Yesterday, Malorie got a roommate. No problem. She's a wonderful kid, 6 years old, just out of major back surgery to correct a developmental problem in her spine. She has a nice enough mother. Then Malorie, after having thrown up her dinner the night before, threw up her breakfast. I can start to feel the worry bubbling in my gut, but I remain calm. At lunch, Mal barely eats. When she does, she gags and almost vomits. I gnash my teeth and utter words of encouragement, but I can start to feel it coming. Rachel and I call for the nurse. She tells us that Mal probably has a stomach virus, which is the same diagnosis we heard for 7 weeks leading up to the discovery of her brain tumor. Flip the switch - Ladies and gentlemen, I am annoyed.
Mal's roommate, Courtney has to be moved every few hours to ensure her spine heals correctly. As a rational person, I understand this must be done and that it most likely hurts her badly. Courtney cries in pain, waking Mal ten minutes into her nap. Annoyed, I roll my eyes and clench my jaw. Mal is too smart for her age. She takes one look around the room and realizes Rachel is not there. Rach went home to tend to Micah, who is fighting a terrible cold. Mal cries out for Mommy. Frustrated, I swallow hard and take a deep breath. Mal's afternoon is one trial after another. If Barney is on the TV, she wants to watch Dora. If Dora is on, she wants Elmo. When I turn Elmo on she rolls over and cries. Aggravated, I crack my neck and pop my knuckles to distract myself. Dinner time comes. Mal eats well, and then vomits again. Third time in four meals. I tell the stomach bug diagnosing nurse to call a doctor, who proceeds to come in and tell me Mal has a stomach bug. It takes all my patience left not to ask where his office is so I can go down there, remove the degree he earned from some hackney, two-bit college off the wall and light it on fire. Mal's bedtime comes, and her roommate Courtney is watching a movie. The curtain between the beds shelters less light than it does sound, which means to say zero. A nurse enters and in a full volume voice tells Courtney that she has seen this movie.
At this point I can feel something weird happening. My left ear is morphing into the shape of the handle of a teapot. My right ear is becoming distended, long, and up bending: a spout. I can feel my face start to turn red and my blood boils and the top of my head starts to rattle along my hairline as steam whistles out my right ear. I have watched far too many cartoons in my life.
People have always told me that Mal bears a strong resemblance to me. She has dark hair, brown eyes, and high set cheeks. But only now do I start to see the resemblance. Mal rolls over in her bed. She is annoyed, and I can tell because I am annoyed too. Her eyes burn through me in unblinking fury. She wants the lights out and the movie turned off. She kicks her feet and sighs. She reaches up to rip the tube out of the top of her head. She is tired of dancing with/stepping on/sleeping on it. Her fingers tell the story of her frustration. They are tense, rigid and fidgety. She is my daughter.
Eventually the nurse leaves, the movie ends and the lights turn out. Mal falls into a restless sleep and the first few times the nurse awakens her to check her pupils and IV she is still mad. But her anger fades as the night progresses, as does mine. By morning, we are again normal. Rational. Accepting,
Today brought deliverance from the annoyances of yesterday. I got to go home and take a long, scalding shower. I played with Micah. I opened mail. I spent three hours pretending like my daughter didn't have brain cancer. Rachel arrived fresh with optimism and got Mal to eat three meals without vomiting. The extra energy served her well as Mal played with toys in bed, colored a picture and even went for a wagon ride. And as if on cue from a movie, the nurses moved Courtney to her own room. As I walked down the hall tonight, well after Mal had fallen asleep, I could hear the sounds of the Disney Channel coming out of Courtney's room. I smiled, and said a quick prayer that she feels better soon.