There are somethings that cannot be kissed better.
This is the news we have to break to our son.
‘He has a great chance of being back in school by Fall. After surgery and some chemo, I see no reason why Demide can’t make a full recovery…” I hear the doctor even though I am not listening. He is talking about someone else’s child and not my son. There is no way the rambunctious 5 year old I had played hide and seek with three nights ago is the same person this doctor is going on about. There has to be some mistake. Somewhere. Anywhere.
“Didun, Didun…’ Eke calls out to me, shaking me out of the numbness that has clutched my soul.
“What?!’ I snap at my husband. When did he start crying that his eyes are so swollen? What is this nonsense? How is he swallowing all of this hook, line and sinker without choking?
Anger rises in my belly and I want to lash out at him. If only he had not been a smoker before Demide was born. Who knows if all that cigarette smoke has somehow lingered in the DNA he passed to my child? If only he was a better father, who stayed home more often with us instead of jetting to Singapore today, London tomorrow. Maybe he could have seen this evil coming and bandied it away. If only he had listened to me and kept him home from school liked I asked two days ago- then he wouldn’t have fainted during recess and been brought to Yale Children’s hospital where all these bullies in white coats handed out death sentences by the dozen to little kids. We would have known to take him to Doctor Hauser, his pediatrician, who loved him like his own child and had seen him through the first 5 years of his life until Eke moved us away from Boston. If only we had stayed in Boston where the air was better…
‘The doctor was saying we should start treatment as soon as possible.’
‘I want another opinion.’ I announce crisply.
‘I will call Doctor Hauser. He will recommend someone. Even if all of these is true, I am not risking my boy in this hospital. I want the best care for him.’ I say, addressing my husband before turning to the doctor.
‘Thank you for everything but I am sure you can understand where I am coming from.’
We make the arrangements in a daze, Eke and I. Calling Doctor Hauser, booking flights to Boston, finding a hotel close enough to the hospital… We barely speak one kind word to each other through it all. I forget to tell the man I love how much I love him. He forgets to kiss me. Our daily love making is lost in the clutter of the next few weeks. As for prayer, it is the last thing on our minds but we manage to mumble some for our son’s benefit when he reminds us to pray.
‘Did you guys have morning devotion yet?’ He asks, when he wakes up to find us silently staring out the windows of his hospital room.
‘We were waiting for you to wake up’, Eke lies before breaking into one of Demide’s favorite praise song. I want to slap him hard. How can he sing in a time like this?
‘Mummy,’ Demide says to me the day before surgery.
‘Yes baby,’ I answer.
There are a million foreign things on my son’s body. Tubes that slink underneath his fragile skim and make me wince. Needles that prick and probe everywhere seeking secrets. Monitors here and there. I am losing my child and there is nothing I can do about it.
‘Mummy, kiss it all better…’ My son says to me.
When he was littler than this, I had promised my kisses were enough. No matter what it was, my kisses could make the pain go away; all he needed to do was show up with the bruises, the pain, the hurts, the disappointments, and Mummy’s kisses would make it all disappear.
I start to say something but nothing comes out except emptiness. I had thought we were alone. Eke had gone to the Starbucks down the road to get coffee and escape my silent anger. So I am startled when I hear a voice behind me say:
‘That sounds like an amazing idea. How about I and Mummy kiss it better?’ My husband says with a brave smile that looks exactly like Demide’s. He is holding two cups of coffee. Whoever the barista was had gotten my name wrong and his right. I look at him, expecting the anger to rise again but in his eyes are tears that mirror mine and instead of anger at my husband, I take pity on the father standing before me. Demide glances at me and I nod my head. Eke takes the left and I take the right. We start at his forehead. By the time we are at his neck, he is giggling, as we are. We take our time, lingering at his toes before starting all again.
He is asleep by the time we are halfway through the third round of kisses. There is nothing left to be done so I take my child’s father’s hand and lead him to the hotel next door where we weep and kiss each other better all night long.
‘It is a miracle. We don’t think he will need chemo even. The surgery got it all. It is almost as if something shrunk the cells overnight and the doctors were able to get it all at once. We will watch him over the next few weeks but I think you can all look forward to going home in less time than we hoped.’
We walk in a daze to the room where tubes and needles still filter their horrible way through my son’s skin. We say nothing for hours, forgetting to eat or sleep – Eke takes the left while I take the right and every chance we get, when the nurses are not looking, in places where the needles haven’t disturbed his skin, we steal our kisses from our son’s body.
“Let’s move back to Boston” I tell Eke later that night when he is sleeping in my arms.
“Okay” He answers.
“You don’t get to travel as much as before okay?”
“Okay,” He answers again.
“I love you,” I tell him.
“More than life” He answers, as he begins to kiss away all the anger and fear of the past two months away.
Someday our son will grow old enough to tell us he is too old for our kisses. Someday he will tell us to stop embarrassing him with our kisses in front of his friends. We will ignore him and kiss away, I and Eke. We will steal our kisses from him when he isn’t looking if we have to. He will never get away from our kisses, no matter how old he gets or how far away he runs. Our kisses will find him, heal him and always bring him back to us. Our kisses will bring us back to us.
Song of the Day: Ben Harper – Steal My Kisses