Being There – A Love Letter to Wyeth
My boy Wyeth had some extensive surgery recently for a badly torn knee. I had taken a few days off of work so I could be with him. He’s the youngest of my three kids, and was born right about the time his father and I were ending our 17 year old marriage.
Baby Wyeth pretty much hit the ground running (that’s how he tore his knee as well) as his father and I swung fists (figuratively) and our lives changed quickly and radically. The karate studio I owned was sold, the two million dollar house on the edge of the Santa Monica conservancy that was a straight shot to the Pacific Ocean as the crow flies was traded in for a cute little rental in Tarzana. The expensive private Waldorf school was exchanged for public. All proceeds went right to the lawyers who encouraged my ex and I to stupidly fight it out until there was nothing left.
For fourteen years, Wyeth has been the third kid. The one hanging on as the kids and I moved from house to house and job to job in California. The boys and I then traveled cross country with two dogs, and an absurdly large cat in a smallish sedan. Wyeth’s jobs were to dose the cat with catnip whenever she complained, and to keep the pups happy as his brother and I navigated through Texas, new Mexico, and the wide wide United States, until we arrived in New York.
My older kids, Gilda and Sam, had a different life up until this point; huge birthday parties with children of celebrities who went to the same school, Christmas mornings with gifts as far as the eye could see. Wyeth had none of that. Nor had he ever really had me, I was working, always working. Except when he was sick. Then I was Mom.
There was a night when he had a stomach flu, he may have been five years old. Worried about his fever, I had brought him to bed with me in a little alcove, really it was a closet with a window. His blond hair was plastered to his hot forehead. Suddenly, he began projectile vomiting in my bed. There was nothing I could do, no time to get to the bathroom. When he was done I gathered the soiled blankets, all the change I could find, and took everything down to the apartment laundry room, which in the middle of the night was a risky trip.
This apartment complex was rich with sketchy transients and was frequented by outsiders looking for things to steal in the middle of the night; kids bikes left out, cars left unlocked. In the not too distant future, a child Wyeth’s age, would be brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight in front of their apartment while his mother fought for his life. I brought my dog, Duncan, for protection in the laundry room. He and I both knew, however, that if anything went down, he was the first one out.
A freshly bathed Wyeth and I dozed on couch while we waited for the laundry, When everything was safely washed and dried, at about four am, I remade the bed, and tucked the boy into my bed. I kissed him on his warm forehead, and just like that, he started furiously vomiting violently again. There was nothing to do except let him.
After Wyeth’s surgery, I gave him his pain medication every four hours until he didn’t need it anymore, prompted him to get up and walk and stayed beside him in case he fell, made him delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, propped up his leg, brought ice, I was able to be his Mom. My most important job at that moment. For him and only him. We both revel in this time together. In addition to making sure the my boys have a home to live in, health insurance, and clothes to wear. The boy knows that if and when he needs me, I am there. Love.