Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I’m going to shrink him down and put him in my pocket.

Paolo has been a worry lately. He underwent surgery to remove his adenoids the week before last; a relatively simple procedure with a short recovery time. Only he didn’t recover. He felt worse each passing day, and I called his surgeon on day five (his first day of school). The doctor had us bring Paolo in immediately and then sent him for an X-ray to look for spinal cord inflammation, a rare but serious complication from the surgery. After a tense day and a half, it turned out Paolo’s spinal cord was not infected, and he does NOT in fact have the one-in-ten-thousand syndrome we thought he might have, which can lead to paralysis or death. "Tense" isn't really the right word. Is there a word for when your brain starts to process that your child might truly be in trouble and you feel like you're at the bottom of a dark, heavy ocean breathing through a straw? It felt like that. Paolo finished his 10-day regimen of mega-dose antibiotics, and he feels great. Sam and I are still surfacing. It takes a while for the stain of such strong panic to wash off completely.

The first week of kindergarten was overshadowed by the specter of Paolo’s illness, so this second week feels more like a celebration. Tuesday I dropped him off, which was a big disappointment to him because he wants to ride bikes to school with his daddy every day. I’m losing ground to supercool dad, but the baby still likes me more. Sam went to pick Paolo up at 3:00, but Paolo never came to the designated pick-up spot. Sam watched other kids meet their waiting parents until he was the only one left. He went down to Paolo’s classroom, but it was empty. He started checking other rooms until a teacher, whose room he poked his head in, asked to help. She suggested Paolo might be with the kids at the car pick-up, so Sam headed outside. Paolo wasn’t there, and he wasn’t on the playground.

Just then, the helpful teacher caught up with Sam to tell him Paolo had been transferred to another school. Mystery solved! She explained that Paolo was one of the students who got bussed across town due to the overcrowding in the kindergarten classes. At this point, Sam had had enough. With dwindling calm, he assured this woman that Paolo attends THIS school. He was dropped off HERE this morning. He is NOT a transfer, and she was WRONG. She continued to argue with him and called over a male teacher for backup, because the intimidating father with a baby on his hip wouldn’t leave without his son. Finally, someone found Paolo’s teacher, who had mistakenly sent him to after-school care. Paolo was in the gym about to have a snack with the other kids, having no idea that he’d been lost for half an hour.

Paolo recently got his own library card, and he couldn’t be prouder. He carried it around for hours until he decided to store it in his Transformers wallet. As I watched him slip the bright yellow card snugly inside the pocket, I wished I could do that with him: fold him up and keep him close to me, away from harm. We gave him to a doctor, and he ended up with a scary infection. We gave him to a teacher, and she misplaced him. I want him to grow, I want him to experience life unencumbered by apron strings, but sometimes I want him back.

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