He was the most beautiful baby in the world. At least I thought so. Even with that coned head of his — the temporary result of a very hard and very long labor — that prompted others to joke about my first-born's resemblance to the funny alien family on Saturday Night Live. That was back in the winter of 1982, when the responsibility of it all was dawning in a hurry in a hospital maternity ward.
Wow. A whole new world.
One you're in for the long-haul.
I was reminded of that just last week while biding time in the hospital emergency room alongside my now grown-up son who was sporting a rather odd-looking crooked smile. That was just a couple of hours after getting one of those phone calls from him — the kind that makes your heart stop for at least a moment before you can get your bearings and become the take-charge mom again.
(Note to children of all ages: If you start a telephone conversation by saying, "Mom, I have to tell you something, but I don't want you to freak out," your mom's probably going to freak out — at least a little.)
"I'm okay — really," he was saying before explaining that one side of his face wasn't working the way it was supposed to. His smile was drooping, his left eye wouldn't shut and was watering like crazy, and he was on his way up Interstate 75 to the urgent care facility his doctor had referred him to.
That was followed by 20 questions mom-style.
"Should you really be driving?" "Do you have any other symptoms?" "Do you want me to meet you there?"
"Yes, I'm okay to drive" "No, it's just my face" and "You don't have to meet me there . . . unless you want to," he answered in turn.
Which reading between the lines, as any mom knows, means, "Yes, I want my mother, but I really don't want to say so."
It ended up being one of those long nights — an hour or so at the urgent care facility before being ushered on to the hospital emergency room so further testing could be done to rule out some really bad things like a stroke or brain tumor. There we spent about four hours among the injured and the ill busying ourselves by trying to avoid touching things or inhaling anywhere in the vicinity of the sickly looking woman wearing the blue face mask.
Finally sheer boredom made me toss caution to the wind to peruse what I am sure was a germ-infested Readers Digest. The "submit a joke" section was worth the risk, providing a little comic relief for the boy with the crooked smile as we awaited the results from the very nice emergency room doctor. Bell's palsy — a typically temporary facial paralysis with no known cause — was the "whew" diagnosis that had me thanking my deity in earnest because I know well that it could have been a whole lot worse.
We can all rest easy. It should be just a matter of time till that smile gets back to normal, which is really okay with the boy because, being a grown-up now, he too knows that it could have been worse.
Besides, now he gets to wear a rather cool looking eye patch over that eye that won't close all the way and people are joking that his crooked smile reminds them of the hideously disfigured "Two Face" villain from the latest Batman movie.
And all in all, that's way better than looking like a cone head.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 869-6251.