Part I – ‘Mommy, My Head Hurts’
‘Mommy, my head hurts.’ Again? Now how many days is that? Three or four? Caroline gave Alex an ibuprofen pill and a glass of water and Alex was fine with that and off he went to play with his siblings but Caroline kept thinking about it. At 9 years old with two older brothers and a little sister, Alex never complained and has always had such a high threshold for pain. Alex said he felt fine except his head was hurting all the time lately. Caroline’s thoughts immediately went to his sinuses. Alex was taking a daily antihistamine but maybe she’d forgotten to give it to him. Her thoughts betrayed her and confused her. Alex’s ears didn’t hurt and his throat was fine. He was a little stopped up but that’s it and he really looked great except at times when his sweet little face with the world’s tiniest little nose, most infectious smile and eyes wide-eyed with innocence and joy would give way to a squinted-eyed look of pain and discomfort. Seeing Alex without a smile was as rare as a big foot sighting. Ever since he was a little baby and patiently waiting his turn, he smiled all the time. His brothers each had colic and would get into fits of crying for an hour at a time. Not Alex. He just smiled all the time. Caroline and I nicknamed him Smiles as a baby because he was the easiest baby ever and always smiling. Over the years, this did not change. Caroline told me about his headaches and couldn’t understand what it could be. Ibuprofen everyday isn’t normal and if Alex said his head hurt a little, it likely hurt more and if he said it daily and more than once a day, it probably hurts an awful lot more.
Caroline’s gears shifted into extreme mama bear mode. Anyone that ever saw Caroline with any of her children could see and feel the hawkish and nurturing caregiver and loving mother that she has always been just like her mother, Carol. Caroline’s mother suffered from early onset Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years until her death at age 67. She was a beautiful woman, so beautiful that I was very uncomfortable around her mother when I first met her. She was the type of beauty I’d only really seen in a movie or on TV. It was like being star-struck. Meanwhile, despite her southern belle upbringing and proper etiquette, she was also a hunter and would get right into a duck blind and then eat some BBQ. What I witnessed through her mother’s struggle with Parkinson’s was inspiring. She like Alex never complained. They just didn’t really know how to. They were both blind eyed optimist who always saw the glass half-full – not because they would always try to look for the positive in everything but because that is simply how they saw everything. For both of them, it was all from their unshakable faith in God. Neither of them were taught the level of faith they had but rather it was their spiritual connection with God that came out through their actions and being. That power transcended through them and is what made them both so infectious to those around them. In Carol’s final years, Parksinon’s was quite cruel to her and diminished her quality of life – simple movements we take for granted and breathing became a serious challenge for her. In talking one day, I asked her how she is able to so gracefully manage herself through all these constant daily obstacles and challenges and she replied very simply, ‘Darlin’, you can’t sweat the small stuff and you must always remember that God will never give you something you can’t handle.’. That was Carol and Caroline was one of her caregivers and the very best one. Her mother and the experience turned Caroline into the super-woman strong mama she has always been for all her children. God gave Caroline this gift for a reason. Alex.
The following morning Caroline scheduled an appointment with the pediatrician for Alex but it was a few days out. Each following day leading up to the appointment was no different for Alex. Everyday, ‘mommy my head hurts’ came from Alex’s high pitched gentle voice. Each day Caroline would tell me about efforts to make Alex feel better and her concern of why it always hurts. Maybe it’s a tooth or maybe its his vision and Alex simply needs glasses. There were countless possibilities but our thoughts were not going to anything serious or to any critical health issues. There had to be a simple explanation with a quick and easy fix. Poor Alex was still smiling though. Smiling right through the pain as only he could do.