By: Ted Peterson
At 3 o’clock in the morning on the last day of 2011, I woke up with Ian screaming with pain, doubled over. We were in a hotel we had checked into in Laguna Beach the day before; we had treated ourselves to a junior suite, so Mikey was in the next room. I saw him start up in bed, going instantly from horizontal to vertical.
“Don’t scream, Papa!” he called into our room. “You’ll be all right!”
These, of course, are the kinds of things we say to him all the time.
Ian could only groan, “I’m sorry.”
“Papa has a hurt,” I offered, and instantly Mikey burst into terrified, hysterical tears.
I couldn’t blame him. None of us knew what was happening, but we knew as parents we had to remain calm for Mikey. I got my clothes on, helped Mikey into his clothes, and Ian slowly got into his. The extreme pain had ebbed enough that he was able to describe the symptoms so we knew we were probably either dealing with food poisoning – we had sushi six hours before – or kidney stones. In typical fashion, Ian suggested that we didn’t need to go to the emergency room, worrying about insurance and money. He said he was feeling a little better, though he couldn’t walk without help.
I drove, and Ian sat in the back with Mikey, who held his hand and gave him kisses to make him feel better. The doctors at Mission Hospital brought Ian in right away, and later told him that if this had happened 24 hours later, in the middle of New Years Eve celebrations, the calm, quiet atmosphere would have been very different. They put him on a saline drip to hydrate him after he told them he had been vomiting, and they told us they would give him a catscan and we should go back to the hotel for a couple hours.
“We’ll need your cell phone number,” said the doctor, scribbling the number I gave him on a piece of paper, next to the descriptor: “Ted. Next of kin.”
Hard to imagine three more fatalistic words than Next Of Kin.
On the drive back to the hotel, Mikey and I talked about how the doctors were going to take care of Papa. He was curiously calm, but wide-awake, considering that it was still the middle of the night. I don’t know how we slept when we got back to the hotel, but we woke up three hours later with a phone call from Ian, saying he was ready to be picked up.
It was kidney stones, and while he was under a narcotic cloud, they had passed mercifully out. There is something wonderfully symbolic about expelling junk from your body, however painfully, on the last day of the year.
Talk about “out with the old.”
We are lucky. Scary nights like this are a rarity worth noting. My and Mikey’s fears for Ian were short-lived: 12 hours later, we were on the beach, laughing and chasing waves. Between his job and mine, we are doubled-up on insurance, so four hours in the emergency room cost us nothing out of pocket. Lots of people have no insurance, and lots of gay couples don’t work at jobs which cover the partner.
Like I said, we’re lucky.
But we’re not so lucky that we’re going to miss out on some kinds of trauma in the future. We’re growing older, and neither of us is immortal. We don’t know what 2012 and the rest of the future holds, but we know at least this much: our legacy will include a son whose first inclination on being woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning is to comfort and give healing kisses.