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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

My golden one

My Patrick is a golden child. I don't mean that he's exceptional (though, of course, I believe he is). I mean that literally he is golden. Last night he was sitting on the patio telling me a story, which he does quite well incidentally, and I found myself unable to concentrate on his story because his countenance was illuminated by the setting sun.

Objectively speaking, he really is a beautiful child. Some have suggested we get him into modeling, but I have no desire to expose him to that world. At nearly 10, he's already garnered the attention of the neighborhood girls who ride their bikes past our house repeatedly asking, "Is Patrick home?" His eyes are big and wide and are almost indescribable in color. People often remark on their beauty. They are green with streaks of gold, but rimmed with black lashes and brows that force you to look right at them. His hair is thick and course, but poker straight. He's got the same cowlick as his father and younger brother. And now that it's summer, the edges of his hair are sun-kissed golden, a beautiful compliment to his tanned skin

But it's his smile that can brighten my darkest days. He has the wide toothy grin of his mom and older brother, only his teeth are widely spaced, as if there's plenty of room to grow in there. When he smiles, his entire face is beatific.

Of my three boys, he's the most serious, concerned about the world and endlessly, infuriatingly curious. I keep his four-year-old preschool photo in my office. He has a wisftul, almost melancholy expression on his face that can bring me to tears. When I look at the little boy in that photo it's as if there's something about him that I will never know and that's heartbreaking for a mother.

I will never forget tucking him in on the night of Sept. 11, 2001. I tried hard to keep the images of the day away from him. He was only in first grade. But he asked me if he had to forgive the terrorists. I couldn't respond in part because I didn't know how and in part because the beauty of his six-year-old soul forced a lump in my throat, rendering me incapable of speech.

I feel ever so protective of him. When Patrick was five months old, he was hopsitalized with RSV, a cold to you and me, but potentially fatal to young infants. I spent four nights in Fairview Hospital while my little baby slept in a tent that pumped in albuterol to clear his little lungs. His tiny body endured a chest x-ray in a contraption that looked like a form of Medieval torture and he endured a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.

Fear was resting on my shoulder, but I couldn't turn to face it because I had to be strong for my baby. I was sending all of my positive energy to him. Ultimately, he was fine as were so many other babies during that winter of 1995. But he would eventually develop asthma that I'm sure was a result of that early illness.

While visiting my sister in Columbus one year, he was struck by an asthma attack and we took him to a local urgicenter. My sister couldn't believe how calm he was, considering he couldn't breathe. With a nebulizer mask strapped to his face he started singing "Oompah, oompah, dee, dee, dee, dee. I've got another story for you" from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Although it's somewhat troubling to me, Patrick is fascinated with the military and events in Iraq. During the school year he would bring home library books about the Navy Seals, U.S. military weapons, special forces, etc. He asked me if I knew of anyone in Iraq. I do. Ayad Rahim is from Cleveland and has been visiting relatives and writing about Iraq on his blog since late March. With his serious little face he asked, "Would you ask him what it's really like over there?" I think I may have Patrick ask Ayad himself when he returns.

I worry sometimes that Patrick is the middle child behind his incredibly athletic older brother. I don't want him to feel as if he has to do everything Ryan does. I want him to find his own way. To a degree, he has but that doesn't keep me from worrying nonetheless. There are times when he seems so vulnerable since he is so sensitive and hard on himself (again, like his mom). And yet there are times when his strength of character, compassion and courage surprise even me. I pray that continues.

"O glorious to be a human boy!
O running stream of sparkling joy
To be a soaring human boy"
—Charles Dickens, "Bleak House"

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