How to Cheer Up Your Kid at Urgent CareThomas Beller
For nearly a month now, I’ve walked around with a pair of blue latex gloves stuffed down at the bottom of my shoulder bag. They are scrunched purple smudges. I hardly see them anymore. But just now I paused to stare at them before sliding my computer in on top of them, and remembered why they are there.
I was keeping them in case of an emergency. But what kind of emergency?
I grabbed the purple gloves on the way out the doctor’s office a month ago. We were in an urgent care facility, one of those tweener establishments bridging a doctor’s office and an emergency room. The co-pay, for me, is $50 as opposed to $100 in a regular emergency room. It is quiet, clean. We have one very near our house.
On the day I got the purple gloves I was there with my daughter in order to deal with one of those medical mysteries that seem to develop on weekends, when the doctor is not in–a boil, something infected. She needed antibiotics. A few days later there was a visit to the doctor; the boil was still there. They lanced it. My wife described the scene. Evangeline was stoic but pale. She was, in a word, afraid. I hated hearing it. And part of me was touched. And part of me was something else entirely, which is also connected to the reason I am walking around with spare purple latex gloves.
Now a month has passed since this medical crisis. The wound has healed. At the time, however, it was a stressful event.
When we first saw the boil it was just a pimple and I wanted to ignore the whole thing. But my wife was adamant that we deal with it. So I took her to urgent care. It was a nice day. We were eventually called into the examining room. The nurse came in, took blood pressure, asked questions, peered at the little infection. It was all normal, yet I became aware that my daughter was nervous.
The thing about Evangeline is that for most of her life she has seemed, to me, fearless, fearsome, utterly confidant in her movement through the world. I have to confess this is changing a little. She still has this wild, defiant physicality, but she now also has a body. By this I mean that when she was two and three and even four, she was this ambulatory ever-ready energy ball. She bounced off things, over things, and ran through things. She and ran and ran. I wouldn’t call her weightless, she was too solid and strong to be called that, but she had an elastic, bouncy quality that made her seem almost invincible. This is an odd way to describe a very little girl, but that is how I felt. Maybe I rationalized it as a way of protecting myself from the feelings about her vulnerability.
Then she began to grow. She still has the little kid roundness to her cheeks, but her limbs have gotten long. She lost a tooth. All traces of toddlerhood have left her. She is a first grader. And with a body comes gravity. Now the invulnerable ball of energy is vulnerable, somehow. And beyond the physical aspects there is the gravity of consciousness, of memory. Perhaps of the memory of getting hurt and going to the doctor.
After the nurse left it was just the two of us. In the past she would have been whiny and complained and lobbied for a movie on the phone. But this time she was fairly quiet. At first I was delighted by this quietness as she sat up on the examining table. But then it started to make me sad. I remembered a game I used to play with her in these moments– I would pull one of the latex rubber gloves that are stuffed into a box on the wall and blow it up like a balloon, and then we would bat it around. These games of inflated glove volley-ball could get quite rambunctious.
Now, I pulled out a glove and blew it up. Her eyes lit up as it turned into a purple ball with five protruding fingers, like something that might have its own show on the cartoon network. She was excited, but it was different than it used to be. It wasn’t a riotous sense of excitement but something heavier. The effects of gravity. I realized she was nervous about this visit, about the strange infected looking cut on her body, about her body in general. The body is so important! It can really get you down when things go wrong.
I tapped the balloon and it floated over to her. Normally she would have attacked the balloon like Jimmy Connors smashing a lob. This time however she tapped it back. It was delightful the way we sat there gently tapping the balloon back and forth. It was exactly what I had wanted to do all those times she was smashing it around the examination room. Yet now it felt a little bit melancholy. Just a little bit. As though to express this, she at one point held the balloon glove, hugged it. I took a picture. Looking at it now it is like she is hugging a giant breast.
The doctor came in, looked her over, and said Evangeline was going to be fine.
That whole tiny drama is now in the rear view mirror. What stays with me, though, is the wonderful silence of our gentle game of balloon catch. What a welcome relief it was to have that rapport, play that game, and not to be in the position of telling your kid to calm down because they were smashing the inflated rubber glove all over the place. But there was also a sadness that went beyond feeling bad she was nervous and wanting to comfort her. It was the sadness of the complications of consciousness.
I felt so much love for my daughter just then, such a feeling of tenderness for her as she was starting to worry about things. I took at picture of the floating balloon when she surprised me by taking it into her arms. Of course I am ambivalent about sharing the snapshot. Maybe it is a mistake to do so. But it is also a gift in reminding me so vividly of the feeling I had just then.
The tidal feeling of things changing inside of her. Things of a spiritual, emotional nature, nothing a doctor could see.
As we left the room I paused to grab a couple of purple latex gloves. You never know when you are going to need them, I thought.
Which is why I have purple gloves at the bottom of my shoulder bag. It’s in case of an emergency–a situation that calls for the feeling of lightness, the solace of playing, the consolation of a gentle roundness in one’s arms.