Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Upside-Down Heart

Seeing as I'd avoided getting a check-up for fifteen years, I've decided to make up for it by giving my health a lot of attention. That's the way it is with me. I'm either all in or all out. You can look at the herbal supplements and prescription medications in my cupboard and see all the proof that you need.

What I forget is that I have a son who is keenly aware of my every move and word. He misses nothing, this kid. If I make a face, he's all over me:

"Mama, are you happy?"

"Yes, I'm just squinting at the sun."

Like that-kind-of attentive.

I was trying to choke down my latest supplemental beverage, gagging and grimacing as the fiber quickly thickened and congealed mid-swallow.

"MAMA! WHAT'S WRONG! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" My son parroted my disgusted face, and looked as though he was about to cry.

"Ack! Blech! Gross!" I spat the translucent gel back into the shaker cup. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm just trying to drink this fiber stuff and it tastes bad."

"Well WHY are you drinking it?" my son asked, looking at me as though I had lost my mind.

"It has fiber in it. It's supposed to make me feel better."

"You don't LOOK like you feel better," he said, eyeing me and the fiber gel still adhering to my lips.

"It's not supposed to taste good. It has fiber in it that will make my stomach feel better," I said, and rubbed all over my entire abdomen, including my colon area. As though that would politely explain my condition to a four-year-old.

"Oh no! You have a tummy ache?" He looked panic-stricken again.

"No, no. I'm fine. This fiber business is to help me poop." There, I laid it out for him in language he could understand.

"You don't need help going POOP, mom!" he grabbed his belly and had a good laugh over that one.

I really should stop kidding around with the boy so much.

So my son and I are hanging out at the park one Sunday and I call my sister. I call my sister a lot. Every day on the way home from work, and any time anything significant happens in my life (after doctor's appointments, if I don't feel well, if I lose weight, if I gain weight, if I buy a new bra, if I can't poop, if I have a flashback to our childhood that seems wholly unbelievable, you get the idea). My son is always a party to these frequent conversations, and to be honest, I hardly notice he's there. Unless he pops off with a "You just used a bad word, Mama." So he asks to talk to his Aunt Beth. He usually asks her how she is, inquires after his cousin and uncle, and then tells her he misses her.

"My ankle is sore," he begins. I watch him hold the Blackberry in one hand, gesturing with his other hand. He paces around the park, just as I had done. In fact, the entire act is a mini-Mandy performance.

"And yesterday my tummy was upset," he paused, to listen to his aunt. "Yeah, it's a little better today." There is more silent nodding into the phone, and he continues to pace around the playground, the picture of a little old man with a lot of ailments.

"I'm worried that my heart's not pink and it's upside down," he announced. I slapped my hand over my mouth and tried not to guffaw. I have no idea how my sister was handling her end of the conversation. He nodded his head at whatever it was she was suggesting.

"Yeah, maybe I should do some yoga," he agreed.

My god. I've turned my son into a hypochondriac-buddhist. My sister is always warning me that I have to watch what I say around four-year-olds. They repeat everything. I know he's been going around telling everyone, "My mom cried when Fred was in California" even though that happened a while ago.

I told my sister about the fiber drink and how I tried to explain to Max that it was to help me poop, not to hurt me.

"Why would you tell him THAT?" she yelled.

"What? Why? I didn't want him to worry!"

"Now he's going to tell everyone that his mom makes faces and drinks something yucky to make her poop!"

"Oh crap!"

I was sort of hoping he might forget, but then he crept into my bed that night. It was dark and silent in my room, and he stroked my hair in that sleepy way he does. Both of our pink upside down hearts were beating in uterine unison.

"Mama," he said.

"Yeah, baby," I murmured back, smelling his fruit-flavored hair.

"Remember when you drank that yucky stuff to make you poop?"

*This is a repost from my friends David and Kurt's site, The Julia Set. They let me blog there occasionally, but now the site is retired. Check out Kurt's new blog site here.*