One of the plethora of forms I had to sign and return this week, absolving the school of any and all responsibility for the safety and welfare of my children was a permission slip for Miss 14 to have an update of her anti-whooping cough shot. There's been at least one case at the college recently, so they've decide to bring the mass-vaccination forward by a year. Miss 14 is to be a victim.
She's pretty stoic about such things, but eye-rollingly predicted sooking and fussing of monumental proportions, perhaps even some Emmy-worthy instances of bring-the-smelling-salts-I'm going-to-pass-out behaviour amongst the more practised of the teen drama-queens in her year level at the mere sight of a syringe with needle.
Flashback: Wendy stumbles along a pot-holed neural pathway and falls through the darkness of post-menopausal short-term memory loss to plop soundly into the squishy greyness of long-term memoryland...
'Injections. Daily injections. They're not especially large. You stick them directly into your stomach. It's easy. You can do it yourself. Just a quick jab. Perhaps your husband could do it for you.'
That was not going to happen.
Back when we'd first jumped on the IVF merry-go-wrong, he'd had to have a blood test. Just one. One small phial of blood. I was sitting for the mandatory ten minutes after the vampire pathology nurse had extracted about a litre from me and then replaced it with enough hormones to make a mad woman sane... or super-ovulate, which was, of course, the desired outcome. As I sat distractedly, a voice broke through the fog of my what-if and maybe-this-times:
'...um... There's a man face down on the footpath.'
'That'd be mine. He's not good with needles.'
From the point of his hitting the footpath outside the hospital,
during the I've-forgotten-how-many interminable cycles I endured, if
ever he was required to make a contribution of bodily fluids other than
those he deposited into a little paper cup after enjoying the privacy of
his own room and whatever videos or magazines tickled his fancy, the
nurses would fuss about him, insisting he lie on one of the reclining
chairs while they fetched him a sweet cup of tea.
mind me. Dignity checked-in at reception. Arms like a junkie. Enough
laparoscopy scars to play naughts and crosses around my navel. I'll be
There was no way he was going to be able to inject me.
I did it myself.
His reaction stretches back to when he was eight years old and fainted immediately after a trip to the doctor for a series of tests. And he says that every time he comes to, he is that little boy on the concrete beside the doctor's low cream-brick fence. Shocked and frightened. His mother embarrassed that her younger son is making a public display, dragging on his home-knitted woollen school jumper to pull him back up as she clutches the prescription for the phenobarbital she fed him for the next decade.
The first time I witnessed his reaction to needles, we were preparing for our honeymoon and had just had our cholera shots. I was dutifully concerned and sympathetic. Over the 28 years since then, I think it would be fair to say my level of compassion has waned somewhat, but the power of deep memory never ceases to amaze me.
So my external speaker told Miss 14 the story of her dad, counselling her to be charitable. We all have our quirks and thresholds. Be generous to others. You never know anyone's back-story.
But the bitch inside my head was agreeing with her.
There will be squeaky wheels whining for attention.
There always are.
And I'm glad she's not one of them.