Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Noah and his Dad - Part 4 of "In His Arms"
Part 4 – Noah and his Dad
I made some mistakes in the way I handled John’s accident and recovery, but none larger than the one I made with my son Noah. I completely underestimated how this would affect him.
When I first told him the news and that he was going to stay with his aunt, uncle and cousin Hunter, he simply said, “Okay,” and then he packed his bag. This all happened on December 28th, three days after Christmas. Noah had received a Nintendo, his first hand held video game, and he was consumed with the joy of it. So I considered it a blessing for him to have this distraction.
I talked to Noah that night on the phone and once again I sensed no emotions. He asked how John was doing and I told him he was sedated. Noah’s response: “Well, at least he’s sleeping.”
My first clue that the accident really affected Noah was the first time I allowed him to see John. It was day 4 and John had ripped out his ventilator earlier that day. I didn’t want Noah to see his dad with that thing on his face because it made John look like a horribly sick Darth Vader.
I tried to prepare Noah for how John would look and act. I told him about all the machines and wires and that John had restraints on because his brain was making him angry and so he wanted to get out of bed but shouldn’t. I also told him his dad would probably sleep through Noah’s visit.
Noah went in the room and stood beside John, who was sleeping. Noah simply said, “Hi Dad.”
John’s crazy eyes opened and looked at Noah. Then John lifted his hands which were in restraints and said to his son, “Help. Help.” His throat was still affected by the intubation causing his voice to be gravelly and deep.
I told John, “Honey, you’re okay.” And he went right back to sleep.
Noah stood there looking at John in shock. I told him that it was so good that Daddy recognized his son’s voice. This was a good thing. Noah said nothing and I asked him if he wanted to leave.
He said, Yes,” and walked out. Once we were in the hospital hallway, Noah burst into tears. I told him he was very brave. He kept bawling. I told him I would like to know what he was feeling so I would guess and he could just nod yes or no.
“Are you scared?” He shook his head no.
“Are you angry?” He shook his head no.
For some reason I thought if I joked, it would help. “Are you happy?” He nodded yes.
I thought for a moment and asked him, “Noah, did you think Daddy was dead?” He said “Yes.”
I had no idea. I hugged my boy like I never had before. We talked a little after that from time to time because I wanted to make sure he was okay. But how could he be?
Soon, Noah went back to school. And though he didn’t miss one day, his grades plummeted. And it took the rest of fourth grade to get his feet back under him at school.
It was after all this happened that I realized my son felt so much more than I ever imagined. I regret with all my heart not trying to do something more for him. Even now, I don’t know exactly what that would be, but I’m sure there was something. I was so wrapped up in John and myself that Noah came a distant third.
In time, he recovered like John and I did. But now I know that a child’s heart is deep and fully capable of being hurt deeply, even when there are no outward signs.
I wrote a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul about Noah’s moment seeing his dad in the hospital. In it, I emphasized that Noah had taught me gratitude. I’d only been thinking about the future while he was grateful his dad was alive. When I found out the story was going to be published I read it to John and Noah for approval. They both cried. Tears are a part of healing.
And then Noah said, “So how much money do I get for that story?” :0)
(Come back Friday, December 17th for Part 5 - "God Works in Mysterious Ways")