23 February 2007

Funeral for a friend

Yesterday, I sat in the doctor's office with my young daughter, caught in the kind of gasping panic that tends to overcome me when I'm waiting for someone to say "take her to the hospital now." This has happened twice in her decade-long tenure: once when the pediatrician suspected she had meningitis (amazing that a bladder infection can mimic meningitis in a 3-year-old) and once when the hospital's kid help line thought she might have something along the lines of epiglottitis (croup. In a 6-year-old who'd never had croup before. Whose mother had never seen croup in action.). This time, abdominal pain. Abdominal pain that had worsened considerably over 36 hours. No vomiting. No diarrhea. Just excruciating pain. My thoughts, of course, had long since wandered to appendicitis and peritonitis. It's just been that kind of year.

I'm the first to admit that I panic over my children's health. I have far more difficulty with the daughter because I've always felt that she's only mine to borrow. Her start in life was so tenuous, literally from conception. I still remember seeing that strong heart beating in the little peanut at eight weeks, the only proof that she'd decided she wasn't going anywhere.

So, I worry.

After nearly crashing the car getting her to the doctor, I cuddled her in the waiting room and tried to get a grip on myself. I'm really quite levelheaded when you get down to it, and I reminded myself, repeatedly, that this was a bellyache. My daughter did not have a life-threatening disease, her ped never fails to mention her "gross good health." This was a blip on the radar, not cause for panic. A bellyache.

And ultimately, the doctor, not her usual ped, decided she just had a bellyache. A bad one. A virus. Of course, I questioned him on this: "No vomiting? No diarrhea? Just pain?" Yup, he replied, he'd seen this manifesting in three ways: vomiting, diarrhea and just pain. He prescribed a light diet and rest. "Bring her back if it gets worse." That was reassuring, of course.

Just a bellyache, I've been telling myself for the last 24 hours.

Then reading the newspapers this morning, this: http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/170581

I haven't lived there for years; haven't been to the parade in years. I used to take my younger sisters all the time. Two calamities occurred in the years of our attendance. A clown spoke to my youngest sister when she was 3 and she freaked out. Another year, I'd gotten us a prime viewing spot on the curb on Alameda. We were sitting there, enjoying the show, when a horse stopped in front of us and cut loose. The horse was standing on the crown of the road, naturally, and we were sitting with our feet where, in a normal town, there would be a gutter. No drains in this place because the city engineer in his infinite wisdom decreed, "It never rained." February tends to be cold in that part of the desert. I remember hauling my squealing siblings to their feet as a steaming river of horse pee hurtled toward us.

Life was simple, calamities small. Yesterday, a five-year-old who had no business being in the parade died.

So much that I held dear in my youth in that place has long since disappeared. The festival at San Xavier that was held the week after Easter is long gone. Today, riding a bike to the end of Swan Road would be suicide. The desert has been replaced by California-style sprawl. Even spring training has gone commercial, and the Tucson Toros are a mere memory at Hi Corbett.

I'll cuddle my daughter for a second day, and be grateful it's just a bellyache.

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