In the wee hours after Nicholas’ blood pressure dropped to his boots I took Frankie back to the Ronald McDonald House. Tomorrow, he turns 15. This morning, after less than 3 hours of sleep, he’s back in Alberta Children’s Hospital, thick, almost curly hair rumpled, his young face tired and not in the way a teenager is tired from late nights playing video games or hanging out watching movies with friends, but tired in the way of being heart – sick. FH has been snoozing beside Nick’s bed. He picks his head up off the arm of the chair and groans with a cramp in his neck. Sleepily he says Nick is out of danger. His blood pressure is improving.
Legs turn to rubber and I sit down hard. The realization that Nicholas is dying is a metal stake inch by inch, being driven into my heart. Auntie Betty Anne arrives before the breakfast trays. We are moths drawn to her light. She takes Frankie away for lunch. For a while in the afternoon she sits with Nick and makes him giggle. She doesn’t go back to Strathmore and insists that she stay the night with Nicholas. He beams. FH and I fall asleep holding each other.
September 23, 1999
Happy 15th Birthday Frankie.
For my dear dead mother, in all honesty for myself, and for my son Nicholas who said No at first but then said Yes for me and because he has no idea what this is about, I had him baptized today.
Gerry, our friend and ex neighbor who taught my boys to operate his backhoe, arrived in the early morning. He was clean shaven and wore a pressed shirt and slacks.
“I’d be honored,” he said when I asked him to be Nick’s Godfather.
I found an elderly Catholic priest who amid my stuttering request on a telephone immediately put me at ease and said he’d come as soon I wanted him to.
The priest with holy water gently made the sign of the cross on Nick’s forehead. Nicholas was awake, but other than saying hello to the priest, he kept his eyes closed. In a soft voice with a slight accent the priest told Nicholas that God loves him and that He welcomes Nicholas into His Kingdom. I believe God would let Nicholas into His Kingdom regardless of being baptized or not. Somewhere, my mother now knows that too.
He placed a little wooden crucifix around Nicholas’ neck.
FH at first argued with me. He doesn’t believe in a God who could stand by and let little children suffer. Since he was 9 years old and his father died he’s had a hate on for God. Going to church with my parents was torture. The odd time I felt a sense of something sweet and peaceful while sitting on a hard wooden bench between my parents has never left me. I’ve taken the boys to a catholic mass a few times. They both were bored to tears, and like me, didn’t understand the ceremony. On my own I’ve gone to other churches and attempted to re-discover that flittering sense of peace I vaguely remember.
Today, on Frankie’s 15th birthday, himself baptized as a baby with my proud and approving parents in attendance, I gave Nicholas and his fate to God. What will be, will be. This feeling of complete helplessness since cancer stepped into our lives has driven me half mad. I have to prepare for the worst. Now, God HAS to listen. He MUST be watching this day and we need a miracle!
What’s that saying? … Oh yeah, “God works in mysterious ways.” After the last 24 hours the timing is perfect because we’re all humming along like a well – tuned engine in perfected survival mode. Yes. I can handle this, although at times, the buzzing inside my ears drowns out the noise in the room. Dr. Anderson himself came to say the leukemia has breached the spinal fluid. The next breach would be the brain barrier. Nicky M died with clusters of leukemic cells surrounding his brain.
Tonight, though, is Frankie’s 15th birthday party. Bless his sweet, giving nature and heart. My sister and her family arrive bearing a decadent chocolate cake. Nicholas looks on with interest as Frankie rips the wrapping paper off gifts. We laugh and sing Happy Birthday dear Frankie. And we count our blessings.