By the time that Alex was five years old, our family routine was as solid as it could be. Even with the ups and downs, we all seemed to be flowing in synch. We owned a beautiful house and the children were all in school right down the street. Manuel was working overtime everyday at Lockheed and I was working in Critical Care through nursing registries. That allowed me to make my own schedule. The night shift was my favorite, but to earn extra money I would work a double three times a week.
One morning after doing my sixteen hours plus, I was finally in my car driving up the hill and onto the freeway. My eyes were burning, my head aching and my body shaking from being up for the last forty hours. The drive home was like a beautiful painting with the sun just coming up and casting its rays on the old oak trees, fields of cows, and the rocks on the side of the road that Manuel and I had climbed a million times. Finally, I was home, parked the car and went inside. Max, my wonderful, reliable Max, made certain that Crystal and Alex got to school on time. I knew he would.
Manuel had left the coffee pot on for me, and there was a cup ready for me to fill. That is where I found the note that Max had left me. My eyes swelled with tears while I read his fifth grade writing, telling me that Alex woke up sick and couldn’t go to school. So, he gave him his medicine and called a neighbor to see if she could babysit him until I was home from work. He assured me that he sent all of his medicine with him, along with some fresh clothes in case he threw up again. Max went on to tell me that he braided Crystal’s hair and picked out her clothes, then made lunch for them all. He even wrote the phone number of Alex’ doctor down and told me to call him as soon as I was home.
How did this happen? When did this happen? Had I truly relinquished my parental obligations to my ten-year-old? I was shocked and ashamed, not to mention wracked with guilt. This definitely was not the way things were supposed to be, and I had been completely blind to it for much too long. Now, it is my turn to try to make things right. When Manuel came home from work that night, I showed him the note. There really was only one answer. I had to quit work in order to be the best parents that we could be for all three children. Max, my first child, who I had always relied on, was missing his precious childhood. From now on I will be there to braid Crystal’s hair, take Alex to the hospital or Emergency Room, and make everybody’s lunches. I would be the one to find the doctor’s phone number and call.
There were going to be some huge changes. Our somewhat smooth sailing had just hit some stormy weather. There are so many ways that caring for your chronically ill child will change your life. And we begin again.