We’re on our way to Shriner’s right now.
Every time I type or say that, I have to stop myself from retracting it. The rote memorization part of my brain gets loud, “you mean Gabriel, Abby. You mean you’re taking Gabriel to Shriner’s. It’s ok. You’re tired. Here’s a latte.”
I’ll take the latte, little friend, but it’s time for you to add a file to your drawer labeled “Owen – Right Knee.” It’s real.
Jared drives us, we listen to the Undisclosed Podcast like the Serial fanatics we are, and the boys nap in the backseat, graciously lulled to sleep before we made it out of town. I started in the backseat but snuck up to the front when they escaped to dream, and now I sit and stare ahead, familiarity meeting me at every curve – the outlet mall, strip after strip of stores and restaurants, high schools, office buildings, car dealerships. The familiarity neither welcomes nor repels me, it’s just there, barely noticing us. “Oh, it’s you again. You sure come this way often.”
When Owen woke up on Tuesday and said he couldn’t walk, we had no idea what to believe. Pretend is as frequent as real world conversation these days. Half the time, Owen is not Owen, he is Thomas the Train. I am not mama, but Percy. Jared, Sir Topham Hat and Gabe, James. We spend our lives dancing between concrete and abstract, real macaroni and cheese for lunch and imaginary macaroni and cheese offered to me straight from the palms of his little hands. If a friend is injured, or Gabriel comes home with new equipment, Owen suddenly has a “boo-boo” too, empathy finding its footing in a two-year-old’s mind.
Gabriel just had an appointment last Friday and came home with new hand splits, as well as no longer wearing his bar all the time, and Owen had certainly noticed. Was he trying to relate? Interested a different type of attention? I just didn’t know. As he started to tell me that he couldn’t go to Kingdom Kids because he had to go to the doctor, a few more tally marks went into the column for “this is real.” Owen asks me every day if it’s a Kingdom Kids day, opting out has never crossed his mind. The final straw was when I attempted to stretch his leg fully, and he reacted in obvious pain. My disbelief migrated from him to the situation, and I incredulously called his pediatrician’s office. An appointment, X-ray referral, and a few phone calls later, there it was. More news. Another pill to swallow. A dense area on the top of the knee, perhaps an extra piece of bone, or one that is improperly fused.
“He’ll need an orthopedist.”
And the battle was waged, armies of bitterness and gratitude taking up their armor and marching toward the warpath of the deepest valley in my heart.
When we discovered that Gabriel’s orthopedist could see Owen, the battle reached a critical climax. Sarcasm threatened to make bitterness the victor, irony turning sour in my mouth as I pondered how sure I had been that God led us to Dr. Stephenson for Gabe as well as maybe a future foster child or to refer friends. But for another biological child? God’s messing with all of my paradigms, all of my boxes for Him and how my life should look. Again.
Gratitude warred back. How incredible that the Lord would have already given our family a trusted expert in exactly the area we need. How comforting to already know the drive, the parking, the elevators and the check-in process, little thing that don’t feel little at all when your stress level for your child is already threatening to spill over. What a relief to have already discussed family history, to have previously become comfortable enough with one another to tell stories about our little ones and show pictures of their latest antic. The blow still stings, but it is softened in the face of God’s obvious provision.
I’m struck by memories of the words I have said in the last few months, how I have preached to myself and encouraged other mothers to set the tone in our homes, to recognize the power we possess and to wield it for good, for peace and joy in the lives of our people. That choice is still mine, though the stakes seem to get higher every time I think I’ve found a stable grip.
“Yet this I recall to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.”
As the stakes keep getting higher and the battle harder, there is no greater comfort than remembering that right there in the mess and disbelief, there is his mercy, his love, his hope, his faithfulness. And though mysterious, it is not hidden, though higher than me it is mine to have. So I’m looking for Him today, I’m keeping my mind stayed on Him and thanking Him for whatever I can – that Owen is back to walking and playing, that Gabriel has never been so happy as he is with his bar removed, that this appointment was offered to us on Jared’s day off. These thanks are all part of the battle – why couldn’t we have avoided this entirely, Owen’s playing and walking never threatened? Why did Gabe even have to have that awful bar in the first place? Why can’t we have a day off that actually feels like a day off? But I can’t dwell there. I can’t sit next to that scoffing version of myself because I will lose my grip and fall intertwined into her, indistinguishable. I will risk missing out on seeing what He has for us if I am fixated on the why. And I just won’t have it, simple as that. I won’t miss Him. I think I mentioned recently writing years ago that I would wrestle with the Man and not let go without a blessing.
Today, I’m wrestling hard, clinging wild.
Bruises may show, bones may break.
So thank God we already have an orthopedist.