"Let us carry you," we kept saying as he climbed down from the couch yet again to play Blocks! Choo choos! Trucks!
"I get mo go fish crackers," he announced walking into the kitchen to climb up on the countertop.
"You still have more goldfish crackers in your bowl," I reminded him when he was halfway there.
I didn't want the surgery done. I think that if God gives you six fingers there might be a reason for it. Maybe at some point in your life you'll need an extra finger. Say you're a concert pianist. And your husband hears something he's not supposed to while on a trip overseas. Now, your child is being held captive in a mansion overseas, where you happen to be a party guest. And the only way to save him is to play "Que Cera Cera" over and over and over. (This exact thing happened to Doris Day.)
You say, "God help me. If I have to play this stupid song one more time, I'll need six fingers and not just five."
And he'll say, "I gave you six fingers. But your parents knew better. So you have them to thank for that."
Usually, when I have thoughts like this, I seek out second opinions. Because, believe it or not, thoughts like these occassionally do not shake out in the real world.
As it turns out, the more likely scenario people thought would happen was that J.J. would come to us as an adult and say, "I'm forty-five years old and still wear mittens. Why didn't you get my finger removed at the same time as my toe?"
See, the doctor said he'd always have too many fingers to wear gloves. But to me, that's a glove problem. If your hat doesn't fit you, you don't get part of your head removed.
But Justin thought he would get the finger caught on things. Others thought he would get made fun of.
Kids make fun of each other no matter what, I argued. Yeah, but you don't want to give them extra ammunition, they said.
I said, having a sixth finger is unique. My aunt said, "He's unique because he's J.J. He doesn't need an extra finger for that."
I was out of excuses.
So we had the surgery.
I worried about it for two years. Anesthesia is nothing to joke around about. What if something bad happened? And to think that we could have bought bigger shoes and specially made gloves.
I wanted him to be burly enough to withstand it. When he started looking like a man-child, I thought: he's ready now.
Again, nurses or doctors would tell you that removing extra digits is no big deal. Just do it already. My parents as teachers lady even suggested that I see a psychiatrist when I told her that I was putting off the surgery until J.J. was bigger. (Gee, just what every mother wants to hear: Maybe he's too young to have surgery. Or maybe you're insane.)
I spent the whole night before crying about the surgery, even though I knew we were going to get there and see a kid who was horribly sick or injured and I'd feel terrible about making such a big deal about it.
That's exactly what happened. There was a little boy who was J.J.'s age having his ninth surgery because he'd been run over by a riding mower, leaving a hole in his leg. In the waiting room, his mom said he was just starting to feel better when they had to bring him in for this, which was supposed to be the last one.
When we went back to talk to the doctors, the anesthesiolist was everything I would want in a dream anesthesiologist: nice. handsome. And most importantly, in his 70s. He'd been doing this since the ether days. He knew the routine.
He was the one who carried J.J., kicking and screaming back to surgery. "It'll be okay," he assured us. And I really believed him.
In recovery, J.J. kicked his feet and tried to pull out his I.V. If he was a baby, I would have passed out at the sight. But since he's two, I see him act like this on a daily basis. They gave him some medicine and he was fine.
What upset him the most was the incongruity of his feet. He cried on the way home, as if to ask, "Why in the name of everliving God do I only have one shoe on? Why? Why? Why?"
Really he was saying, "Shoe on! Shoe on!"
Then we got home. People brought him balloons and goldfish crackers. And he was good to go. "Play blocks!" "Play choo choo!" "Play coloring!"
Just like that.
The next couple days were worse, with pain and the nausea from the medicine. But now he's walking around like nothing happened. When his bandage fell off his hand to reveal about twenty stitches, he didn't even blink. We did what the doctor said and replaced it with a bandaid and neosporin. Hardly the remedy I'd expect from an amputated finger, but I'll take his word for it. J.J. liked it because they were Spiderman bandaids.
Come Thursday, the foot bandage will come off, too. He'll be able to wear any shoes his heart desires.
You know, the things you worry about usually turn out okay. It's the things you don't expect that really hurt. Like the poor little boy and the lawn mower. Or so many other things. And you're sitting in the waiting room thinking, "I wish we were here because of an extra finger."
J.J. had taken to calling his little finger "baby" and kissing it goodnight. I think when you're a mom, you don't want to lose any part of your child. But it's just a pinkie finger. One that wasn't even supposed to be there. Maybe J.J. won't even notice that it's gone.