32

we did not go to the preschool open house

We did not go to the preschool open house tonight because Philip isn’t going to preschool. He starts kindergarten tomorrow.

Kindergarten.

Tomorrow.

Instead, we went to the kindergarten open house. Correction: we attended the district-wide open house. We dodged students of all sizes in the hallway, and the parking lot was full.

We parked on the grass.

Philip’s teacher arranged the room so that parents would stop at different colored balloons, read the instructions next to each balloon, and then either drop off supplies, fill in forms, or pick up materials. It was such a kindergarten teacher thing to do. However, the balloons and the notes were too much for my brain. We were the only family in the classroom at the time, so I felt like less of a jerk for asking questions that could have been answered by reading the beautifully printed cards.

I remembered to ask about the art shirt (answer: any shirt will do). Did I remember to ask anything else? No. I did not write down any of the questions bouncing in my brain since the back-to-school letter arrived a week ago. This omission was in keeping with my general lack of preparation for the start of school. Sure, the required supplies, sans art shirt, have been stored in our pantry since we purchased them two months ago. Unfortunately, I behaved as if stashing them there meant my work was done.

For example, the potty-training fairy refused to come to our house. So I had to call the school last week to let his teacher know. In addition to the rest of the supplies, we delivered a pack of training pants.

We forgot the wipes.

While meeting Philip’s intervention specialist in her austere, I-just-got-hired-ten-days-ago classroom, my phone rang. It was Philip’s bus driver. Philip has a bus driver now. Dad will no longer chauffeur him five minutes to the preschool door to be assisted out of the car and escorted inside. Nope. Now Peter will take him to the end of our street, put him on a school bus, and pray that he arrives happy and safe at school forty minutes later.

I did recruit a new mother hen for Philip to replace his preschool girlfriend: Marissa, a fifth-grader who lives behind us. She’ll keep an eye on Philip, but I’m sure she has friends to chat with and can’t be expected to watch Philip every second to make sure he doesn’t lose his backpack or stand up or get scared by a fly or cry on the way home because he’s never gone to school for eight hours before.

Lunch. I forgot to ask about that. I’m lucky I remembered to buy lunch stuff while grocery shopping last night. It’s not that I want him to starve, it’s simply further evidence that I’m in denial about kindergarten. Also, I can’t picture Philip eating in the school cafeteria. Philip grazes throughout the day. He eats peanut butter from the jar, not in a sandwich I can cut into crustless triangles for him.

I’m freaking out.

I know Philip needs to go back to school. I know that Peter and I need Philip to go back to school. As summer whizzed by without me preparing, it simultaneously dragged on. I laughed and told his teacher that he has been deconstructing our house. That was my polite way of saying that, out of boredom and the lack of structure that school will soon provide, Philip has been tearing sh*t up.

So, tonight, we went to the kindergarten open house. We let him tear sh*t up there instead.

20

not-so-instant lunch

“Noodles.”

Requested, we race against patience:

I fill saucepan with water. Husband tosses Ramen in unwatched pot. I blow on cooked noodles so they don’t scald.

The bowl is hurled aside.

Three minutes was too long for our finicky son to wait.

35

it was supposed to be simple

The brochure on myringotomy provided by the ear, nose, and throat specialist outlined what to expect before, during, and after ear tube placement. Geared towards parents, the pamphlet’s cover featured a boy, hooked up to an IV, smiling up at his dad and surgeon.

I compared that image to the tableau in front of me. Unlike the small patient in the illustration, my husband’s feet hung over the edge of the bed. Prohibited from eating or drinking after midnight, Peter had been awake since 2 am without coffee. He also hadn’t smoked a cigarette since being admitted ninety minutes earlier. Peter was not smiling.

“I’m about ready to rip this IV out,” he grumbled.

Our son was almost as impatient as the patient. Seeing Daddy propped up in a bed, Philip said “night-night” and waved goodbye four times in the hopes we would leave.

“It’s very simple. It should only take fifteen minutes,” Dr. Mathur, Peter’s ENT, had explained. The brochure promised the same, as did the nurse who checked Peter into the surgery center. Unfortunately, no one included the minutes waiting for the procedure.

I hoped we would all be smiling as much as the families in the brochure when this was over. I marveled that a small tube would relieve Peter’s discomfort and restore his hearing. Dr. Mathur had tried to insert a tube during an office visit, but Peter’s ear drum had been too thick and scarred to make a pain-free incision. Instead, he scheduled Peter for this simple out-patient surgery.

When the nurse and anesthesiologist finally wheeled Peter away, Philip and I headed to the waiting room. We passed Dr. Mathur on our way out.

“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” he said.

Philip was frustrated when I made him sit again, but, as promised, we only waited fifteen minutes for Dr. Mathur to join us.

“I made the incision, and fluid came out right away,” Dr. Mathur began. “After I drained it, I observed a sac of dead cells behind Peter’s eardrum,” he continued.

Things were no longer simple.

“This has probably been forming for years. It’s causing the fluid and feeling of fullness.”

“Did you put the tube in?” I asked.

“No, it would just fall out. I’ll order a CT scan to see how far the sac extends and determine where to enter in order to remove it. The surgery will take at least two hours.”

It was over, but it wasn’t.

“Did you explain this to Peter?”

“No, he wouldn’t remember. Come by my office tomorrow. I’ll show you on a model.”

I nodded, not because I understood, but to control my emotions. With that, Dr. Mathur was gone.  I should have written that down.

A nurse came out to the waiting room and prepared a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. As I suspected she would, she called my name. Philip and I followed her to the recovery area. I was relieved to see Dr. Mathur walking away as we approached.

“Stop by tomorrow,” he reminded me.

Peter sighed after his first sip. “This is really good coffee,” he told the nurse. He demonstrated his love by drinking two more cups while I thwarted Philip’s attempts to push the red “CODE” button.

“Did he put the tube in?” Peter asked again as I helped him put on his shoes. Despite the caffeine, anesthesia still fogged his memory.

“No, it wouldn’t help,” I replied.

“What?” Peter asked. I had forgotten I was on his still-bad-hearing side.

If only I could forget the elusive simplicity and smiles of the brochure, too.