Four years ago today my husband and I huddled together in a New York hospital room waiting to hear the prognosis of our baby girl who was in surgery. Under the watchful eye and skilled hands of Dr. Alejandro Berenstein, she was bravely undergoing her 4th angiogram to determine if a 4th embolization procedure would be needed to repair the rare disorder that had so cruelly taken up residence in her brain, Vein of Galen Malformation (VOGM).
When you look out the window on the 14th floor of Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, you’ll see yellow taxi cabs, pedestrians crossing against the light, Starbucks coffee signs and the GE building looming against the sky. You’ll see these things but you won’t think about them. The room service tray might be there but you’ll only be able to pick at the eggs, and it will be hard to swallow the iced tea over the lump in your throat.
You won’t think about anything except when the phone is going to ring. The phone call that always comes, hours after you’ve kissed your daughter goodbye and left her sleeping in the arms of the anesthesiologist. The phone call that comes from the operating room, telling you how many arteries they’ve closed off in the brain this time. Hoping you won’t hear the doctor say there’s been a complication. At least that’s the way it’s always been for us, particularly on May 14, 2008.
Yesterday when I picked Katie up from preschool it was a bone-chilling 8 degrees with a half inch dust of snow covering the parking lot. Although I carried her in to school earlier to save her a morning of chilly wet feet, I let her crunch through the snow on the way to the car. Because the parking lot was practically empty there were fresh untouched piles everywhere and as she picked up the pace I knew they wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Clad only in her Nike tennis shoes, in the morning rush I’d forgotten her boots, she began to stomp. When we got to the car I could see she wasn’t done with her mission to mark our little corner of the parking lot with tiny footprints. Not a fan of the cold myself, my first inclination was to follow the lead of all the other chilly mamas and hurry her in to the van but then it hit me, the thing that hits me me frequently since her diagnosis in 2006, live in the moment and enjoy each one you have.
As cars drove past us leaving the school for warmer destinations, Katie and I snugged down our jackets and shuffled through the snow making happy faces, figure 8’s and other icy abstract patterns. When a very crimson-cheeked Katie finally announced she was cold and ready to leave, I drove out of the parking lot looking at our fancy footwork and thinking we’d left it looking just as silly and happy as we felt. A day later I’m still thinking about how giddy she was and how all the other mothers must have thought we were crazy and I’m glad I slowed down to enjoy it.