Kids are so frank. We were at the church where little Peter goes for day care. It’s a very welcoming sort of place in spite of the posters showing Adam and Eve as white people with straight blow-dried hairdos.
Now Peter is little; not two feet high, so it was faintly surprising to me see a eight-year-old named Connor hailed him.
“Yo, PETE! High five!” he called and Peter offered his own version of that universal male salute before losing his balance and sitting down hard on the church hall rug.
“Hey HEY!” shouted Connor approvingly. Then his glance fell on Peter’s mom Susan, who bears the marks of the surgery that three weeks ago severed her 8th cranial nerve, ending her ability to hear ever again with her left ear.
“You look kind of …weird,” the boy said.
Thanks!” said Susan. “It’s the eye patch.”
“She looks a little like a pirate, right?” said I, going for a jaunty take on things.
“No but there’s more. Your mouth looks funny.”
In fact that whole side of her face is still without feeling, the muscles still unable to draw the curtains of tissue up into a smile or down into a frown or anywhere at all really. Her right side is completely mobile so the contrast is marked.
“It’ll go back to normal soon. It’s just resting now after an operation she had.”
That was me again. I say this ten times a day, sometimes to kind strangers so greet me here in the home of Mormonism and sometimes – many times – to myself. It’s a fact, the doctors say, and not a fond hope. It will go back to normal eventually: when Annie was here last week the doctors said all feeling and movement would return to that side of the face though it could take months. “Months!” Annie agonized in the email she wrote to to fill me in on things.
I think we all feel as Annie felt when she typed that word: Anxious. Scared. Maybe even faintly outraged?
If we do feel that way it’s because we are only laymen and have no real sense of the miracle is to be able to remove a tumor so rare that only ten people in a million are diagnosed with it each year. We have scant sense of the miracle it is to be able actually to sever the slender filament that is the 8th Cranial Nerve without doing damage to the surrounding circuitry – and THEN to see the beneficiary of the surgery sitting up and talking and even taking a step or two just hours after it.
Laymen want miracles and instant results but Fate is schooling us all in patience.
And so we can wait until her body heals and she can resume life as the same dark-eyed beauty she was on the day of her marriage to kind tender funny Kevin who wraps her in his arms many times a day here in the city of the Great Salt Lake and all through the night as well.
I guess patience is what we all need to pack in our daily knapsacks. Patience and a strong dose of gratitude for blessings received.
I know I felt blessed yesterday when the woman behind me at the checkout in Wallgreens asked what brought me to Salt Lake City and heard the story and then asked for Susan’s name.
“I will pray for her tonight” she said. She hugged me and I stumbled back to my car in the blinding high-desert sun, a wash of fresh tears brimming in my eyes.