This past Saturday was Caleb’s first karate class. My friend Kim recommended karate for Caleb after I told her about the bully on his bus. My six-year-old boy is the shortest kid in his first-grade class and he often asks me why that is. I point my finger directly at his father. Karate would give him confidence, Kim said. Plus, once elementary school kids learn someone knows karate, they tend to treat that person with a certain kind of reverence.
Caleb’s first hour of learning stances and kicks proved to be more than just a confidence builder. He took to the structure and disciplinary aspects of martial arts. He was one of the smaller boys there, but he said “Yes Sir!” the very loudest. At home, he practiced methodically, teaching his younger brother what he had learned.
I asked him if he had had fun in his class. He contemplated a bit before answering.
“Kind of fun. It was really hard, though.”
“Do you want to go again?” I asked. He nodded vigorously.
“Yes. I want to get good. Maybe I can be a karate guy when I grow up. Can I be a karate guy AND a baseball player?”
Caleb is already a harder worker than I ever was. I look at him and I think, they don’t make diamonds as big as bricks.
“Who do you love, Ben?”
“I love everyone in the whole world! I love you, I love daddy, I love Grandma, I love Caleb, I love Nini, I love my bunky, I love my teachers!”
“Do you love Daniel?”
“How about Ella?”
“I do! I love Ella!”
“So you really DO love everyone!”
“Everyone in the whole world!” (Pause.) “Except bad guys. I don’t love bad guys.”
Daniel thought he was done with nap time. I thought differently. I now bring him into my bed with me after lunch. The first day, he curled up next to me and patted my cheek until he drifted off. The second day, he wanted to play. He put my covers over his head and popped out over and over again, laughing hysterically each time. I pretended to sleep. The last time he put the covers over his head, he didn’t come back out. Small snores emanated from underneath my duvet.
Yesterday, I accidentally fell asleep too, and we dreamed next to one another for a good two hours. When I woke up, he was staring at me, chubby fists under his own cheek, eyes wide and unblinking. He stayed that way until I suggested he get up and go downstairs to play. He popped up and said, “YEAH!” and scurried off the bed. He paused at the door and turned and looked at me, waiting. I followed him and he held my hand as we walked downstairs.
Last year, Ella and I stayed overnight at the hospital after she underwent a cardiac catheterization. Since her time in the womb, there has been talk of heart surgery. We used to make monthly trips to the cardiologist, where they would administer EKGs. One electrode used to cover half of her tiny chest. Her cries when they tore them off were like kitten’s mews. She eventually got used to them, and amazingly, she grew and the electrodes no longer overwhelmed her small body.
The results from the heart cath were positive. Her heart was healing itself. We no longer had to come in for regular check-ups. Once a year would suffice.
She often puts the play stethoscope around her neck and pretends to listen to my heart. I could never hear the murmurs when the doctors let me listen to hers. I couldn’t see the narrowed aorta in the x-rays. They drew a diagram of her heart on a slip of paper to show me what was wrong. To this day, I carry that slip of paper in my wallet. Ella’s heart comes with me wherever I go.
One day I will tell her how she healed her own broken heart. I will tell her about how remarkable she is.
Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. (Dr. Seuss)