A few days on stool duty is enough to drive you mad. You are alternately happy to hear that your son in preparing for a bowel movement, and terrified that the jagged hook he has ingested might get stuck while getting eliminated. My wife has warned me not to be tempted to tug or pull at the hook, if it isn’t fully clear, she then proceeded to describe her fears of it pulling something vital out with it.
Pushing those images from my mind, I wait for Finn to finish his business. I then clutch an oversized popsicle stick in one hand, and break apart whatever has plopped into the shiny porcelain toilet; Finn cheers me on. We both share the hope of catching a glimpse of the shiny brass hook; the X-ray had shown without any ambiguity that it was in there, so I squelch any doubts of the importance of doing this, and try to ignore the feeling of humiliation. I can’t help but thinking that if I had been a ‘better’ parent, he wouldn’t have swallowed that jagged hook in the first place.
Finn looks onto the proceedings with glee, oblivious to the scenarios that run through my head, and the threat to his life that this situation represents. I know with ardent conviction that I love him more than myself, couldn’t imagine my life without him, but this knowledge only makes my worry sting all that more keenly.
“Did I poop it out yet Dad?”
“Not yet, maybe next time.”
“Can I have a candy?” he asks with a cheeky grin.
“Sure, you can have a candy.”
We are beyond that stage of toilet training when bribes of candy are the only thing standing between feces on the floor, and shit in the toilet. So we no longer use sweets to prompt his relieving himself on the throne, but under the current circumstances, I don’t have the heart to refuse his request.
At the hospital I had been told to wait seven days for the hook to work its way to freedom, and if it hadn’t by then, to bring my son back to the ER for another X-ray. I hoped that Finn’s bowels would make a return visit unnecessary, but this time there was no prize in the crackerjack box.
Each preceding day as I wait, I go through the normal motions of our life, pretending that everything is normal-my wife is usually off at work while I play and entertain our son-but my senses are heightened, my emotions closer to the surface, at the back of my mind I’m constantly wondering how many more hours I have with my son: one thousand? one hundred? one? I make a conscious attempt to savor the moment, participate fully in each game as we play, and I try not to alert my son that I’m worried that something disastrous is imminent. Could that object be doing irreparable damage, and is Finn only a moment away from collapsing in pain? It is a great effort to maintain the belief that there will be a positive outcome, but I have to-not just for him-but for my own sanity. I observe as he gambols around, there is no indication that the sharp spike that he has inhaled is causing him any grief, but can I rely on that as a sign that he is in the clear?
“Dad, run with me,” he cajoles in a frenetic state.
At night when I curl up to him, for I’m the security blanket that he insists he needs every evening, I cherish the moment. I realize that it won’t be a lot of time before he is demanding that I leave his bed, with the same vehemence that he now demands that I stay. I have become accustomed to his small warm body close-by, the sound of his quiet snore, and I wonder if I have come to rely on the presence of these things, before I will allow myself to drift off into unconsciousness. But with that hook still circulating through his body, I now imagine the possibility of him not being here, of no Finn to cuddle up next to at all. My eyes moisten as I push these morbid thoughts away from my mind.
Seven days trickle by and it is time to return for another X-ray.
With sweaty palms and inflated fears we hear the result: the brass hook is gone, disappeared, no longer inside him. Despite my wife and my own best efforts, it has slipped past us; probably lodged inside a compacted piece of pooh, or secreted in the explosive blast of diarrhea.
Relax, breathe easy-I hear my mind whisper-and let down your guard; well at least until the next holiday.