Last year, when my sister Jilly got married, Isaac and Bryce were ring bearers. To be more exact, Bryce was a ring bearer, and Isaac spent the weekend charming all of Jilly's twentysomething friends. He was so proud of his little tuxedo and strutted around like a baby Don Juan. While we were waiting for Jilly and Carl to come out of the temple, Tom, one of the paparazzi, snapped this photo, which has become my favorite picture of my favorite three-year-old boy:
The picture now sits in my study, and yesterday, as I sat at my computer, looking across at this beautiful little boy and thinking about how much he has been through in the last six months (and yes, in two weeks, it will be six full months since he got sick), a totally morbid thought struck me. If we had waited just a day longer to take him to the doctor, if his infection had progressed just a little bit more, or struck him in the lungs instead of the leg, this picture would have undoubtedly been the one at the top of his obituary, the one at his funeral, the one we thought of when we remembered him.
Now that we're almost six months out and he's starting to get better, limping around everywhere like a tiny old man, it's finally hitting me how close we came to losing him. At the time, it was all we could do just to get through the day, put on our game faces for him, and keep things as normal as possible for the other kids, that I don't think either Eddie or I realized the enormity of what was happening. When, after two weeks in the hospital, two surgeries, six weeks of IV antibiotics, and learning to walk again, he landed himself flat on his back with a broken femur, the doctor walked in and said, "In a year or two, he'll be totally back to normal and you won't even be able to tell anything happened." I inwardly thought-- two years? Are you kidding me? My kid is going to kick this thing in two months.
Six months later, two years doesn't seem like to outlandish an estimate. He's starting physical therapy soon, which should help him limp less, but the bone is still majorly disfigured (they assure us it will straighten as it grows, if it grows, that is), he's still on long-term antibiotics, and I still don't go a single day without worrying about what might happen if the delicate swiss-cheese-like structure of his femur can't handle the roughhousing of a regular day of a three-year-old in a house with three siblings. We had to cancel his birthday party when he was in the hospital, and I kept all of the stuff, thinking we'd rent the bounce house again and throw him a big three-and-a-half party when he was all better, but there's no way he's ready for a bounce house yet.
We've been watching the John Adams miniseries on HBO for the last few weeks. John and Abigail, like too many Americans of their day and age, had a stillborn baby and lost a three-year-old daughter, although it isn't mentioned in the film. I guess that ten hours isn't enough time to touch on the death of a child, or else it wasn't considered important enough in the life of so illustrious a man, or else it was just so commonplace that it didn't attract merit, but I found it curious that they left out that detail. For so much of human history, disease and death were part of life. I'm feeling particularly grateful, six months out, that even though disease has been our companion over the last year, we still have Isaac's cheeky smile to light up our house.