Not Our First Rodeo

Essay

Though Luke is doing much better now, two weeks ago he came down with a cold, by the afternoon his wheezy breaths were too much to ignore so off to the doctors we went.

Our first bout with breathing problems happened a year ago last February we met our parents in Florida for a little winter reprieve. The trip turned into a nightmare just a few days after it started. Noah quickly came down with a cold and was breathing rapidly enough that we first called our doctor in Utah for advice and then took Noah to a local clinic. The doctor there thought he had pneumonia and an ear infection. Though I noticed his feet were a slight hue of blue we put our trust in the doctor, picked up the prescriptions and went home for a night of little sleep. By morning we were in a nearby hospital’s ER, having a battery of tests run, x-rays and then watching in horror as two people held Noah down while a third tried and failed and then tried again to get an IV in him. Eventually, the doctor returned to say that they feared Noah had RSV and that the transport team from Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital was en route to pick him up. Why, I asked, could we not bring him ourselves? His response brings me chills to this day. “The intensive care unit has their own transport vehicle so that they can monitor him.”

After what seemed like hours the team arrived and loaded Noah into the back of the ambulance. Erin and I rode up front could watched our helpless son with a little oxygen mask over his face on small TV screen. Our parents followed us in the car. When we arrived we were led through what seemed like endless hallways to a small cluttered room with a large sliding glass door. We were told we needed to wear gowns and masks at all times in the room. Noah was placed in a bed that resembled more of a lion’s cage at the circus than a crib for a child. The room next to us was home to a little girl who was waiting for a new heart. This put our predicament into perspective a little bit. But no matter how small your problems seem in the shadow of others, in the moment of your crisis your problems are still monumental. In all Noah spent three days in the Pediatric ICU. The staff at the hospital was amazing, as were the staff at the Clubhouse next door which gave us a place to get away from the beeping machines and grab a shower and a nap, free of charge.

Almost exactly a year later I was on my way home from a month in Vermont, after my father’s passing, while Erin was taking Noah to the doctor’s. It was determined that he had pneumonia and was given the normal list of antibiotics. The following Tuesday night another trip to the doctor revealed that his oxygen level was low enough to require assistance and an order was placed to have home health drop off a home oxygen tank. The familiar hum of the oxygen machine soon filled the house; my father had had the same machine sitting in his bedroom just a month earlier. It was not a welcome sound. Noah has the resilience and optimism of my father; he seemed un-bothered by the “medicine” in his nose or the tube that snaked down his chest and between his legs, turning into a fifty foot tail as he called it.. He rarely complained and went about the day as best he could in the condition that he was in. Within a week’s time he was back to his normal self.

Luke and I are sitting in a tiny exam room, trying to keep ourselves entertained while we wait for the doctor to come in and tell us what he has seen on the x-ray that was just taken using some sort of medieval torture device they certainly found in the basement, where they place the children on a board with two holes cut in it for their legs then lift their arms straight above their heads and strap this plastic tube like thing around their torso and then lock them into place. They do this to limit the amount of radiation exposure, the idea being the less they move, the better the chance of a good x-ray.

The doctor came in, pulled up the x-rays and showed me where in fact the pneumonia was in Luke’s lungs. Not that I really understood the picture. He told me he would need breathing treatments along with an antibiotic.

“Do you have a nebulizer at home”? he asked

“Yes,” I said. “Unfortunately this is not our first rodeo with this sort of thing.”

Moving Home

Essay

In six weeks time we will leave this landscape of gridded streets and jagged mountains for the rolling hills and winding roads of Vermont.
We came here originally for Erin’s medical residency and to fullfill both our childhood dreams of moving west. We though we would stay for three years and then move to a small mountain town. God, it seems, had different plans for us. I landed a job that I truly enjoyed going to everyday and did not want to give up. So we bought a house, prepared for the arrival of Noah and began to get comfortable with the fact that Salt Lake City would be our home. We were never really completely comfortable, however, and each time we went back to see family or traveled to some small town we would ask ourselves, Could we live here? To this degree the Lord gently turned us in the right direction, by way of a slick flyer that arrived in the mail one day. As a Physician Erin is always getting flashy, yet slightly vague, postcards in the mail telling her about great opportunities in this or that part of the country. This one happened to be in New Hampshire and just like that we decided that moving back east would not be so bad. We told our parents, researched the area, talked to a recruiter, dreamed about what could be, and thankfully got no further than that. As a wise friend told us, any job that sends those flyers is not a job you want, because it is going to suck. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we were not moving any time soon.
This past June the medication that was keeping my father’s cancer at bay stopped working. No one was sure how much time he had left, so Noah and I flew home. In July the entire family flew back so that Dad could meet Luke. In October we flew back again and spent most of the time looking at houses and wondering if Erin could find a job at the local hospital and if she could live in such a rural area. The answer was no, but she could live in Burlington-the place we had met, the place we had moved from, the place just a few months ago we felt going back to would be like giving up. Things had changed now, though. I was desperate to have the boys be closer to their grandfather so that they could spend more time with him. Sometimes, no matter how much you fall down on your knees begging and pleading with the Lord, he still has different plans than you would like. Such was the case with my father. He passed away in January days before Erin found out she had gotten the job and we would be moving back home.
I should not be surprised that we are returning to the land of my birth. The mountains after all are carved into my wedding ring and inked into my forearm. No matter how many times I have left, I have always returned and no matter where I have lived, I have always called Vermont home. This will not be the small mountain town we dreamed of living in before we had kids,but sometimes when you become a parent the dreams you had before just don’t make sense anymore. Moving back gives the boys an opportunity to have grand adventures and find enchanted lands just outside the back door, just as we were able to do as kids. It means raising them in a small town where year after year not much seems to change and your neighbors watch your children grow and help you out in your time of need. This is the kind of place we want to raise Noah and Luke and by the grace of God we will be lucky enough to do so.

Finely Aged Cheese

Essay

I’m aged thirty-four years today, which makes me sound like old cheese, all be it fancy cheese. In the quiet moments of late, of which there are few, I’ve been thinking about my journey thus far. Wondering where the next half of my life will lead and shaking my head at where I am today. Never in all my boyhood dreams, of which there were many, did I think I would be a stay-at-home dad, a follower of Jesus, a writer, an artist and in some respects alive and happy. Happy being a relative term these days, two months after my father’s death. This morning after I had poured myself a cup of coffee I pulled out the corny birthday card he sent me a few years ago. The card made me laugh out loud and made my wife and mother groan. It shows a flock of sheep, one of them saying “I herd it was your birthday.” on the inside it says “Sorry, that was baaaad!” Just typing it now makes me laugh. The card once hung on my office wall and it helped me, as Dad often did, through rough days.
If I think hard enough, perhaps this is part of a dream come true. Certainly the love and children are, and if I dig deeper still, so is the writing. Though I never admitted it until months after I was forced into the unemployment line. Writing has given me a great joy, more than any other medium I have practiced over the years. It makes me feel as if a piece that always seemed out-of-place is now set correctly .
This happy mood and the sadness of the loss of my father is a strange cocktail. An acquired taste much like scotch, which my Dad enjoyed, I began drinking the night we learned there was nothing more to be done for him. My brother poured three glasses and together with Dad we toasted the man who was a role model of grand proportion to us both.

If Philpot Ruled The State

Cartoons, Utah Politics

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Salt Lake Tribune Article