I turned an unexpected corner yesterday. Mostly because I had no choice...but maybe that's how this grief will eventually play itself out. Perhaps as time moves...moments will ultimately arrive where life gives me no options...nowhere to hide. And I will gradually have to confront the parts of my sorrow I quietly hide.
Yesterday's moment arrived in the form of a good old fashioned childhood injury. As I watched Luke score the first basket of his park district game...my heart surged with pride. A smile spread across my face as the quarter continued and it became apparent my son was the most talented player on the floor. But those same parental instincts switched gears quickly as Luke ran to me...holding his mouth...with blood dripping through his fingers.
I went from Proud Dad to Protective Father...without a thought. We jumped into the car as quickly as my demeanor had changed. I knew we were headed for the ER...and that I should be scared....not about Luke's injury...but about confronting one of my secret anxieties from the past eleven months.
Entering a hospital...specifically an Emergency Room...has been a major fear for me since last February. Facing the starkness of an ER with it's cold white tiles and shining steel. Being guided down halls that intermittently shine fluorescent. Seeing the pulsing of the glowing red lights. Hearing the constant humming of unfamiliar machines. Feeling the uncertainty and speed of life changing words.
For almost a year I have been haunted by those two February emergency room visits. Leaving once together...leaving once alone. Every moment of each day are etched into my memory. Every question about those days still silently remain. However, I found the constant trepidation of walking back into an ER to be a heavy weight all it's own. How would I react? Would I relive the pain? Would I spiral back to those February days?
The adrenaline of being a parent is an amazing thing. We walked in...the lights flickered...the machines hummed...and the room was stark. But all that filled my mind...was my little boy. The past did not impact me in that moment...I was living in the present. I was reacting to what I could control...instead of unraveling about what had happened eleven months before.
Now I know that nothing will ever be as bad as that last February day. And no hidden fear will bring back the level of pain I felt that day. Maybe that's progress...perhaps in time I will conquer all my silent fears...the ones I keep hidden...the irrational feelings that are obstacles to living in the present. I hope life gives me no other choice.