Leo looks at me nervously while I move to change his bandage.
“Wait, Dad, let me tell you something!” he exclaims, so I relent, and I listen (again) to some small thing he is using to delay the inevitable. Except the changing of the bandages doesn’t hurt anymore. But he’s still nervous about it, so he stalls. It is the memory of pain that scares him now, and it is as intense for him as the real thing.
When he’s finally ready to let me do what I have to do, he slumps his shoulders, worried. I move to change the dressings, and he says quietly, as if to himself, “Gently, gently.” This makes me smile. He grins, too, as the bandages come off, realizing (or remembering) that it doesn’t hurt anymore. It really doesn’t. That particular pain is behind us.
He looks up at me, smiling. “I really love you, Dad.” That gets me every time.
* * * * *
Since Leo’s surgery, I’ve been thinking a lot about pain, how being in its proximity (whether in proximity to our pain or someone else’s) will always change us, often at a very deep level.
The pain Leo experienced after his minor surgery, the emotional pain Maile and I went through in trying to help him heal, these are things that will not leave us for a long time, maybe never. Our relationship with him is fundamentally different because of the journey we’ve traveled over the last week. I’m not sure if “better” or “worse” are helpful words when describing how things change when pain is involved. I think I feel things deeper now, especially when it comes to my children.
I also have a different view of healing, the long arc we are all on when it comes to getting better, whether from disease or emotional pain or old hurts that linger. I have a lot of questions about the relationship between pain and healing. I need to think about it a bit more.
* * * * *
Maile is away this weekend, speaking at a women’s conference in Orlando, Florida, and I am so, so proud of her. If you’ve followed along in this space, you know our family has been trying to adapt to some changes (which I wrote about in my most-read post of all time, “In Which We are Beginning to Find Our Way”), trying to rediscover a new way forward. Like any birthing process, it has its own discomfort, pain, and a sense of disorientation.
Early yesterday morning, before the house had woken up, Maile kissed my face and said good-bye. She was off on her adventure. She said some other things to me, but I was too tired to really hear her. The door sensor rang three times when she walked out, and I went back to sleep.
* * * * *
The sun is out this afternoon, and spring is here. There’s no denying it. The trees are blossoming, daffodils are peeking up through the ground, and kids’ eyes are getting itchy. Every season, something new.
We’re entering a new season of life, and I’m not talking about spring. Maile is growing towards a new light, my writing is evolving, the kids are getting older. Our family is changing, but it’s a good thing, a necessary thing. I know there will be more pain, but for the pain there is always healing in some form or other. This is the hope I hold on to.