I'm not religious, not a Christian, don't go to church.
Instead, I go to Children's Hospital.
When Owen was discharged after his initial 101 day stay, I brought him back there very frequently. For his first year out of the joint, Uncle Rusty needed to keep close tabs on him.
And Rusty's friends, all the ologies, needed to monitor his progress;
I packed up little baby Owen and all his equipment a couple times a month and presented him, in all his fat, happy glory, to the big brains on sticks who'd doubted he'd survive.
Owen got bigger, better, healthier, and we dropped some ologies. We returned to Children's less and less frequently; every other month, three times a year, twice a year.
Until Rusty told us;
"I can't do anything for him anymore. He doesn't need me. Congratulations. I guess this is goodbye."
Man, not crying was difficult.
What a funny feeling, not needing him anymore, walking away with my 'normal', healthy kid who was such a train wreck at birth, who wasn't supposed to live let alone thrive.
It wasn't really goodbye anyway, we'll always have our once yearly check ins with Rusty and his gang.
So we were back there today. Our yearly check up with Uncle Rusty.
Owen was excited to be going. Couldn't wait for his chest X-ray. He brought along his new favorite movie, Robots, to show "Uncle Frosty".
Leaving the parking garage, waiting for our turn to cross the street, I admired Owen's first home; the place where I first held him, cared for him, wondered if he'd ever leave. I looked around me, at the others waiting to cross;
Kids with casts
Kids with tubes
Kids in Wheelchairs
All the same. All hopeful.
I felt so lucky, smug almost, to be beyond any immediate health danger, and to have such a handsome, strapping young lad grasping my hand as we marched across the street.
We headed straight to the 2nd floor and waited in the crowded Outpatient X-ray department, surrounded by this kaleidoscope of culture, color, and ability.
A gorgeous girl, wheelchair bound, not very verbal, but signing exuberantly had engaged the entire room. She was delighted at her audience and had everyone smiling.
Another girl, so pretty, sat across from us in her wheelchair. She had no arms.
She controlled her chariot with her mouth, she ordered her mother around, she seemed happy.
She stared at Owen, and I sincerely hoped she was thinking;
"Well, at least I can fucking hear."
I clutched my chest and gasped at Al when I saw the child who very obviously (to me anyway) had Progeria. Unbelievable and heartbreaking.
A little girl, around Owen's age with a severe cleft lip which had been repaired, but had left her mouth and nose disfigured, was staring at Owen's hearing aids too. Owen didn't seem notice anything different about her. He doesn't seem to notice anything different about anyone.
A beautiful, dark skinned, bald little boy, around Bea's age was sitting next to us. I skillfully eavesdropped on his mother's conversation. He was sick. Very. He looked sick. Gaunt. Somehow sill glowing with life and smiling on his mother's lap.
I wondered how long he had, and wiped away tears.
Unlike too many families, we got to leave the hospital, a whole family, today.
I studied faces in the lobby as we headed out;
Happy faces; arms full of balloons, stuffed animals, pushing a smiling child out the door;
Grief stricken faces, empty faces, empty hands, empty arms;
All leaving a most sacred place.
Sacred for the lives that is has saved.
Sacred for the lives it could not.