I haven’t felt particularly anxious about this surgery in the past week. Though, of course, it’s been on my mind. This is a routine one, a lengthening, just about 45 minutes of surgery for my boy. However, it is his tenth surgery and ten years since his first surgery, and isn’t that a milestone? It is our tenth surgery and I remember every one. I can’t say that we’re celebrating.
Ben is such a pro at this, though I imagine it’s hitting him right about now, too. I checked in with him repeatedly throughout the day yesterday: what did he want to do, did he want me for anything, how was he feeling. And he seemed mellow and fine, in that middle-ground way you can be when you say “I’m fine.” Right there in the middle, not terrible, not even bad, but definitely not great, or even good. Middle ground.
Ben is my middle child and as we go through this again and again and again I watch his older and younger brothers feel it again and again and again, too. A couple weeks ago, at dinner, the fact of Ben’s upcoming surgery was discussed (more as a scheduling point, than as the threatening and difficult event that it truly always is) and Toby suddenly wailed, “I HATE it that you have to have these surgeries! I HATE it because I can’t sleep and I feel terrible and I worry about you and I HATE that you have to have pain and our whole family has to go through this! Why does God make this happen to you?!” He was practically beating his breast in agony. Ben, who tends to react harshly and with impatience to anything Toby says these days first went to defensive mode. I could see the thought cross his face: “Hey, I’m the one having surgery. It’s not happening to you!” But then, as Toby ranted and raged, I saw the light dawn in his eyes and he took it in. When Toby finished, Ben said simply, “Thank you, Toby.”
Harry, the oldest brother, had tears in his eyes when he got mad at me the other day. “You didn’t tell me Dad and Ben were leaving Monday! You never tell me anything!” though, we seem to remember a few moments when it was mentioned, specifically, in his presence. But, that’s not really the point. I knew it was coming, I’ve known for a while now. Didn’t matter though. It snuck up on me, too. And Harry is the older brother, the protector, in a way. It hurts him when Ben leaves for surgeries. He suffers, too.
I’ve been dealing with my own pains these days. For the past few months I’ve had excruciating back pain which seems to have coincided with purchasing a new mattress. I’ve seen a number of health care professionals, I’ve changed mattresses, and suffice it to say we’re working on it. But, I continue to have pain and I continue to unpeel the layers of understanding around my life experience that is also contributing to this situation.
Is that vague enough for you?
I feel like I’m in the middle of it all. Ten surgeries with Ben, more to come. My own surgery last December. Ben has severe scoliosis and I’m having severe back pain. A decade of holding him and his experience in my heart and body and daily life. I’m not separate, it’s not resolved. Anger, fear, forgiveness, sadness, possibility, loss, abundance. It’s all there and I stand in the middle of it, trying to stay upright.
I’ve been wanting to write a post for weeks. I’ve been sitting at the computer trying to tell you where I am. The issue is that I’m so in the middle of it all that I can’t even begin to find my words. They swirl around and they’re just out of reach. So, I’ll leave you here in the middle tonight. In the middle of the night. In the middle of my heart.