Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Permeable Borders

June 28, 2006

Will and I got a new neighbor tonight. Another very young baby boy, as best I can tell without going over there and reading his chart. It’s a constant dilemma: I feel like I should care about our neighbors, but only so much (the lady I’d never met walking up to Ella asleep in her stroller and loudly exclaiming, “oh, she looks just like her brother!” cured me of that, but good).

It is so weird to have these neighbors come and go. Real lives, separated by a thin curtain. If there’s a family over there, and ours is over here, we all pretend to not notice the drama happening: the family conversations, the halves of phone calls, the consultations with doctors. And when the family stays the night, we get quiet and just exist in parallel for a few hours, hoping that one child won’t wake the other, and that we can all get through another night. In the morning, we try to decide if we should share a cup of coffee, or a donut, or maybe just keep to ourselves.

A couple of days ago, it was a young Hispanic couple with a beautiful baby girl. Cardiology was coming and going, and the geneticist, and a bunch of other people who I didn’t know. Everyone, preparing for the worst for several days. In addition, a regular stream of visitors came by in waves, sitting and talking and sleeping and feeding and watching World Cup, and singing hymns and offering up charismatic prayers en espanol. All wondering, I imagined, if this girl would survive. And if she did, what kind of life would she have?

The answer came, finally, on Sunday. “She’s fine. She needs a simple one-hour operation is all, and she’ll be perfectly healthy after that.” And so they went home two hours later. Leaving me in the wake of anticlimax and pretending I wasn’t jealous.

But this new little boy is all alone, at least for the night. His wet cough, gagging, and deep sobs go on for many minutes while staff members come and go, and I just don’t know what to do. Will seems to notice a little, and even got into his own crying jag about an hour ago. But then a bunch of feet showed up over there, and talked a bit and left, and then all came back. And he’s quieter now.

Maybe we can all get some sleep now. Maybe we should stay awake. Maybe this place just makes people cry, wishing they were home (even if we haven’t been there just yet). I know I’ve cried myself to sleep every night I’ve stayed. Glad to be here and yet wishing that Will and I were anywhere else.

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3 Responses to “Permeable Borders”

  1. Greta says:

    So sorry that you’re crying yourself to sleep there. I’m still thinking and praying for you so often. I really feel for you. Please give my love to Stacy and the kiddos.

  2. dave stavlnd says:


    Your Mother and I didn’t bring you up with the compassion and bravery you’ve displyed these months! Praise be to our great GOD who has been walking you and Stacy through this difficult time in your lives!



  3. John Musick says:

    Oh God Mike. I too remember those days at the Neonatal intensive care unit. I want to come and take your place.

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