
After a bit, our friend came by. She took the kiddos into the living room to read some stories and play games.
At that point, Renata finally arrived. Joe handed her the camera and came to my side for support. Before long, we welcomed our new baby *boy*.
What a surprise! For some reason, we picked the name Michaela for the new family member without considering a boy’s name. Now, it was time to regroup and pick an appropriate name.
It was not hard. We both admired our youngest brothers, so the boy took their names: Steven for my brother and Scot (with one ‘t’) for Joe’s.
Once everything was cleaned up, we sent for the older siblings. They scrambled up on the bed, expressing their delight. Each took a turn holding their new brother and kissing him over and over.
Soon, they tucked him in next to Papa as he read bedtime stories. As the years went by, each child wanted his or her own story. We teased Joe about how tall he got - he was a three story Papa.
The boy found himself cherished by all. He had charisma, even from his earliest years. Strangers stopped us wherever we went, declaring what a darling child they saw.


After dinner, we proceeded to Wal*Mart and the health food store. Steve’s presents were practical ones, and a few healthy treats to take home.
While at the health food store, I insisted that we acquire some tofu. Now that Arif’s monitors were out and the wounds resulting from them had healed enough, It was time to treat him to a tofu plaster. I often joked that I was going to make a plaster big enough to cover his whole head.
We settled on a pound of tofu and a small bag of flour.
Once the family left, I mixed the tofu and flour in a cup and stuffed it into a sock. During the preparations, I chattered to Arif about the dinner.
I secured the tofu plaster with a hat. It remained in place for half an hour. Then, I asked Arif:
“Do you want me to take this off, now?”
“No!” came the response clearly, even through the trache.
Startled, I then asked a couple more questions, getting a garbled response.
Arif started to talk this day!