I’ve been a bit absent recently. I’ve gotten on my key pad to write: first about adoption and all that it entails for the adopting family and the needy child that gets yanked out of their, albeit uncomfortable, environment and expected to assimilate to a new one. Then about the children of incarcerated parents: did you know the Department of Justice has estimated that approximately 1.5 million children under the age of 18 in the US had an incarcerated parent at the start of this decade? The separation that arrest and lock-up entails, especially if its repeated, for children of all ages leads to a plethora of long-term ills that the child, and we as a society, continue to grapple with decades after the incarceration is over. Within the same two weeks of absence I even sat down to blog about the usefulness of aid in areas of this world where tradition is so deeply rooted that what we may identify as a situation in need of aid, the intended recipients may identify as following along the lines of tradition. Repeatedly, it is the women that recognize the need for change and become agents of it in their communities. Sadly, many of them are met with a fate that often debilitates their efforts for good.
So all this was swirling in my head while I searched for a focal point to begin on, until I was jarred back to my own reality last night at 2am. My youngest son was loudly gasping for air while he sat up in his crib looking longingly at the door for his Mom to walk in and save him. There can’t be a more excruciating pain than to be the helpless mother of a needy child.
As I picked him up to soothe him I realized he has a cough that sounds like its coming from the belly of Hell and he’s gagging on his own saliva. “How did we descend from healthy kid to gasping for air in four hours”, I thought? As usual my mind crept in the nagging question: “What would a poverty stricken uneducated mother of 7 do in the slums of the third world at the same moment?”
So I flung on a sweater, jammed on my sneakers, grabbed my son (and husband), shot out the door to the car and raced to the ER nearby… screeched around the corner to the “new ER entrance” and slammed on the brakes in front of the well lit entrance. At this point my son is singing songs and describing the glaring color of the “EMERGENCY” sign. Just as my mind is about to flood with “where do I park!” an old diminutive Hispanic man saunters up to the car and opens my door. His face bears leather tanned skin with hard won age grooves. Methodically and calmly, he hands me a little white cardboard. “Valet” I read on his jacket.
“Great!” I scream inside my own head. Then grab my son and dash in the door marked ‘ER Entrance’. I emerge into an empty lobby, spanking new with a little corner for tots to play and a quiet TV on a news station. An engaging man at the counter ahead asks: “how can we help you tonight?” “He’s gasping for air”, I blurt. The man glances over, detects no gasping. No matter. Within 30 minutes we’ve been triaged by an incredibly knowledgeable and helpful nurse, we’ve received a breathing treatment in a private room with all the necessary apparatuses protruding from the wall, we’ve seen and talked, at pacifying length, to a physician who informs us that our son has a viral cough that sounds worse than it is. Competent, smiling people have taken care of us and are now ushering us back out the door to our car waiting outside – with nary a penny spent but for the valet at $6.
Back at home, my son tucked back safely in bed, my mind tucked back into its comfort zone, I curl up to sleep and realize all I can think of are the millions of women who may find themselves in the same circumstance – with not nearly the same amount of readily available support to get through it. How can there be this amount of disparity on one globe, among one species, all needing the same basic things: health and security?