Noon on a Friday is about the most inopportune time for Zachary to have an appointment, especially an appointment an hour away. Friday is the only day of the week on which I have no one who could watch Benjamin. Noon means Zach misses half of the morning at school, is away from home for lunch, and returns well into his nap time. Noon on a Friday is a pain in the ass.
Noon it was.
So, I shifted, rearranged, and maneuvered. I packed a lunch, hired a sitter who could stay till Benjamin’s nap time, asked J to work from home to cover nap time, and investigated bus routes, all the while grumbling to myself about the inconvenience of the whole undertaking. I was focused on the details, because it all had to be well-choreographed or the whole house of cards would… do what houses of cards are so well-known for doing.
It all went off without a hitch, and 11:40 found me pushing an umbrella stroller over Westminster Bridge, darting around slow-moving Italian tourists. Westminster Bridge on a Friday at lunch time is a veritable mine field. It takes someone rather light on her feet to avoid stepping between amateur photographers snapping pictures of their spouses and children posed in front of Big Ben with the river flowing behind them. Does every tourist who comes to London need to get that shot? Seriously, folks: it’s just a big clock.
So, it was not until 11:45, as I found the proper entrance and stepped in by the gift shop that it finally hit me. I was bringing my three-year-old son to the hospital to visit a cardiologist. Until one is in a hospital, one can almost forget the essence of sickness that pervades. But, we are conditioned by years of exposure, and one glance at the linoleum floors and the maze of lighted signs pointing to places ending in “-ology” is enough to remind us that (unless one is timing the space between contractions) hospitals are very serious places.
Even the giant play structure and the children’s books in the gift shop could not mask the fact that the children’s wing was a place for very sick children. Children who have cancer, children with diseases, children whose hearts are not working the way they should.
But, there was a potty to visit, an elevator to find, the “walrus” suite to unearth. And so, as the clock crept around to 11:55, I was still not really thinking about how disconcerting it was to be bringing my three-year-old son to visit a cardiologist. Instead, I was checking in and giving him a peanut-butter sandwich and wondering whether The Lion King video playing in the waiting room would frighten him.
NHS is apparently considerably more efficient when it comes to pediatric cardiologists than it is when it comes to children with persistent rashes, because we were ushered back before Zachary had gotten in five bites of his lunch. He sat there, having his blood pressure taken, munching on a peanut-butter sandwich. He was resistant to the whole finger-pulse-taker-thingy, but otherwise, he was pretty compliant. Even once we were sent in to see the doctor, Zach was rather uncharacteristically cooperative. (That’s not fair; he is usually a very cooperative child, as long as the person asking him to cooperate is not his mother.)
Stethoscope? No problem, he just sat there, shirtless, with a half-eaten pear in one hand. Ultrasound with cold, sticky jelly? Fine, and the machine was pretty cool to watch. I think he started contemplating a career in cardiology at about point where he got to see all the cool colors on the screen. I had been concerned about an EKG. Those little thingamabobs they attach to the chest look suspiciously Band-aid-like to me, and Zach does not abide Band-aids. But, in the end, there was no need.
“It is an innocent murmur,” the doctor said. “Which means that it is innocent.” I always appreciate the humor that seems to go hand-in-hand with choosing to be a pediatrician. Of course, we had suspected it would be innocent, one of those harmless murmurs that comes from having a tiny little organ in a tiny little body working its ass off to run the circulatory system.
The elevator took a long time coming and was so full we had to wait for the next one. The tourists on Westminster Bridge seemed to have cloned themselves three times over in the hour we had been inside, because now there were Japanese families with strollers and Columbian families with complicated cameras and way, way too many Americans. Across the bridge, I contemplated whether to pick up the 87 bus a block to my left or a block to my right. One quick look at the throngs of people assembled outside of the Parliament building made it clear that turning to my right was the much safer option. But, an 87 was just pulling away when we got to the stop, and it was only after four 88 busses had come and gone that ours finally arrived. Zachary declared himself hungry three minutes away from our stop, so he was just finishing the last chomps of a banana as we exited the bus. By the time we got home, we were tired, it was coming up on nap time, and one of us desperately had to go to the bathroom (the one who couldn’t just “water a tree”).
And, funny, I was not bothered by all these inconveniences one whit.