The Scattered States of Thing2

Thing2 at the ER

Thing1  was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder almost 2 years ago now. We knew the diagnosis would come with big changes to his life, and this winter we really got to understand what it means to live with and care for someone with a chronic illness.

We were still somewhat prepared for it.

What we weren’t prepared for was going through very similar routine with Thing2. After several months of ER visits and tests and flu‘s, we now find ourselves between a number of diagnoses, including a possible tickborne illness.

 Thing2 has found himself and completely unfamiliar territory. My superhero whose used to jumping over tall rock piles in a single bound it’s only found himself with barely enough energy to walk from chair to bedroom.

Except during the worst of the pain, however, he still my superhero. I still see his enigmatic little smile, and he still finds ways to experiment, even if it’s only with making movies with special on the iPad (full disclosure: I could not do it) or testing theories about how your atoms are not really touching your brother that he heard on Cosmos (science hurts sometimes).

I would donate an organ if I could make him better tomorrow, by doing so, but, as Thing1 has Learned over last year, what doesn’t kill you doesn’t just make you stronger, it also makes you smarter.

Breathing Room

At the beginning of this year, Thing1’s autoimmune disorder hospitalized him with an intense flare up and, not to be left out of the fun, promptly Thing2 contracted Influenza-A that, along with a lymph node inflammation painful enough to prompt two separate diagnoses of appendicitis earned him an overnight ticket to the pediatric ward. As a result, almost every week of our 2018 calendar has been dotted with nights in the ER, overnights at the hospital and follow-ups at various doctor’s offices. Last Thursday marked my first day off in weeks that didn’t include a rush to the ER or a four hour round trip drive across the state to a specialist, and I didn’t know what to make of the unexpected breathing room.

For weeks, the voices in my head that run an internal dialogue about art and literature and school shootings and the homeless population and, you name it have been replaced with instructions. Log when you last gave Tylenol or ibuprofen. Call for the new prescriptions. Did T1 have 32 ounces of water or 16? When did T2 poop? Check his weight. Call the insurance company. Call the doctor. Call the insurance company. I wasn’t numb, but I was a robot. Calculating but not thinking, especially if it meant engaging in worry which is all too natural for me (it could be an Olympic sport).

The robot didn’t have much extra processing power for art or writing, and February was burning away without any pictures to show for it. Even a conversation with a fellow artist about drawing in the down times at waiting rooms didn’t get my pencil or brush moving.

There was breathing room, but for some reason, I was afraid to rake that first breath.

A few nights ago, I decided out the iPad to work on a page for Dweezil’s To-Dos, a book about a little boy with too many projects (don’t ask how I get my inspiration).

Inking and coloring over the scanned drawings is methodical. Robotic. It’s not particularly creative a lot of the time. It’s basically just drawing lines – filling in the space between points.

It’s not creative, but it is meditative.

In the meditation, however, the robot slowed down. I inked and colored page 6 six different ways, and the machine started to power down. My eyelids felt heavy, and the iPad fell from my hand. The thud of the Otterbox on the floor jolted me awake again, and, rebooting, I took in a gulp of air and opened a file to start page 7.

A Straw to Grasp

High Afternoon, 5×7, Watercolor

We had stayed over night near Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital for medical and weather-related reasons, and the roads to the highway were still icey enough to keep me from enjoying the views, so Thing1 and I talked about his auto-immune disorder and how he will handle these emergencies next year when he’s on his own and about his upcoming college decisions.
I was about to take a slower road but Thing1 gave an annoyed snort.

“Can’t we take 91?  If we get back any later, I’ll  miss work, and I already missed my midterm.”

I was a bit surprised that he would want to work when I knew he was feeling shaky but decided we’d have that argument when we got home. He was not about to let it go, however, and, after expressing an unwillingness to ruin a perfect attendance record at work for weather or illness, he talked me into letting him go. 

 I got on the next ramp for 91 South. I was not sure that he had the energy, but still I told him, “I could not be prouder of you if you had gotten into Harvard.”

“I didn’t apply to Harvard, Mom.” 

The  sardonic tone always gets my eyes to roll to the heavens which is how I was unexpectedly fully able to take in the winter fantasy that flanked us on both sides of the highway.  After the last week of worry, it was almost as lovely a happy straw to grasp as the realization that my sick boy still had enough energy and sense of humor to be a smart ass (I don’t know where he gets it).

A Tale of Country Kitties

One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.

We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.

The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.

Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.

We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.

We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.

It took them less than an hour to convert.

Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).

There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.

Decisions, Decisions 


Like most families in the US with a high school senior in the house, we’ve acquired an impressive stack of college brochures over the last few months since Thing1 took his SAT’s.  

T1 is very methodical in his evaluations of potential schools, but when we opened a flyer from the University of Chicago, Thing2 introduced a foolproof criterium for putting a school in the ‘must apply’ pile.

As it happens, the library at U Chicago looks strikingly like the dining hall at Hogwarts when photographed in bad light.  Recognizing that life is full of difficult decisions, Thing1 is still reading the fine print and trying to figure out if it goes on the ‘more research’ pile.

Thing2 is trying to decide if he wants the school put him in Slitherin or Gryffindor.