I have it all laid out on the table. Syringe, butterfly needle, alcohol swabs and a bottle of seven thousand dollar medicine on a sterile drape. We have a tourniquet, and we have sung the ABC’s while washing our hands. Time for an infusion.
Sage had a fistula, an artificial vein that made it easy to get it right. However, it aneurised, and we aren’t going to put Eden through that. It’s all up to me to get his vein, infuse the medicine without blowing his vein, and get the medicine in. His ankle is swollen, blood leaking between the bones. We have to do this.
He drank a bunch of water, he squeezed a foam ball, and I am wiping the inside of his elbow with an alcohol swab, looking. Just looking, buddy, no needles yet. The alcohol burns my nose.
The Band is playing. Specifically, The Weight. Eden loves this song. I can’t remember how it started, but he refuses to do infusions unless it’s playing. I line up several versions on my playlist, but our favorite is one from the Last Waltz. The Staples Sisters singing at the end.
I can tell he’s getting nervous so I start telling him about the song. Tighten the tourniquet. “So, Nazareth was really in Pennsylvania. People thought they were singing about all these Biblical images, but really they were singing about this town where these guitars are made…”
Deep breath. I slide the butterfly in, try not to go too deep. Blood rises up the tube. I’m in. I reach over and push the button that releases the tourniquet.
I slowly push blood that looks like water into my child. “So these guys were such good friends, they all made music in this big pink house. Only one of the guys wanted to take credit for everything, even songs he didn’t write.”
Dammit. I pull back the plunger. Nothing. His vein has blown. I pull out the needle. Cover the spot with gauze and a band aid. Eden’s eyes fill up with tears.
“Listen, I saw a good one on the left, okay?” He nods.
I put the tourniquet on the other arm. Pull it tight and start feeling for a vein.
“So anyway, they said it wasn’t about the Bible, but about people you meet in a small town. People who represent something to you.” I stick the needle in the crook of his arm.
Nothing. “Sorry, baby.”
I sit back for a minute. The Staples Sisters are are belting out their part.
“Mom, it’s ok. I know you’re trying.” Eden’s eyes are red.
I hate this. It’s not his job to comfort me, and no one should ever have to hurt their child. I should not have to do this.
“Ok, deep breaths.” We take deep breaths. The song is starting over.
I put the tourniquet back on, and try not to go in too deep this time. There is blood. I start to push, very slowly.
“So when Levon died, everyone came to see him. They were all so sad. They told him they were sorry. They all made up, right there by his bed. Some people said he was the best drummer ever, right? Because he could slow the beat down, speed it up without ruining a song. It was all instinct with him, he just understood music.”
I’m done. It’s in. I put a piece of gauze over the needle and pull it out. I put a band aid on his arm, and we’re good, at least for awhile.
He comes over and sits on my lap, even though he is several inches taller than me. Up On Cripple Creek is playing. I kiss his hair.
After he has gone to put his ankle up and watch some cartoons in his room, I stare at the syringe and the bloody gauze on the table tray in front of me. So miraculous this medicine is, so precious, so awful. Forget what you wish for, there is just that inexplicable mixture of pain and gratitude and all sorts of things you want to put into words but can’t.
Sometimes burdens are beautiful, no matter how much you wish them away.