I sat on the smooth couch cushion with my daily journal propped on my thighs. I looked up, smiled at my children playing Chutes and Ladders, then opened the book at random; it revealed an October entry from the preceding year. I re-read what my ballpoint pen had placed on smooth paper:
'Last night, four year old David tucked his two year old sister, Jennifer, in his bed for the night, promised that he'd make sure she didn't roll out of bed or that he didn't roll over onto her. He made sure she had some stuffed animals near her, and he checked to see how close the covers were to her head. He instructed me not to take her out and put her in the crib, once they fell asleep, as he wanted her with him all night.
At one point after I left them, I crept up the stairs (silently, I thought) and I heard David whispering, "Sh, Sweetie. Be quiet and go to sleep. Mommy's coming so pretend you're asleep. Close your eyes now." I pretended not to know they were still awake and left the room without a word. When I checked on them a few minutes later, David was fast asleep with his arm around Jennifer, and his security-towel in his hand. Jennifer was still awake but she fell asleep almost instantly after I moved her to the crib. David was kind of upset with me this morning when he discovered that I had transferred Jennifer after all. She is so special to him and he's her best friend.'
Sounds of a plastic piece being moved around the cardboard game could be heard during the occasional quiet. "See, Jennifer? You did slide down the chute. See?" David was happy teaching her to play his favorite board game.
I rested the journal on my knees, looked up again, waved to the children. How fast from 'peek-a-boo' to recent mail. Then, I quickly, jotted down those thoughts: 'My son is old enough to be going to school, to be making his parents the recipients of a To-the-Parents-Of letter. I'm not ready to accept this.'
*My eyes are dim, I cannot see, I have not brought my specs with me* The children were singing one of my old summer camp songs now that the game was over. I smiled.
"Mommy's treat. Let's go out, get some groceries, then stop for ice cream." I clicked the ballpoint closed, placed the pen in the page I was working on, and put the journal on the lamp table beside the couch.
With the children secured in their car seats, I buckled up then drove to the grocery. In the car they sang a song to the tune of Frer Jacques but the words were about a watermelon and how it dripped. *Water-melon, water-melon, how it drips, how it drips. Up and down my elbow...* David sang the word 'water', then Jennifer would finish it with 'melon'. More giggles.
On the grocery check-out line, David walked behind the shopping cart that held both food and Jennifer. A 50-cent off redemption coupon dropped from my hand. David bent to pick it up for me, then screamed. I stooped: a pegboard display-hook had gone into David's eye. Dumb song went prancing through my head...my eyes are dim I cannot see...oh, oh, oh.
Panic. Don't panic. How stupid to have a low pegboard in a tight aisle when children shop with parents. This store gives out free kiddie cookies, yet no one thought about protruding hooks. Don't think like this. Re-assure him. Don't scream in horror no matter what. Just get to an eye doctor ...fast. Let the checker worry about the groceries. Don't frighten Jennifer too much. Pretend calm. Inhale. Exhale. Okay. Now.
The doctor gave this immediate attention. By the diameter of a human hair, the hook missed the pupil but a patch was mandatory to keep the eye closed for twenty-four hours until David could be re-evaluated. Twenty-four hours of quiet terror.
At home, Jennifer took her plastic scissors, cut out a patchy-looking piece of paper, then taped it to her face so she'd also have one eye covered. She wouldn't have two-eyes until her brother also did. Her dad was pleased by this sensitivity.
What-if ran through my head: What if David loses sight in one eye; has no peripheral vision; his eyeball becomes distorted, infected, anything? What if we'd never gone out today? Why can't I protect him or kiss away hurts anymore? Stan, my husband, comforted keeping his fears within.
Next day, the doctor first removed Jennifer's paper patch telling her she's a great sister.
I stood next to my son, feigning fearlessness, as the doctor examined David's eye.
"Nurse Jennifer, you did a good job," the eye doctor addressed Jennifer. "Your brother must be very careful for a week; no rough stuff or wild games. Okay? You make sure. Then he'll be okay."
That night, with me pointing to numbers on the touch-tone telephone, Jennifer dialed a number 500 miles away. "Grandma," she said to the plastic holes, "I took care of my brother. We play quietly like the doctor said. And he can come into my crib, and sleep with my teddy bears. I got to use my nurse kit. Uh, huh, Grandma. It's my turn to don't-worry-my-sweetie."