Natalie is a hero.
Of course every parent brags about his or her children. However, I am quite firm in my assertion that Natalie stands up to scrutiny as the most perfect child, second only, perhaps, to Jesus, who apparently didn't even cry.
On Saturday, we threw a party for my sister-in-law's 30th birthday, even though she doesn't look a day over 29 and a half. Natalie, aged six, spent most of the day fretting over which dress to wear. She wanted to look best for Autie Kimmy's big day.
On top of this, she reads independently. I taught her to read at a very young age. We read novels together. Thus far we've read countless children's stories (Dr. Seuss, etc.), but it's the fact that she and I have already read novels that makes me proud. To date, we've read Old Yeller; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Holes; Because of Winn Dixie; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Last month, she saw with her grandmother Bridge to Tarabithia (while I took Mark to see Ghost Rider).
Natalie loved the movie, and my wife told her that the book was really good. She's only six, and I'm not kidding you that she said, "If you buy the book, then I'll read it." Holy crap if she hasn't read through chapter five already--all on her own. She circles words that she doesn't know and cannot learn from context, and she brings them to me for definitions.
She's also starting on multiplication. She understands the scientific method, and she enjoys writing stories and drawing. I'm not kidding. She's everything that a parent dreams.
On Sunday, I was wrestling with Mark. He's really tough, and he likes to get down and dirty. When we were done, he said that he wanted to watch a movie in Natalie's room (there's an extra TV in there on weekends). He left, and about five minutes later Natalie came out to get him and her a glass of water. She returned to her room, but ran back quickly saying, "Mark doesn't look good. His face is pale, and he looks bad."
I rose and walked to Natalie's room. Sure as she'd said, Mark was in bad shape. He looked half asleep. When I touched him, I could feel sweat, but he wasn't hot. I talked to him, but he was unresponsive.
I quickly picked him up and brought him into the family room. There I told my wife that something was wrong with Mark. I gave him to her, and I could see that she too was concerned. Gone was the brilliant fire in his eyes. Erased was his personality. He was essentially dead, sweaty weight.
"We have to take him to the hospital," I said.
"Do we take him to the hospital, or do we take him to the clinic?" she replied.
"No," I said, "we need real doctors."
About then, Mark closed his eyes, and Jennie tried furiously to rouse him. He barely stirred.
"F-it," I said. I'm calling 911. She did not argue, and that's what I did.
My thinking was this. The hospital is at least ten minutes away. The paramedics are about two minutes away.
I grabbed the phone and made the call. The fire truck arrived in about two minutes, followed by an ambulance about a minute later.
Natalie was terrified. Jennie was surprisingly calm, trying to keep Mark awake as he slipped in and out of consciousness.
I wanted to scream. I prayed silently to God, begging Him not to put me in this position, that I wasn't strong enough to suffer so. At the same time, I made the inevitable bargain that if Mark recovered, that I'd be a better person.
The paramedics and firemen came in together and took no time to assess that something was wrong. Mark was, to say the least, lethargic. He hadn't even the energy to cry in fear as they prodded his abdomen and inserted an IV.
They told us that he needed to go to the hospital, so I told my wife to go with Mark while I would drive with Natalie to the hospital.
On the way to the hospital, I nearly lost control. I was on the verge of sobbing. Natalie's presence was the only thing that kept me strong. I told her that she was a hero, that if she hadn't alerted us to Mark's condition, that we wouldn't have called for help.
In one of those moments of sheer hope and gratitude, I offered her anything that she wanted as a reward.
At the hospital, I found my wife and Mark in the trauma room. He was hooked up to machines to monitor his heart, and an IV. I gulped.
The doctor came and told us that he'd ordered a CT to check for head trauma. I said that I'd go with him, as my wife--29 weeks pregnant--could not. Mark was terrified. He'd recovered some of his color, but he was clearly in a state of near terror. I kept talking to him about the things that he loves, and that kept the two of us sane.
The CT went through without a hitch, and we went to a treatment room to await the doctor once again.
The CT came back normal, and no adequate explanation for his condition came. I'd wondered about diabetic shock, but his glucose levels were perfect. Everything was, in fact, perfect. As time went by, Mark himself came back to normal. He complained about the IV and said that the doctors who put it in were "in very big trouble."
We left the hospital that night without a real answer. There was no head or abdominal trauma, nor was there a blood-sugar problem. The best that the ER doc could say was, "Watch him tonight, and make an appointment with his pediatrician."
As we left the ER to pick up Natalie at my brother-in-law's house (he lives about two minutes from the hospital), I asked Natalie what she wanted as her reward for being such a good big sister. She said, "Either ice cream or that bowling game for you Xbox."
I was amazed. I expected her to ask for a Nintendo DS, for she'd gotten one for Christmas, but it had been stolen (we suspect) by my crystal-meth addicted sister and her crystal-meth dealing boyfriend. However, instead of asking for the $130 reward, she'd asked for either a $2 or a $15 dollar one. All she cared about, I observed, was that Mark was going to be all right.
Needless to say, we bought her ice cream on the way home, and today I bought her a Nintendo DS. Sure, I could have spent that money on things for me, but I took more joy from giving her the DS and looking at her face whilst I did so than if I'd bought myself a 50" HDTV. I told her that she's a real hero, and she looked at me with big, wonderful eyes that made me second guess my beliefs about human nature.
Today, my wife found a bump on Mark's head. This is consistent with what the ER doc opined. The pediatrician looked at it. Given that the CT showed no real trauma, she hypothesized that Mark had incurred a great deal of pain, and that the sweat and fainting were typical symptoms of pain-related stress. So Mark is just fine right now.
In the end, Natalie didn't save his life, but I don't regret spending $130 to reward her for her insightful observation. At age six, most kids don't even know the meanings of the words "Pale" and "Ashen," but those were the words that she used. I would take credit for them, seeing as how I've read so much to and with her, but I really cannot. She's beyond me, even in her meager six years.
If God reads this blog (and he ought to, since at least Golf Guy does), then he should know this: I get it. Those hours I spend on the Xbox, those mornings and afternoons that I spend hunting, those days that I spend at work so that we can have the things that we want don't really mean shit. That's right. I said shit. What matters is love. I love my son. I love my daughter. I love my wife, and I love everything else that has undeservedly been given to me. Thank you, Lord, for not making me Job. Thank you for placing things in perspective. Now, if you could only deal with Tom Cruise and the so-called Church of Scientology...