Our appointment for flu shots at the Pediatrician had gone exactly as expected. I wound up restraining my howling two year-old, while grasping hands with my screaming five year-old and practically having to sit on my hysterical, flailing 7 year-old. As they each made breaks for the door, I just had to laugh at the hilarity of it all. I mean, this is what I do in a day – sit on my children as they beg for mercy.
Once the shot had successfully been administered and my middle son, Michael, finished his after-shock screams of indignation, I appeased their wounded egos and arms with a promised trip to the candy store. Amazing – the children who just moments ago, lay sprawled in misery, now jumped up and down with glee. “I guess you guys are feeling better now?” I joked.
“It didn’t even hurt.” Tyler, my oldest postured.
“Yeah. Didn’t hurt.” Julius, my youngest chorused, quickly forgetting that snot still dripped from his nose.
Michael had his arms crossed and still wasn’t talking.
“You guys are so brave.” They all looked up at me thrilled. Even Michael cracked a small smile. Honestly? Did they not remember the screaming hysteria? The horrified nurse? The arm wrestling? Is that all it took with boys? A thinly veiled compliment? A stroke of the ego? The answer was smiling up at me, times three.
We left the pediatrician’s office, but before we headed out for the sweet reward, I stopped at the office of another doctor located across the hall. I opened his office door and popped my head in to ask the receptionist a quick question while my boys ran up and down the short corridor. The conversation lasted maybe one minute. This was it, “Hi there. I needed a flu shot and was considering a new primary care doctor. Do you take United Health Care and are you accepting new patients? Great. I’ll call for an appointment.”
I popped my head back out and saw my two older children racing back and forth. The narrow, short hallway strip was about 25 feet long, end to end, with about three offices on each side and book-ended by a set of heavy double doors. In the front, the doors led to the street, and the back, to the parking lot. I looked left, then right. I quickly walked to the further end of the hallway, then to the other.
Small gurgles of panic began bubbling in my chest. “Uh, guys! Where’s Julius?” They looked at each other and shrugged. My heart thumped a little faster. Now I ran from one corner of the hall to the other. “Julius?” I called out, opening each of the few office doors, looking around, noting only baffled looking receptionists and people sitting and waiting. I ran back up and down the hallway helplessly.
“Julius?” I called, my voice rising an octave. “Jullius!” I could hear Michael and Tyler giggling in some distant world. I was on the verge of freaking out, but refused to give in to it. One of the receptionists from my pediatrician’s office came out and immediately noted my distress. I looked from one set of double doors to the other. “Stay here!” I ordered the boys and bolted for the front door.
The doors were heavy. Really heavy. I was right there. They were right behind me. How? I hit the street and looked around. Nothing but a busy street. A really freaking busy street. Time slowed. I sharply felt the cool air sting my cheeks. I was biting my top lip, looking left to right, completely lost. Oh my God! Oh my God! Is this the moment? Is this where I lose my two year-old and never see him again? Is this really happening? Nothing around but cars and street. I was there, but it was like being paralyzed in the matrix. I raced from one end of the street to the other calling his name. I didn’t know what to do.
A woman across the street, adjacent from me, called out. “Are you looking for a little boy?”
“Yes!” I shrieked. “YES!” It didn’t sound like my voice.
“I saw him walk that way.” She pointed toward the other corner.
What?? My brain screamed. You saw a two year-old walking alone down a street and you walked in the other direction??? But I had no time or any right to point fingers. I raced to the corner, stopped and looked up and down. Nothing. “Julius…” My voice was broken. I could barely call his name. As I was about to race down that block, the receptionist from my pediatrician came through the double doors with Julius in her arms.
“Oh my God!” I broke down in a million pieces as she handed me my baby, clutching him to me in a suffocating embrace. My hands were shaking. My body was shaking. I sat down on the cement street rocking and crying into his curls.
“He was out back, playing in the parking lot. He’s fine.” She said, with just a hint of judgment that I didn’t begrudge her. I collected myself and my other boys from the office.
Finally, I had them all secured in the car, but I couldn’t move.
“Uh mom,” Tyler giggled, “you need to drive.”
“To the candy store!” Michael shouted happily.
“Yay!” Julius chimed.
It was nothing to them. Five minutes of their mother running crazy.
But I was stuck, my hands gripping the wheel tightly. When I think about what could’ve happened… I couldn’t even. I took a deep breath to calm myself. They may have taken a needle today, but I had a dose of reality. And no amount of candy could fix it.
*This was three years ago, going for flu shots again recently brought me back to my own shot in the heart. Yep. Still hurts.
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