We drove across town in the fresh snow and I distracted him with chatting about airplanes and farm animals and bridges and tunnels and anything else that popped into either of our minds.It felt like a race to keep one step ahead of his questions about where he was going and why. She did not want him to know. She was so afraid. She thought that he would worry the way that she was worrying and she wanted to spare him that distress. A whole team of people knew that he was coming and they had been making a path for him for months.
Connections… The family support worker at his kindergarten is connected to 360 Communities and they are connected to folks who care enough to make sure that a little boy who has rotting teeth and dangerously infected gums can be connected to a dental surgeon who donates his time and is connected to a clinic with nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors and a lovely woman who brings a therapy dog to visit patients who have trouble connecting.
That’s where we met Getty. She was a perfect distraction from what was ahead. He smiled from ear to ear as he patted her with his blackened teeth showing for the last time. He was guided through changing into hospital clothes and selecting his favorite chapstick flavor for his mask and touring the room with the stars in the ceiling while the interpreter quietly spoke all the details of the procedure into his mother’s ear. He was the picture of naiveté. His innocence and trust kept him in the dark even as he was squarely in the middle of all that was about to happen to him. All of the connections has been seamless.
He took the mask to his mouth and breathed hard in and out until he fell into a deep sleep. That’s when she crumbled. I held her as she cried and cried and cried. She had not been shielded from any of the worry. She knew that her boy was going to have almost all of his teeth extracted and those which were left would need to be emptied of infection and crowned. She now knew that he had been in so much pain for years and it had been so constant that he did not even know that he could feel different.
She cried for him.
She cried for herself.
She cried for the life that he had been born into and the ways that she had failed him because she was poor and had not been adequately connected.
Two hours passed.
A new boy was presented to her with new teeth, no more infections and a needle in his arm that he kept trying to rip out. He knew why he was there now. He was so scared and confused and angry. He kicked and cried and blood dripped out of his nose where the tube had been placed for him to breathe during the procedure. I took him and helped him to settle. She passed out. Now the two of them laid in tiny beds across the room from one another each worn out, each wanting this long day to be over, each sipping juice boxes and slowly gaining color in their cheeks.
When I checked on them, they were snuggled up into his twin bed in our basement. I thought of the fragility of each connection that brought her to our home. They could so easily be back on the street, be back in the hands of people who were not out for their good, be back to being alone….unconnected.