I can hear him coming up the stairs before I can see him. He’s got a Spiderman sticker on his right forearm, a Porky Pig sticker on his left forearm and a wad of cotton taped down with a Backyardigans band aid in the crook of his arm. He’s bursting with news for me. “Nana, my liver’s larging! ” He pulls up his tshirt to show me his liver. We settle down on my bed to talk about his visit to the hospital lab to have blood drawn. “It hurt awfully and I cried. But then I was brave. My stickers are because I was so excellent!”
My five-year-old grandson is feeling achy and tired and out of sorts. We’ve just found out he has mononucleosis and everyone needs a hug. I can tell he is worried. We snuggle together to spend some quality time with the iPad and Dora the Explorer, tracing upper and lower case letters. He tells me he visited his school that afternoon to get his work. His teacher misses him and he misses her, too. We look at the pictures his preschool classmates have made for him, to cheer him up until he is well enough to return to school. They make him sadder. He tells me his heart hurts along with his liver. My heart hurst, too. I want to protect him from the world.
We eat fat blackberries and he has a juicy ring of color around his mouth. We read this week’s top five favorite books. He stays for dinner and I cook his favorites: broccoli, mashed potatoes and roasted chicken. He wants to have a bed picnic- eating dinner on the bed instead of at the table in the kitchen. I would let him eat dinner on the moon if it makes him feel better!
He asks for a foot rub and I massage thick vanilla body butter into the soles of his feet and up his calves. His muscles are sore and this feels as good as it smells. He sighs and asks me to rub his feet forever. I will, I absolutely will. When it’s finally time for his daddy to pick him up, everyone has softened up a bit. I’ve cast off the stress of the day spent preparing reluctant eighth-graders for state testing, and his liver is less larging than it was when he arrived. I am so grateful for small, soft moments.