Worst of all were nosebleeds. As a child, I never got nosebleeds and would wonder why some kids at school got them. But in my teens, I had a string of them for reasons I didn’t always know. For example, I didn’t know you could get them from blowing your nose too vigorously. So when I woke up one night while in the midst of a bad cold with the sensation of blood trickling freely down my nose and lips, I immediately felt the room spinning and my skin developing a cool sweat. I guess nosebleeds represented the greatest form of unknown internal damage for me. I could never tell if I was bleeding from raw nasal passages, something broken higher up, or if I was hemorrhaging from my brain (which has never been the case as far as I know). I’ve gotten better about managing the syncope (fancy medical term for passing out) associated with a nosebleed. I find that sitting or lying down when I start to bleed nearly eliminates the lightheaded sensations I get. So when my nose started bleeding unexpectedly a few days ago while eating dinner, I relocated myself to the living room couch to lie down for a few.
The cause of this nosebleed was no surprise. A bad sinus infection that started two days before had me blowing my nose frequently. I rolled up a small piece of tissue and twisted it into the effected nostril and held a small Ziploc bag with a few cubes of ice in it over the bridge of my nose and forehead to help stop the bleeding. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply – I find that controlling my breathing and heart rate also helps me keep the syncope at bay. Lost somewhere between my breathing and feeling the cold of the ice spreading through my skull, I almost forgot where I was. That is until a tiny and familiar hand found its way on to my cheek.
When I opened my eyes, Sam was standing in front of me with a quizzical expression on his face. I expected him to find the tissue in my nose and face covered with a bag amusing. But when I studied him a bit further, I found something I didn’t expect. He knew that something was not right. He had a genuine expression of concern sprawled across his chubby cheeks and the rounded lines of his 19 month old face. “Hi, Daddy,” he said with a hint of uncertainty.
“Hi, Sam,” I replied without moving a muscle.
“Up here?” Sam asked while pointing to the couch. I knew what he meant – it’s the way he asks to be helped up on to the couch. I reached my left arm down, which he promptly used as a rope to climb up, and he nestled himself between my outstretched legs. He sat there for a while staring at my face and then to the TV and then back at my face again. “What’s at?” he asked while gesturing to my face. To the laymen, ‘at’ can equal ‘that’ depending on the context.
“Daddy has a booboo,” my wife remarked from the kitchen.
“Booboo?” Sam asked to confirm.
“Yes, bubba,” I said.
Sam looked down at his lap for a moment clearly contemplating the significance of the sights and words that had been thrown about in the last few minutes. After completing whatever line of reasoning his little mind endeavored on, he looked back up at the television and started to watch his program again. Thinking he was going to get absorbed into the program, I turned my eyes away from him and towards the television as well. What happened in the next few minutes astounded me.
I felt Sam’s little hand again, this time just holding on to my own. He doesn’t do that very often – when he grabs my hand, it’s usually to pull me in whatever direction he wants me to be going with him in. I looked back at him to find that he was still watching the television, but that he had decided to hold my hand. I couldn’t help but think that he was trying to comfort me in the same way I comfort him when he isn’t feeling well. It’s an amazing feeling when you experience your young child trying to connect with you on a more practical level – applying their fledgling understandings of the world in meaningful ways. But beyond that, it is nothing short of pure magic when your child’s love and care for you becomes tangibly evident. As parents, we’re always giving to our children – be it food, discipline, comfort, first aid, or basic knowledge. When I felt my little boy’s hand on mine for no other reason but to comfort me, it made all the giving I had done for him worth it several times over.
Reveling in that moment, I did not expect what came after. And what came after dampened my eyes. Two little words in the form of a question tugged at my heartstrings.
Sam turned towards me, climbed onto my stomach, touched my cheek and asked, “Booboo finish?”
I was floored by his thoughtfulness and concern for me even after several minutes of watching his television shows. What’s more is that this little exchange with my son actually made me forget about my nosebleed entirely. I was amazed that in a few minutes he had done for me effortlessly what I put so much effort into doing for him when he’s not well – making him feel better.
I pulled the bloodied tissue out of my nose, wiped away a tear from the corner of an eye, smiled and said, “Yes, Sam. Booboo finished.”
Maybe one day I’ll tell him that he made nosebleeds a little less scary for me.