The world cares not for the suffering of Her people – she hurtles through space, twisting and turning, oblivious to those writhing masses upon Her shores. And, like the planet from which they sprang, those heartless beasts seem not to notice the despair of their kin – the back arched beneath the weight of worry, the green flesh stretched tight across hollowed bones, the fresh and heavy bags beneath bloodshot eyes. This is how it ends, apathetic creatures too self-consumed to notice the sand turning to ash beneath their toes. We wade through conversations with friends and strangers, in barrooms and convenience stores, never noticing the wincing faces before us. And in our turmoil, or that of the faces we gaze upon, somehow, this world keeps spinning, unfazed and wholly ignorant to the plight of those struggling just to keep their balance upon a ball simply set on keeping its own. In our daze we wonder how cars keep waiting in traffic, how cash registers keep ringing up dimes, how the entire goddamn thing keeps going while, in our own lives, everything has stopped.
Kieran, my son, who only a few months ago had his father shouting “boma ye” from a labor and delivery room, was admitted to the hospital last week for what was supposed to be a minor respiratory infection. The boy has suffered beneath the weight of heavy breaths since his first, a phenomenon always thought to be caused by the large shell upon his tiny frame. For months his doctors have had him sucking in various nebulizer treatments, all to no avail. After a few failed attempts at getting an IV into his tiny veins, a series of meds and tests and tests and meds, the problem was finally revealed: my son was born a writer, a man with a hole in his oversized heart. In an odd way, his father suffers from the same thing – a big heart that’s been pummeled over the years and, in its attempt to discharge some of the contempt that’s been harbored within, created a vacuous gap for the black tar to seep out. But, unlike his father, Kieran’s heart has an actual hole – like the one in the pocket of my peacoat which allows spare bits of change and lint to fall into the bottom of it. In Kieran’s case, the hole rests in the bottom chamber of his heart, causing the two streams of blood to crash against one another like some sort of inner-crimson-typhoon. And, as is often the case with a hole that allows important matter to escape from it, Kieran’s heart will have to be patched up – and, likely, his parents’ as well.
At two years old, I had a liver transplant – the result of an inner poison which set out to eradicate my booze-filter from the onset of my life. Obviously, as I am here to write and whine now, the eventual surgery was a success and the following years have done little to stymie my progression through life. But, I wonder, is there some bad juju that I’ve passed on to my son? Is there some inherent weakness within my seed that cursed my boy? If the sins of the father are visited upon his sons, have I, in my eagerness to breed a man, only burdened my boy with a life like mine – one spent in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices; one spent chucking pills down the throat each morning; one rife with illness and fatigue at the hands of an unseen nemesis; one wrought with debt from the burden that healthcare lays upon the people of this land?
Doctors assure me this is not the case, that a heart-hole is oddly common in children – a small defect that can be patched up in hours and recovered from in days. There will be no replacement parts required for my lad, so no need for the immunosuppressants which have wreaked havoc upon my own life and, thus, no need for the drugs required to combat the side-effects of said suppressants. And I am confident The Champ that entered this world last June will come out of the OR just as he went in – a smiling, wiggling mass, cured of the burden of labored breath and a heavy heart mashing upon his lungs.
Before this recent debacle – a weekend spent in the hospital; news that our infant can’t be cured without being opened up; the realization that months of incompetence or apathy on the part of our doctors left our boy wanting for breath; money from a new job meant to bring a better lifestyle will soon to be diverted to astronomically abusive health costs – I never imagined that I would suffer beneath the same weight that my parents once suffered beneath. For, despite my confidence in my son’s eventual recovery and return to the happy life of a child, the thought of him being dissected, taken apart and put back together, is more than I can bear to consider – even having been the one being dissected, the frog beneath the scalpel of a trained hand.
But, as in every situation this life heaves at us, one must approach it with as much dignity and optimism and grace as can be mustered. To waddle onto uneven earth on shaky limbs with a cowardly disposition does no good for my child or my wife, and it certainly does no good for the body upon those limbs and beneath that disposition. To call it unfair is an exercise in foolishness – to believe something is unfair, one must first believe that we are all born with a right to avoid certain iniquities. And, if life teaches us anything, it’s that none of us are due anything, whether good or bad.
So while this world heaves us around like children on a merry-go-round, ever tampering with the vertigo we all try desperately not to succumb to each day, it is the duty of every person to not let that weight crush your backbone. With straight spine, strong legs and a focused mind, even the toughest battles are only a day away from their completion. And once the blood has soaked into the Earth, and the carcasses of those with permanently twisted backs are devoured by the bugs, those of us who tread diligently despite the wounds will find respite. And the best of us will carry our children on our now-strong backs to that place – just over the hill, just around the next curve. Though the destination might be out of reach, we reach – with open arms, open minds and an opened heart.