Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cups of Coffee

"Caw-fee fweeze?" (Coffee please?)

A small blue cup and a silver pot are thrust at me over and over as my daughter makes believe that she is making me coffee in the toy kitchen.  At my nod, she'll say "coming right up!" and then 'boil' the pot on the burner-like circle that makes bubbling noises.  She will then hand me both cup and pot with a cheerful "here you go!" (which proves she will never work at Tim Hortons).  I will sip pretend coffee for the seventy-fifth time in an hour (give or take) and watch the delight spread across her face as I finish my exuberant slurping with a loud "ahhhh".  Every time she giggles, then skips back to the kitchen and putters about a bit. Her hand noticeably trembled as she attempted to hang one of the plastic spoons over the little sink.  She focused intently on the spoon and the tiny hook for a few moments and eventually completed her task.  After a satisfied nod at her handywork, she whirls on her heel to ask "Caw-fee fweeze?"

This kitchen and a few other more advanced toys have been introduced into the twins' world in the last while.  It was originally purchased for Quinn a couple of years ago--he played with it incessantly.  At first he made us all manner of treats and concoctions in his kitchen.  It then became a restaurant and acting as a short order cook, he would make us lunch, usually pizzas and burgers. As time went on and he and it evolved, it became a laboratory for all manner of devious experiments.   Rare and deadly viruses were cured.  Potions were procured and super powers were endowed upon an unsuspecting populace.  It had fallen out of favour recently and has sat unused in our basement, entertaining only the dust and the occasional spider.  Now it lives in a corner of our living room, providing happiness for all.  It offers an oppourtunity for all three kids to play together... and apparently the creation of endless cups of coffee.   They say that the kitchen is the heart of any home;  right now a tupperware container full of slightly-wacky-out-of-scale-play food and a plastic kitchen is the heart of this one.

My children are growing and changing right before my eyes.  Long gone are the fragile bird-like creatures in the NICU that clung to life with a fierceness that is only matched by my love for them. My eldest meanwhile, has grown into a very wise-for-his-years little sir.  These changes only underline that nothing is permanent,  that life is forever tumbling forward. They are not the only ones that are aging either.  I am reminded of that every morning as I no longer spring out of bed, excited and energized for the new day. (Okay, I never did that, but you get the idea).  Instead, I fumble for my glasses and shuffle off to the bathroom, willing my stiff limbs into motion.  As I swallow the first of the day's Tylenol and blink over my (very real) coffee I am very aware that this coming birthday will start with a four and end with a two.  As the magic elixir starts to work, I'm reminded that I'm only halfway along this road and there is so much more awaiting me. 

I had a rare second cup this morning as I awaited the results from Wyatt's echocardiogram.  We found out what we already know;  that his oxygenation is up, his growth is up, his development has skyrocketed and that overall he's a different kid than he was before his surgery.  This week alone I've seen him hold his hand to his ear and say "hello?" into a 'phone', go up the stairs on all fours, learn to cough into his arm, offer up empathy to a sick friend, console each of his sibs, advocate his wants to each of them as well, use half a dozen words appropriately, count to three, and stand up unsupported for a few seconds.  He is on the cusp of so many fabulous things right now.  His cardiologist reinforced what we already knew;  his heart is "beautiful". So much so that the doctor doesn't want to see Wyatt for a year.  As I watch him reach up to the cupboards on the kitchen to pull out a pretend plate for his real toast, I smile and wonder what next year will bring.  Gone is the impression of a ticking time bomb in his chest.  Gone is the sword over our heads, gone is the lurking fear.  Instead there is just a boy, one who always offers his cup up for "clinks" (cheers) and wants to hold my hand during meals. 

It was over coffee that I read my eldest son's report card and marveled at how well he had done and how silly some of the comments seemed.  As a rule, these things are pretty stock: " gaining proficiency with adding and subtracting to 20", "can identify three states of matter" and "can identify living and non-living things" (oh please...).  One of these comments did stand out for me as I read through his mid-term;  it read "next steps:  Quinn is encouraged to experience life to the fullest, and enjoy each day as it comes."

What the...?

Is that like YOLO?
Is he depressed?
Should we consider moving him to an enhanced class/school?
Is he still being bullied?

Sean attended the parent teacher meeting as it was at 9 am after a night shift, not historically a stellar time of day for me.   During the meeting he was told that Quinn is "a bright light" and almost without exception universally accepted and cherished in his class.  His classmates have advocated for him as much as he stands up for them.  After a little discussion including potential boredom, Sean was told that if we wanted, we could do the official "enhanced" testing and move him to the one school in the region (that is actually outside Brampton) that handles these things.  However, we have decided to keep him where he is. He seems to have successfully overcome his issues with his peers himself and is actively learning from them as much as they are from him.  Inclusion benefits everyone.  Even the brightest lights. 

Before my night shifts, I make a thermos mug full of coffee to take with me.  Usually I crack it open during report, but the other night I was barely keeping my eyes open as Sean gave me a lift to work.  As I sipped my brew, Sean told me how he and Quinn had been discussing vaccinations on the way home from school.  Quinn asked him about the difference between measles and mumps and Sean recounted a pretty good description, including the effects of measles during pregnancy and how mumps might make a man sterile.  I cringed as I heard that Quinn asked what that meant. Sean answered "it would affect his ability to father children". 

I was anticipating an awkward conversation with my son in the near future, but my fears were put aside a second later when I was told his response:

"Oh.  You mean it affects sperm production.  Okay then."

I wiped the dashboard off as best I could, but I'm still finding spewed droplets that I missed.

My life can easily be recounted by cups of coffee.  Physically it has allowed me to maintain the furious pace of my life. The loss of sleep. The soul crushing schedule.  Metaphorically it has allowed me to understand myself as one who changes the world around them.  It has been a good metaphor for this year of my advocacy.  Coffee has taken on a new role lately too, as its consumption has helped precipitate a few of the "attacks" I continue to have.  However, my daily medication and my "emergency" meds are helping while I await more clues as to what is happening to me.  For now, I can still have my cuppa.

My love affair with the bean is pretty much like my love affair with this life.  It can be savoured, drunk fast, provide comforting warmth or offer up a burst of frenic energy.  It can leave me shaking and strung out.  It can be enjoyed with friends and family.  It nourishes and soothes and gives me a piece of home while I wade through the anguish of strangers during my work day.  I can pass time, share fellowship, extend kindness and as it turns out, spend time with my children and marvel at the beautiful little humans that they are.

"Caw-fee fweeze?"

Yes darling.  I'll have mine with milk.


  1. This is such a great post... your writing is exquisite!
    Sending you a virtual dark roast and tonnes of appreciation!

  2. Fab post Jen, but mostly so happy to hear Wyatt is doing so brilliantly after the heart op. And yes, I recall that physical lifting of the weight, that removal of the sword of damacles. You don't realise how much it affects you until its gone.


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