|By: Jeff Stimpson|
| I didn't see my son Alex for two
days. He's in a hospital uptown. For eight months Alex has been in the hospital and I've
been going after five, but this week I had to work late.
During the workday Jill phoned to say that he was smiling a lot and confirm that his favorite thing in the world is a foot-long version of the purple Teletubby Tinky-Winky. Over the phone I've heard Jill making it talk to him: "Eh-oh, Awecks! Eh-oh!"
She has the high tones down pat; I'm pretty sure I can't do it as well. "Eh-oh, Awecks! Eh-oh! Again! Again!" In the background I heard him gurgle.
I still can't get over that he makes noise. Jill asked if I wanted to talk to him, and I said yes and there was a moment of silence before I heard a sound like the sound of other people's babies. I heard "glug-gaa." I pictured how his face splits when he smiles, the corners of the lips dimpling. Positively dad-like. When he gets really excited and smiles until he can't smile any wider, he just hisses. Jill said he also kicked his legs. The only bump: this was another day on "CPAP belly," where the vent pumps so much air into him that his stomach distends. The doctors were on it.
Monday and Tuesday sort of melded into one day. I remember that at quarter to six on Tuesday I was still in the office, working late as the sun dipped over New Jersey and sliced the wall next to me with orange. The office was silent. I was going home soon. Since last June, one hospital robe after another has told me to take care of myself. So I got myself home early on Monday. Then on Tuesday a meeting blossomed at 5 o'clock, and I decided to take the unprecedented step of not seeing Alex for two days in a row.
Yet even as that decision settled in during early afternoon, I went to work on other things. I phoned my caseworker at my insurance company and heard her say that the policy I have through my job pays for almost all of hospitalization for my family. Sometimes I've found it hard to warm to this job, but this insurance news propelled me into the office of Howard, my boss, and made me fling ideas at him. "Earn it," something whispered in my head as I talked to Howard, "earn it earn it earn it."
After work I did not immediately board the Queens-bound bus, but lingered in Macy's picking out onesies: blue checkered, blue with a puppy, soft brown and amber with a kitten. The onesies I picked out were in sizes for age 6 months and a weight of 14 pounds. Alex is five months old gestationally, eight months old real time, and he weighs only 11 pounds. But I pulled my Visa card like Churchill lighting a cigar, three pounds be damned. "Keep the receipt," Jill had warned, concerned not so much about Alex's weight as daddy's taste.
On Tuesday Jill picked up recent pictures from the one-hour shop. In one, she is talking while Alex stares at her as if thinking, "That's so cute -- she's making grown-up sounds." That was a week ago. Jill reports hes drooling a lot and may be cutting a first tooth. "And oh," Jill reported, "hands to the mouth big time." He didn't do that on Sunday, as least as much, that I can remember. Later that night the amber kitten passed inspection easily, the blue checkered earned a nod, and the blue puppy prompted Jill to ask, "Did you keep the receipt?"
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