Tony

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Kids possess this crazy awesome power. And the cool thing is that most kids don’t even realize that they have this secret strength. The super power to turn a grown-up into a mess. Out of nowhere. They unexpectedly ask one really simple, yet deep, and honest question. And then it’s an adult downward spiral of thinking, feeling, and remembering, all in the midst of trying to best answer their question in the easiest-to-comprehend for their little minds sort-of-way. I would say that my boys have mastered this super question-asking power. They can get me. And they unknowingly use this super power rather frequently.

Most of the time, they ask me the most thought-provoking, big deal kind of questions when we are driving. Just me and the boys. Asher did it to me today. He threw me a crazy curve ball question after we loaded into the van. Surprisingly enough, we had just finished a rather pleasant grocery shopping experience. It helped that two kind women genuinely complimented me on my three bed-headed children. Thanks, encouragers. And then there was a man in the parking lot that saw my van bumper sticker, and said, “you’re still cool.” Maybe it was my (too) short of running shorts? That was nice too.

I loaded the groceries, mainly lemons and limes, into the van and we started the drive home. My boys’ bodies and extreme constant energy is temporarily restrained by the buckles of their car seats and booster seats. Brain time. Thinking time. Question asking time. Go.

Asher asks, from right behind me, although it felt more like it came from deep, deep left field,

“Do some girls, when they grow up, not have bags?”

It immediately draws tears to my eyes. Talking about my body. My bag. Why tears? On a fragile day.  For so many reasons. In the midst of the tears silently rolling down my cheeks, I quickly try to think of what he may be wanting to know out of this question. I do this a lot when kids ask me tough questions. At home. At work. Wherever. What are they really questioning? What do they really need to know. For instance, when my boys asked what would happen to them if both their dad and I died, I learned that they are scared that nobody will know. That nobody will take care of them. So, I really drove the point home that they will be safe, protected, loved, cared for, etc. No matter what. I think this is one of the most difficult parts about having kids. Being truthful. Answering their questions honestly is really hard and painful sometimes, especially for us adults who like to sugar-coat things. Or just hide them in the pantry and not talk about them at all. Beat around the bush. Or half-answer to preserve our feelings and emotions from getting hurt or over-involved.

I think I randomly cry too much to not explain the reasons why I cry to my kids. Sometimes, they’re clueless and just think I am sweating from my eyes. Sometimes, they don’t notice. Other times, like today, I wanted to help them to understand the many, many reasons tears tumble, scoot, roll or flash flood down my face. There are so many different kinds of tears. Different ways to cry. Just like there are so many different laughs, smiles, and giggles. I want to help them to interpret and feel and express their emotions, too. So they can help people. And not be afraid of people who are crying. I hope that I can teach them the gentle healing power experienced in releasing tears. Not keeping them locked up. Happy tears. Sad tears. Heart-broken tears. Memory tears. Angry tears. Confused tears. Scared tears. And on. I want them to know that sometimes, actually every time, it’s okay to cry. We all need to cry, I think.

My big boys have gotten older. A little bit deeper in their thinking. They’re trying to figure this confusing world out. I am the only girl in the house. It used to be their universally thinking way, they assumed that “all girls have a bag.” Because well, I am a girl, and I have one. It’s a good theory until your brain gets smart enough to disprove this theory. I have tried to explain to them how my body got sick and why I needed to get a bag. And I have also tried to help them know that not that many girls have a bag. Their cousins don’t, aunts don’t, grandparents don’t. I am different. I realize that I may be the only person that they ever know with a bag. A scared part of me wants them to keep this a secret, that their mom has a bag. Though, it’s a little too late. Even though I have never kept it a secret from them. I didn’t think I should. A part of me already hurts for the day that they share something in their most accepting, honest little way and somebody makes fun of me. Their mom. When someone makes fun of one of your family members, or doesn’t believe you, or accept you, a whole new level of hurt gets introduced into your life. I don’t want them to meet that hurt. Ever.

So, I explained to Asher again the reason that I have a bag. Next question. He’s still trying to compartmentalize.

He asked, “Do just mommies have them?”

Not all mommies have bags, I explain. Not that many do. I explain that some little girls have one. Not that many. And that some big girls have one. Not that many do. Because in his little world, he may not ever meet any little girls or big girls or mommies that have one. Whew. I think he was satisfied, momentarily, with my answer.

“How did you know you wanted to work at Children’s Mooorsy(Mercy)?”

Since I was already silently crying, I added a new variety of tears to those tears. A little happy, a little painful, a little memory tears. I began telling him about a boy who would come to my room when I was sick. He would hobble into my room, with his scratchy voice, holding his bottle of Pepsi. I was 18, too big and too old to be at a children’s hospital, probably. He was about 3 or 4 years old. His name was Tony. He loved that Pepsi. He also loved coming and sitting with me on my bed. He began storing his Pepsi in the fridge in my room. Because well, he hung out in my room a lot. We liked each other. We understood each other, even though we were over a decade apart. We both wore those bracelets, those hideous gowns. He decorated my door with his artwork. I explained to my boys how I was really sad and sick, but Tony helped me feel better, happier. I told them how when you’re so sad sometimes there is not a lot of space left inside of you to be happy. But Tony helped shrink some of my sadness which helped make room for happiness. And helped me get better. I was crying now, full force, and I said,

“I thought if I got to meet more kids, like Tony, that would be a really awesome place to work. Working with kids in the hospital.”

We pulled into our driveway. Asher asked if he could see some of the pictures that Tony drew for me. Thankfully, I had saved them. In my hospital journal. We unlocked the safe and got it out. It’s in there because it matters a lot to me. My boys looked through my journal, asking all sorts of questions. Inquisitive questions. Sweet, unrestrained, spontaneous questions. Healing questions. The kinds of questions that help you truly get to know a person. I haven’t looked through my journal in a long time. And I don’t know when I would have looked through that journal if not for their innocent, yet intense question asking. I know they would probably choose to possess the ability to fly or swing from building to building, but their power to ask deep, really meaningful questions truly amazes me. Every single time. I hope it will take them to whole new levels of getting to truly know people throughout their lives. In the meantime,  I should probably get some kleenex for my passenger seat if they are going to keep perfecting their deep question asking powers on me.

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