When I Told Mom

For a few weeks all I could really think of is what it would be like to be cut open from my trachea to my sternum: I wouldn’t really be able to move because they’ll rip apart my chest muscles when thy fix my heart. I’ll probably have a big wire sticking out of my chest while my bones heal. I’ll probably have an IV in for a long time. I’ll probably have a catheter in my wang for a while. At some point, I will probably poop myself (either in a diaper or in a bedpan). I’ll be completely useless around the house and, depending on what time of year it is, that could just be an inconvenience or a health issue (The Wife doesn’t do what you call “cleaning,” so if this was in the dog days of summer, that’s a lot of spoiled food sitting on the counter). I’ll never be able to pick up Lemon again. I probably won’t be able to pick up the Other One.

After I got all that out of my system (mostly by researching the various surgeries for my condition and my age), I started to think of other people this could be affecting. People like my mom.

My mom went with me to most of my cardiological checkups. I figured she deserves to know. But it’s always difficult to gauge my mom. I remember once she told my dad that she’d never talk to him again if he returned a ski rope to the store. I remember her crying after a conversation we had where I informed her that I wasn’t having sex with a bunch of girls I just happened to be friends with.

One Sunday, The Wife and I and Lemon took the trek up to Flint (murder capital of the U.S.!) to give her the news. I suggested we lead with “Baby number two is on the way!” before we mention that I could have a massive heart attack at any second.

When we got there, my mom was making lunch (it was on a bartender’s salary, so I believe the menu consisted of Eggos and sausage). So we all sat down, I gave Lemon some berries, and said that “We have two pieces of news. The first is that we’re pregnant again.” Mommy got all happy and congratulated us. “The second is that I may have to have open-heart surgery sometime very soon.”

You would expect – especially in this instance where the news revolves around your first born being cut open or dying (the only two choices, really) – is shock or outrage or grief or just bitter surprise and disappointment. What I got was: “Well, you hate to hear a thing like that.”

I think that’s what my grandpa said when we told him my cousin’s son – his middle daughter’s second husband’s older sister’s middle daughter’s oldest son – might be autistic.

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