Sunday, September 20, 2009

Steel Resolve

One of Adam's and my favorite movies is 'Steel Magnolias.' Don't know if it's the big hair and awful floral-patterned, drop-waist dresses; Shirley Maclaine's hysterically irreverent Ouisa; Annelle's descent into "born again" religious fanaticism; or the chance to glimpse Sam Shepard and Tom Skerritt for a few minutes at a time, here and there. It's all fabulous.

A little while back the kids and I sat down to watch the movie on a rainy afternoon for the first time in a long time. You'll likely recall that one of the major plot lines is Julia Roberts' character's diabetes and eventual kidney transplant and death. Well, this was the first time I'd watched the movie since Tanner's great kidney adventure began.

A little context now: we know that a kidney transplant is a possibility in Tanner's future - it doesn't have to happen, but it could; and if it does, well, we'll just tackle it like we've tackled everything else so far - head on.

That being said, while I'm usually swallowing hard and tearing up in anticipation when Shelby doubles over in agony while lifting Jack Jr. on Halloween, this time I realize I'm holding my breath, because I know what's coming and why. I look over and see Adam flushed and focused. I glance at Tanner out of the corner of my eye and see that he's paying close attention to the storyline for probably the first time ever, and I silently wish he'd lose interest and head outside as he often does during movies. But, nope, he's watching the movie.

Then comes the collapse, the coma, the devastating bedside scene when Sally Field begs Shelby to open her eyes, and finally, shutting off the machines. We were all still as could be and not looking at each other.

With the room so quiet you could hear that proverbial pin, Tan turned and looked at me, working hard to keep his voice casual and even as he said, "So, I guess kidney transplants don't always go that good, huh?"

I try to keep it honest with my kids. And, in reality, when kidney transplants go bad, it seldom plays out like it did in the movie. What made it hard for me to answer Tan was not that I couldn't provide him with a well-reasoned explanation about how usually there are lots of clues when a transplanted kidney is rejecting, and it isn't usually straight from complications to coma in such a dramatic fashion. No, the part that made it hard to answer was the sob stuck in my throat as, once again, I watched this little guy working to act brave and sound unconcerned, not knowing the worry in his eyes gives him away.

I let loose with some windy explanation about how Julia Roberts' character had had far more damage to her kidneys because of diabetes than he had so far; and that usually things go just fine with transplants, and most people don't lapse into comas, and so forth; then I launched off the couch, announcing that some chore was waiting for me out in the garden.

I escaped to the garden and stood there taking deep breaths, thinking how unfair it is that an 11 year old should have to put on such a show of bravery; how hard it can be sometimes to not know what the future holds; wondering if he's going to have to go through any more pain, difficult treatments and just generally feeling bad again. Thinking how you can try so hard to assume the best, have faith and live in the moment, but still have that stinking little voice way back in the recesses of your head that spouts facts, figures and odds, and makes you worry a little.

I wanted to give in to the urge to just cry and rail against the whole sorry mess.

Then I figured, if Tanner could square his shoulders, steel his spine, keep his cool, and ask questions he might not want to know the answers to, who was I to blubber in the garden? Who was I to show less resolve than he does every stinkin' day when he takes all those pills, gets all that blood drawn, feels like he's been hit by a truck, and still finds a way to laugh?

I swallowed the tears, did the contrived chore (have to keep it honest, like I said), then went back into the house and got back to work, dry-eyed and resolute to be strong another day. And hoping that my eyes don't sometimes give me away.

TanMan, I love you more'n my luggage.

Love from the farm,

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