— 7 September 2005 —

Unfortunately

“The sky is blue as far as I can see. The trees are green and yellow and red and brown. The grass is brown and green, but not growing in most parts.”

I tell him it’s fall. The last time he spoke, he said hello and told me that he was four. I said that I knew that already, and he said, “Me too.” His name is K. and he is now four and a half. K. has been resting in this bed, in this place, for over a year now. I now say resting because his mother gets angry whenever I say coma.

In all the time K. has been here, he has woke from resting only twice. The first time I was here for, and the short conversation that I have mentioned was all that took place before he went back to sleep. The second time came when I was away on a business trip, which I heard about from the nurse that was on duty at the time.

“He must have actually gotten up,” she explained, “because his feeding tubes had been taken out and he was wearing one of his slippers. When I went to check on him he had already lapsed back into the coma.”

A brief smile crossed my face as I recalled the one slipper philosophy. Whenever I would go to tuck him in at night, I’d have to remind him to brush his teeth. He would put on one of his slippers, ones that sported a Snoopy face on the toes, and hop on his one foot to the bathroom.

When I asked him why such an elaborate production, he replied, “It takes less time to put on one slipper, and if I hop all the way I get exercised, see?” “Of course.” I replied, knowing it is next to impossible to argue with kid logic.

Now I sit and watch and wait. Wait for K. to wake up and tell me about his dream; but he doesn’t move. This entire room draws a blank. I am its only source of color, even though the color is gray. White walls, white sheets, white instruments and machines, white slippers, and my kid is the whitest of all. There is no trace of the pink cheeks that would run through the house after playing in the sun all day. For all intents and purposes he is dead. Only the machines keep him alive now.

“Come in, please,” said K.’s doctor. The wall behind his desk was plastered with diplomas and degrees from clinics and universities from around the world. The doctor took his chair while K.’s mother and I sat in uncomfortable chairs in opposite him.

“I’m afraid that the prognosis for your son’s recovery is rather bleak,” he continued. “Since his second awakening in late August, he has taken the turn for the very worst.”

K.’s mother interrupted, “Is our son going to die?”

“I’m sorry, but as of two hours ago, when we called you both in, we had stopped receiving any evidence of brain activity. I’m afraid we have exhausted all of our options; he is being kept alive by machines now.”

Here it comes, I can feel it.

“I really wanted to explain to you what your options are from this point. And there are, as I can see it, only two: he can stay on the machines, almost indefinitely, or…”

I asked, “Is there any chance that he will recover?”

“Unfortunately, no. Your other option is to release him from the care of this facility.“

That was the first time since our divorce that K.’s mother has referred to him as “our son.” And now we are faced with no longer having our son. There is nothing more that she and I can do for him.

We will always be his parents, but now we must give him peace and let him die. I cannot say who is less fortunate, my son for having to miss all that a full life has to offer or, myself and my wife who have to live the rest of our lives without him.

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