I was still running from an ex-spouse who continued to stalk me. I had had to move 4 times in the last six months. Money was tight and I was a nervous wreck hold “it” together by the concerns for my kids and grace of Godd. I worried about losing my job believing that the only thing that kept me employed was my past track record. At that time I was working in a small pediatric unit which unfortunately often pulled at the last vestige of a heart string that I dared be aware of.
He lay in his bed, both legs broken by an abusive adult. He loved to have stories read to him. He loved to be hugged. He loved to be wheeled over to the game console where he adored shooting the aliens from the sky. He taught me how to play, then regularly beat the tar out of my score. If he won, he got to say when, during the shift, he would take his daily injectable medication; usually after quiet time and before his favorite cartoon hero show. I think he needed the time to prepare himself and then needed his hero to remind him of the values that he held already in life.
He talked freely of his future when he would be the hero who would make all the “bad mans” be good or he would fly them to the moon where he would leave them for the aliens. He made me cry. He laughed at life. He was 5 years old.
Every day, as I put him back to bed for quiet time, he would reach up and push my cheek with one finger. Then he would smile the saddest of smiles at me. I thought I smiled back at him.
He had his ups and he had his downs. Through it all he remained a true “hero”. He learned five year old funny jokes and told them over and over and explained them when I didn’t laugh as loud as he thought they were worth. I thought I at least smiled at those that I “got” and even those that I didn’t “get”. He still pushed my cheeks, sometimes both at the same time, telling me to “laugh” bigger.
I had to move again, losing more in the process. I came back to work after 3 days off. I felt like crying. He had graduated to a wheelchair. The social service department and the county had cleared him to return home. I went in to see him. I was so happy for him. I smiled and I cried. I was losing my hero.
The next day we packed up his room and got him ready to leave. All the usual discharge rush and important instruction reminders. The social service checklist was gone over rigorously and duties completed . I get it all done in my usual efficient way, you know “just do it - don’t feel - just do”. I put him in his wheelchair and we hugged each other goodbye. He reached up and pushed on my cheeks and said, “I like it when you smile. You need to practice, okey.” “Okey.”, I said, fighting back tears,
When he had gone the unit was empty. I went into the bathroom and smiled at myself. I needed to practice. I now practice every day, sometimes, on those ‘bad” days at work, I practice twice.
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