I'm going to pick up Jack's medical file from the pediatrician today. I needed Margaret's for some back to school stuff (yes, it's only July!) and I figured there was no need to leave Jack's there anymore.
I'm writing this BEFORE the pick-up, because knowing me, the aftermath will be more conducive to sitting in the parking lot reading and crying than sitting at this desk writing.
As parents, we all try to keep meticulous records of shots and well baby visits. We keep folders full of speech therapy notes, report cards, scout awards, and test scores. We track medications and side effects and weigh the pros and cons of every decision.
I found my own yellowed shot record from when I was a baby, written neatly in my mom's small handwriting. With 3 kids within four years of each other, Mom didn't get around to filling out my baby book, until after I found it EMPTY in 2nd grade. It was not unlikely to see grocery lists and phone numbers scrawled on the back of report cards and other important documents in our house, because the probability of finding both a working pen and a blank piece of paper within reach of our kitchen wall phone was highly unlikely.
But our shot records? Were completely filled out and filed away carefully. For they were our tickets to summer camp, sports, and eventually, college. They showed that even in the chaos of busy family life, there was a sense of constancy and order.
For Jack, I have folders full of documents, plus a journal of hopes and dreams I kept for him as baby and young child. We have all of his school work, because he loved to look back through it. We have our family Christmas card from each year, one for each child, tucked in a folder to give them as adults.
I pretty much know what Jack's medical chart will look like. Nothing too unusual, aside from his hovering below "0" on the weight chart. At one point I had them write, "Dad weighs 140-145" across the top to let it be known I was not starving my son. But the doctors were never too concerned with his weight because it was...consistent. Jack was Jack was Jack.
There will be many positive strep tests, administered never after a sore throat but always, for him, when he seemed listless, and a quick touch of his forehead and a glance at his "sick eyes" would let me know something was up.
There will be the physical from 2 years ago when both kids got to go down an office corridor we'd never seen before-- The Secret Hallway! We waited and waited and the kids managed to follow my admonishment of "Don't touch ANYTHING!" while still entertaining each other with their games and making the doctor smile when he saw how much they enjoyed each other.
I know the chart will say Jack weighed exactly 70 lbs, because when I took him in 3 days before the accident because of stomach pains, we discovered after a summer of situps and pushups and increased eating, he had finally gotten out of the 60's just in time to enter 7th grade!
The chart probably won't reflect how Jack was so very ticklish, that any manipulation of his midsection brought in a bevy of witnesses, because his laugh was so incredible, and his smile so big, it was actually entertaining to see him writhe on the table for a bit.
I think in a way, a child's orderly medical file can seem a sort of talisman against the bad in the world. We may hold the belief that if we stay on the proper schedule, with dental cleanings and check ups and specialists when needed, that our children will be okay. And with the many advantages of our Western world, thankfully, that is very often true.
Until it isn't.
Until a standard WBC test comes back awry.
Until neighborhood fun turns to shit in a way no one would ever have imagined.
Until you are forced to realize that life is not what you thought it was. That the control you thought you had was an illusion. Until you learn the secret that so few people know or even want to know: that this world, with its joys and its sorrows and its structure and its chaos is really just a sorry imitation of how the world was meant to be.
And you will long for that other world, while still living here in this one. And you realize now that fear is pointless because whatever it is you feared is not what you now face. And all that fear and planning didn't keep tragedy at bay. And you learn to live in this exact moment more than you ever have before because try as you might to grasp it, the past has slipped through your fingers, and the future you face is unrecognizable.
And you continue to keep up your folders and files and the structure of your life, because you find comfort in the rhythm of it. And you will keep living and loving and never giving up because that is who you are, but you'll have one foot poised waiting for when it is your time to blow this popsicle stand, and when that time comes, you will have no fear.