Flashbacks, Flashpoints, and Fortitude

I blame the Boy Quail’s ambivalent eye towards the oliebollen of last week, entirely. Surely if he had just inhaled the stuff like the thoroughly digestible crack cocaine that it is, his cold would have bounded off and not been tempted to settle in one of his ears, thus causing a textbook case of bacterial ear infection. Alas and alack, and thus it was that we spent our St. Patrick’s Day evening not swilling green beer or having any encounters with corned or hashed anything, but instead sitting at Seattle Children’s Urgent Care clinic.

Times have changed, my friend. Used to be that the name “Urgent Care” implied that you needed medical care that you were not able to pause and schedule an appointment for, but that you probably were not going to die of, thus precluding a trip to the emergency room. Now, most urgent cares require you to schedule an appointment. You know, in case you are sick or something.

Well, the Boy Quail was decidedly out of sorts. Honestly, he was freaking his sisters out with his sedate demeanor and lethargy. He cracked no jokes, he laid down with no one tackling him first, and when we scurried out for our traditional St. Patrick’s milkshake (something you can sing about to the tune of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, if you are quick on your feet with rhymes or have “nonsense” as your spiritual gift. I do.), he just… drank it. Like, that was it. The girls were increasingly convinced that he was on his deathbed, and as if all that were not enough, his ear was sore and hot and red and he was playing at getting a temperature.

You know that classic Bill Withers tune, Ain’t No Sunshine?

Literally, though. When the Boy Quail is down, so is all our sunshine.

And thus, I figured out how to work the online scheduling system, hoping for an appointment a little closer to home, but the only thing available was at the main Seattle campus, in the evening. Now, for the rest of this tale to make sense, you need to understand how many hundreds of hours I have spent at this Children’s Hospital campus over the years. It would not be a stretch to say that I know it like the back of my hand… except I probably remember less about the back of my hand. All of the Quail have done extensive time at Children’s, but in the first 5 or 6 years of the oldest 2, there would sometimes be mere weeks between clinic visits or hospitalizations.

And maybe that all messed me up a bit. Maybe it isn’t normal to smell a particular hand sanitizer brand and be violently transported back to your 22 year old self, feeling the uncontrollable twitching of the infant-like daughter in my arms as I try and soothe her and hold her still for yet another blood draw, or to feel the vinyl of the waiting room chairs and experience the weight of anxiety settle in my chest knowing this was where we waited for surgical beepers to go off, the memory of the smell of anesthetic causing my stomach to tie itself in knots. I hate watching my children be put under general anesthesia, and yet I would never turn down the chance to reassure them, to be the last face they see when they are frightened. But my neurosis, such as they may be, are not the point of today’s narrative. The point is the little girls at the hospital pharmacy.

Ha, gotcha. You thought this was going to be a story about an ear infection, didn’t you?

That brilliant fellow having acquired a perfectly ordinary malady for once, we were not long in the clinic itself, but it was evening so rather than scurry back to our home pharmacy, we opted to fill at the hospital itself. It’s waiting room is shared with the surgery center waiting room, so I was initially somewhat taken back with memories, flashbacks even, when my attention was arrested by the family waiting next to us.

Evening at Children’s is quiet, and generally the only patients in the clinics are the ones who have been there an awfully long time. It turns out that even if you are a masterfully capable parent (I have observed these mysterious folks for years) who packed snacks and coloring books and every possible entertainment, there comes a point, a flashpoint of sorts, where the patients become less than patient, and 1 of 2 things will happen.

  1. Said child will throw a screaming fit.
  2. Said child will transform the word “yahoo” into a verb and descend into hysterical laughter over everything and nothing and begin running circles within whatever space they are given.

Actually, there is a corollary for parents on this one, but it usually is more crying than screaming and the second option involves spiking one’s travel coffee cup with hard lemonade or anything named after Jack. But let’s save that for another day.

The family waiting next to us appeared to be of Indian origin (read: way better skin and hair than I have, and stinking cool accents) and showed all the signs of having been there a long time. Their 2 girls were about 4 and 6 and had reached that happy, if not somewhat manic, state of racing around the waiting room and shrieking with laughter. The mom did what moms in that situation do: she continued to try and walk them down to see the same aquarium that they pressed their faces up against 84 times already that day, tried to get them to hop tiles quietly on the floor, tried to make the whole thing still feel fun. The dad did what dads at the end of such a day do: look for someone else to talk with, while muttering to the kids, “Could you please just sit quietly?” The girls did not exude overt disobedience in their demeanor; they were just absolutely tired and sick of Children’s and had chosen laughter over screaming.

It was exactly what my girls did, for years.

And I tell you this not so you will offer me those sad tsking noises with the sympathetic eyebrows that people so often do when they learn tidbits like this. Truthfully, that drives me nuts. I feel almost uncontrollably compelled to reach over and smooth out the little furrow between the eyebrows with my pointer finger, or with a book. I tell you this because actually, those round-the-bend little girls, without realizing it, hit upon one of the most deadly weapons in our arsenal as believers — there is no trial, no battle you can face where laughter is not a fitting weapon.

Laughter is fitting for saints.

And it is Monday, so some of you are reading this thinking that I am an idiot, because if I could see your day and the weighty demands that are you on (and how amazing it is that you even found time to read such blither as this blog), I would not be saying something so asinine as — LAUGH.

But you see, I don’t have to know your day. No temptation has faced you except what is common to man. The Lord always provides a way out, and your every hardship is from His hand, in love. What you face today is literally the best thing for you, the thing you need to be more conformed to the image of Christ. He is both Man of Sorrows and the Lord of Laughter, and there is no conflict in His nature. You can laugh today, because He rose and death can no longer keep a grip on you. And if that doesn’t make you want to run giddy in the space He has given you, holding grief and joy together in your sweaty little hands, then you are not paying attention.

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