I was at a birthday party last night, showing off my son, when the hostess told me her mother wanted to meet the baby. I had never met this woman, but she had knitted cute little booties for my son, so I was thrilled. It turns out, this woman had just gotten out of the hospital that day. I asked what was wrong and they said she had a virus in her heart. I didn’t think much of it until she sat down, and she looked really unwell with swollen eyes and a flushed face. It suddenly occurred to me that a heart virus sounded really sinister, and communicable.
I nearly jumped out of the seat and ran out of the house practically screaming my good-byes. The hostess was in the middle of cutting the birthday cake, and I could see she was annoyed with me. I use to really care about what others thought of me, but now, not so much. At that moment, I really just cared about getting my son into a sterile environment.
I’ve always been a bit neurotic. Whenever I watch stories about cancer survivors, they always say, “I’ve never thought it would happen to me.” Well, I always think everything is going to happen to me from AIDS to SARS (except for bird flu, I really don’t interact with birds much.) Now that I am a parent, this neurosis has been turned up a notch.
When he was first born, I would deliberate with friends over his future high school drug us. I decided I would give him a lecture for using pot, be mildly concerned with acid, and drop him off immediately in rehab for cocaine use. One of his godmothers looked at me and said, “I think you are a bit of a worrier.” Indeed.
I knew I had changed forever in his first month of life. I would be dead asleep, and all of a sudden, I would wake up screaming, “Where is he? Where is he?” My suddenly awake wife would say, “Go back to sleep, he is right here.” And I would look, and there he was. The axis of my being had changed, it was no longer inside of me. My heart was beside me, softly asleep.