This story was written by my husband in memory of our beautiful angel, Holdon.
Written by Arun Regunathan
© 2013 Arun Regunathan. All rights reserved.
His head was positioned on top of my right arm. He laid across my lap with two pillows acting as the barrier between us. The larger of the two tubes erupting from his mouth was for air and it vibrated as he lay with his eyes tightly pinched. A lonely tear stood at the corner of his right eye and danced as the ventilator did it’s job. The hat on his head sat low, covering his eyebrows and making him come off as a hoodlum.
My wife sat next to me, her head rested against my shoulder. Her tears cascaded down my arm leaving streaks as they ran out of gas. She tried to talk, but the only words out of her mouth were superficial, just like mine.
“Are you okay?”
“How is he?”
“He looks good.”
“Are you comfortable?”
A waterfall ensued from my face. Dripping onto the blankets meant to protect him. Meant to keep him dry. When all was said and done, an entire box of facial tissues, and then some, had been used.
My jaw quivered and my eyesight blurred.
How many people can say the first time they ever held their newborn son, they knew would also be the last?
He was extubated from the standard ventilator with the hopes that he would be able to breath on his own. This was their second attempt.
He lasted for 50 minutes.
At 9:00 in the morning, as I was in the shower and about to get ready for work, my wife was on the phone with the hospital. She was getting good news.
When I got out of the shower, still dripping with the shower water I had not mopped off with my mildew-smelling towel, she told me they were planning to extubate him that day. This was the first attempt. Giddy with joy she leapt out of bed, phone still in hand yet off. We hugged.
Me naked, her not.
We decided that we would get to the hospital as soon as possible so we would be able to see him and possibly even hold him for the first time.
I rushed to work and talked to everyone I could to ask them whether or not they would be able to stay for me. A few bit. They knew I wanted to leave. But I did not tell any of them why.
I scarfed down some food and it made my stomach bubble. Nausea. I could feel the acid rushing up my esophagus as the day proceeded. Yet I was still happy. I did not tell anyone why.
I did not want to jinx anything and with all that had gone wrong, I felt that I was entitled to hold on to this morsel of joy. Just before I clocked out, I could not contain myself and let slip to one of my friends what was going to happen. The expression on his face was that of elation.
We took a shot just before I left.
When I got home, still in a rush to leave, my wife told me that they had to re-intubate him already. He could not handle the additional work.
He lasted one hour.
I walked into work the morning after he had to be re-intubated and one of my friends said, “Congratulations.”
I said, “For what.”
Then I had to explain to him what had happened.
His face as well as those around him dropped. They could not make eye contact with me and I could not blame them.
For the rest of the day, very few people talked to me.
The most important day of my life.
She placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “I just took a pregnancy test and it’s positive.” I rolled over and tried to open my crust covered eyes only to have the light cower my lids back shut. I reached toward my night table and grabbed my rewetting eye drops and carefully placed two drops in each eye. She was seated next to me on the bed, her left leg supporting the rest of her body, the right slung towards the floor. I reached up to her and pulled her down across the bed, holding her tight against my chest. Her forehead was salty from the sweat that no doubt poured out from her skin upon viewing the two stripes across the wand. Her lips were shaking. Her body too.
She tried to cry, but the conflicting thoughts of happiness and fear prevented her from losing touch with her life-long desire. We laid there for what seemed like hours only to realize it had only been five minutes.
“I don’t know what to do.”
“Everything will be okay.”
The first words that escaped my lips. And for all the thoughts running through my head, for every idea that coursed through my mind, no other words were said. I was happy, but I couldn’t show my joy.
Today, the White Sox won their opening day game 6-0. Paul Konerko homered in the first inning and Mark Buerhle pitched seven scoreless innings including an unbelievable play in the fifth inning in which he kicked a batted ball that was hit towards him. When it rolled out of bounds on the first baseline, he gave chase and flipped the ball between his legs directly into the bare hand of the first baseman, Konerko.
This came the day after a 7.2 earthquake hit Baja California, just south of San Diego.
We felt it.
The room shook and the DVD racks banged against the wall repeatedly, confusingly until we realized what was going on. Both of us commented upon how the room continued to shake as a small ship on the open sea. For more than twenty seconds (before you criticize the length of time, stop and count to twenty slowly) the entire apartment swayed until we felt sea sick.
Calls ensued and text messages were abundant. However, none of them were about our son.
It was the day that we found out about the complications surrounding his time in the womb.
I had to pick up my mother and mother-in-law from my apartment where they had spent the night as I stayed in the hospital with my wife after her emergency C-section. I walked down the long, eggshell corridor and pulled out my cell phone.
My cousin had texted me that he was in town and that I should call him if I needed any help. I decided to call him from my car and tucked my phone away. As I was waiting for the elevator, he said, “Hey.”
I corralled my shock and said, “hi” back to him.
He had been sitting in the waiting room hoping that I would call him. He left to pick up our mothers and brought them back to the hospital.
I had to pick up my mother-in-law from the airport. This was one day after the birth of our son. I left the hospital early after having slept on a couch near bedside hoping that I would have a chance to shower before picking her up so I could wash off the stale smell of hospital toothpaste, Jell-O and body odor.
Immediately after getting out of the shower, the phone rang.
Doctor 1 said, “His bowel is perforated and needs to be removed.”
Doctor 2 said, “He needs to go into surgery in the next few hours.”
Doctor 3 said, “Do you give your consent?”
I said, “Yes” and pulled on my underwear.
Wiping the tears off my face and plastering on a fake smile that anyone could read through, I went to the airport and picked up my wife’s mother. She smiled, we hugged.
I told her about the situation and she kept a smile on her face that I knew was just for me. We drove for 28.2 miles making small talk and hoping that the other would not bring up anything to make the situation uncomfortable.
We got to see my son before he went into surgery.
I sat in the waiting room, my mom by my side. The floor was wet. One giant puddle, saturated with the tears I tried to hide from everyone else in the room.
Everyone saw. Everyone knew.
There was a priest who said prayers for a few of the people in the room, hoping that their children would make it through their ordeal. He was happy to do so and reassured every stressed parent that their children would be alright.
My legs were so stoic, my lips so dry, that I couldn’t ask him to do the same for me.
I held my son.
I kissed him on the forehead.
I liked to think that he tried to kiss me back when I hovered over him, wrenching my back to get to him in my arms.
His feet kicked every so often and he flung his arms into the air occasionally. He seemed healthy in every way with the exception of the ostomy bag stuck to the side of his bulging stomach.
Every word that came out of my mouth reminded me of high school. I say things to be comforting to his fragile body and pinched shut eyes. I feel like I’m taking a true/false test and all the questions are about me.
The only one taking the test was me.
Check one and only one:
|Everything will be alright||
|I’ll always be there for you||
|You’re the best thing in my life||
|I will love you forever||
|I can’t wait to bring you home||
|I can’t wait to hold you every day||
|We will get through all of this||
I know the answers. No one else needs to. I don’t have the heart to grade it.
I hugged my brother.
The last time I remember hugging my brother was in 2005 after the Chicago Bears beat the Arizona Cardinals after being down 20 points in the fourth quarter. We jumped around like children in a full bar in Baltimore, Maryland with our sister staring at us in dismay. Embarrassed by our behavior.
This hug was different.
He couldn’t talk. Regardless of the fact that he couldn’t was the fact that he did not know what to say.
I love him and love that he came.
Another one of my cousins came the next day. Her collected demeanor was so incredibly calming that the mood immediately shifted from despair to hope. She brought a light that neither myself or my wife thought we were capable of seeing at the time.
I hugged her for the first time I could remember.
And I meant it.
I have not held him yet.
Not in my arms at least.
I’ve held his hands which are dwarfed by my thumbnail. I’ve caressed his head which was no bigger than a tennis ball. I’ve squeezed his feet which pushed with so much force that the idea that he was sick seemed preposterous.
I’ve kissed his forehead.
He held my fingers.
The doctors told us that he was really sick. They asked us what we wanted to do. We said we wanted to keep pushing.
The doctors told us that he was digressing.
The doctors told us that he was digressing.
The doctors told us that he was digressing.
The doctor who is in the lead for our son stood next to us. She put her hand on my wife’s shoulder and gently rubbed.
For twenty minutes she spoke to us about what was happening.
Her soft-spoken tone and sympathetic voice were typically a comfort. On that day, however, they felt like rusted nails scraping over recent rug burns.
I sat silently hoping the torture would soon end.
I wanted to yell at her to “Shut Up!!”
I wanted to scream at her to do her job.
I wanted to hit her . . . and I’ve never wanted to hit anything before.
My wife kept speaking. Hounding the doctor for answers. For a way out. I can not blame her. What would my mother have done if the situation were concerning me. What would any mother have done?
Every moment that I took away from my absent gaze to look at her made me realize that she still had every ounce of hope within her.
In her heart, our son would soon be home.
In her mind, he was just getting over a cold.
I love her for that.
Chapters 1-4: Congratulations, you’re having a baby.
Chapters 5-8: Pregnancy sucks (the man and the woman).
Chapters 9-12: Hey, something might be wrong.
Chapters 13-16: Take some time off, go to Mexico.
Chapters 17-20: I don’t know how to tell you this, but . . .
Chapters 21-24: It’s a boy.
Chapters 22-28: Well, it should be a happy day, but . . .
Chapters 29-32: Not as good as we had hoped.
Chapters 33-36: We’re not sure what to do.
Chapters 37-40: How would you like to handle this?
Select Chapter 7.
I kissed my wife on the lips in the morning and told her that I loved her. I rubbed her belly that now protruded like a basketball under a blanket. She giggled and I smiled before I walked away to get in the shower.
I got clean, I headed to work, I got off, I came home.
My day was done.
She was needy.
She washed with a particular soap. Her hair needed a particular shampoo. Her feet were scrubbed with a pumice stone and nails were clipped with a Revlon Two Prong Ridged Edge clipper.
Her first meal of the day was a smoothie consisting of fresh blueberries, strawberries, bananas and cantaloupe, milk, orange juice, wheat germ and flax seed. This was to satisfy her need for fruits and vegetables as well as Omega-3. She followed the fictional “What to do When You’re Pregnant” guidelines to perfection.
She did not smoke.
She did not drink.
She did not eat fatty foods.
She did not do anything that could possibly hurt a fetus.
She played ball as if the only way to do it was the way a workbook would tell you.
I was irritated. Everything had to be perfect.
But that’s how precautious she wanted to be. And if she wanted to make sure that her pregnancy went perfect, then why would I argue. He was my son too. Her extra safe measures could only serve to make sure that there were no complications concerning his birth.
There were complications concerning his birth.
As I held his tiny head in the crook of my arm, I knew that I truly loved him. I knew that he was everything I had ever wanted in a son. I knew that I would not have to be envious of the children that my brothers, sister or cousins had had because I had one of my own.
I loved my son because he was completely deserving of love. He deserved every ounce of care and compassion.
I rode my bike to Scottsdale Park and got it stuck in the mud as I was trying to do bike tricks in the construction site. I came home with a few bruises and a lot of scrapes and scratches. I was not crying, but I knew that I had done something wrong.
After my dad dug my bike out of the mud, he told me I was not allowed to ride it for a week.
At the time it seemed like harsh discipline, but it was one week and didn’t end up meaning very much in the whole scheme of my life.
This is a flashback.
This is the point where I look back upon my own life and think of father-son moments that I would be missing out on.
Father-son moments that while not particularly pleasant, I still wish I would be able to have.
I remember when . . .
I sat alone in the dark with the TV the only source of light in the room. My brother and sister were sleeping on the two couches in my living room, but were so deep in their sleep that conversation was impossible.
While I sat in the room watching a horrific episode of Saturday Night Live, I knew that I had stayed up so I would be able to talk to them about everything that was happening. Talk to them about my feelings and concerns and what ever other crap that was going on in my head.
Then I realized that I didn’t want to talk to them.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
I would rather sit in the living room watching commercials for Burger King and sipping at a glass of wine with my lips clenched tight and my mind as blank as possible than talking to people about things they could not do anything about.
I was glad that they were there.
I love them for having come.
I would not have been a good conversation.
Another cousin of mine came into town. His brother came the day before. They could not do anything either.
My wife held him in her arms knowing that she would never get to hold him again. The tears were endless and tissue paper boxes began to disappear one at a time. Lost in a vortex of sorrow.
When the decision time came, the nurses entered our room along with the doctor and the breathing tube was pulled out of his mouth. He laid relatively still and with one deep gasp, he opened his eyes for the last time ever and laid motionless in his mother’s arms.
At 2:26 PM on July 20th 2010 after 106 days of life, Holdon Fernand Regunathan succumbed to nature and left this world for the spiritual one.