Dandelion Wishes

Trying to weed my worries away.

ILLUSTRATION BY HEATHER GRAHAM

The alarm went off, woke me up—and I realized that my hand wasn’t on my baby’s chest! Then I saw that the bassinet was gone. That meant that my husband, Paul, had taken the baby to give me a break. Relief washed through me. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. It didn’t work. I couldn’t.

Our newborn, Matthew, had begun having seizures a month before. One minute he would be fine, and the next he’d stiffen, his back would arch, and his eyes would roll up in his head. Then he’d begin making guttural, moaning sounds. Once a seizure was over, Matthew wouldn’t make eye contact for the next couple of hours. He’d just lay limply in my arms.

But over the next couple of weeks, Matthew had another seizure, and then another.

The first time he had a seizure, we rushed him to the hospital. By the time we got there, the episode was over. The only thing the doc-tor saw was a tired baby. The doctor assured me the seizure hadn’t hurt, but how did he know? He hadn’t seen Matthew during it. He sent us home, saying that it would probably be a one-time occurrence.

But over the next couple of weeks, Matthew had another seizure, and then another. I watched for episodes constantly, barely sleeping at night. I kept one hand inside his bassinet when I dozed. And I kept asking myself why this would happen to such a perfect little person—and when would the next one hit?

So far I’d been strong. I rarely cried. Instead I read everything I could find about seizures—what caused them and what to do about them.

But there were no answers. I didn’t know what to do. And, as the mother of a newborn and a five-year-old daughter, I was tired.

That afternoon I was sitting in the family room next to Mat-thew. He was sleeping peacefully in his bassinet. I looked out the window and saw dandelion seeds fluttering on the breeze. Our yard was already full of those yellow-headed weeds!

I carefully plucked up Matthew and, calling to my daughter, Katie, headed outside. I grabbed my well-used leather gardening gloves and a dandelion fork from the garage and lay Matthew on a blanket in the yard. Dropping to my knees beside him, I began the attack. I plunged the fork into the yard over and over, yanking the weeds out of the ground. Katie started to complain that she would have no more pretty yellow flowers to pick. I flung out my arm and pointed to the hundreds of flowers here and in the neighbor’s yard next door.

I looked out the window. Katie was deliberately blowing the seeds off dandelions!

I was determined to at least get the dandelions out of my yard. While Matthew slept and Katie gathered yellow bouquets, I tackled the prickly leaved monsters. When Matthew needed to nurse, I held him with one arm and tried to weed with the other. Katie played and danced, happy to be outside.

After a couple of hours, Paul arrived home from work. When he walked into the backyard, he must’ve seen the steely look in my eyes. He took Katie and went to pick up some fast food for dinner. When they returned, he offered me a hamburger. I refused. How could I eat when I had a sick baby—and weeds besides? Katie and Paul chatted and laughed as they sat in chairs on our tiny patio.

When the sky began to dim, Paul gathered Matthew in his arms and sent Katie to me for a goodnight kiss. As she hopped toward me across the lawn, she stopped, plucked a delicate white-headed dandelion, and blew.

“Katie! No!” I cried. “The little seeds you’re blowing make weeds!”

“Okay, Mama,” she said. “Night-night.” Her little arms hugged me and she gave me a kiss.

“Good night, Katie,” I said to her. “I love you.”

Katie ran back to Paul and hopped at his side as they went in for her bedtime story. Paul paused at the corner of the house and called softly, “Come in soon.”

I nodded my head. The nod meant that I had heard, not that I was about to stop. I wasn’t. I was going to get rid of every dandelion, leaving only soft grass for my little ones. Next year, when Matthew learned to walk, he would love the feel of grass on his bare feet. My yard was going to be weed-free.

Perfecting my jab and twist, I removed one dandelion after another. When I finished one section, I’d shift my position and start on another.

I saw the light from Katie’s bedroom and knew that Paul was snuggling in bed with her. The baby would be propped between them as Paul read from Katie’s favorite book, the one about fairies. It was tempting to go in right then, but I wasn’t ready. There were still more weeds.

Finally the sky grew so dark that I could hardly see. I got up, turned on the garage light, and skewered some more.

A shadow crossed my path. Without looking up, I said, “Paul, get out of my way. I can’t see.”

“You don’t want to be out here weeding this late,” he said.

“Yes, I do.”

Paul stepped closer and knelt beside me. Matthew was on his shoulder. My sweet husband tried to give me a hug, but I pushed him away. “Stop it, Paul. I want to finish this.”

“Janny, you can’t finish it tonight. Look,” he said, pointing. “There are too many left.”

I jabbed at a closed dandelion, but missed. My eyes blurred. I jabbed—and missed—again.

I dropped the dandelion fork, turned, buried my face in Paul’s chest and began to sob. He held me close and ran his fingers through my hair.

“Why, Paul?” I sobbed. “Why don’t they know what’s wrong? Everywhere I read about medical miracles. Where’s Matthew’s miracle?” As my tears continued, I said, “I just want him to be OK. And I wish…I wish I didn’t have to worry about it all the time.” I hiccupped, reached over, and caressed Matthew’s cheek. “I can’t explain it, but right now I want a lawn without weeds.”

Paul whispered, “You’ll never get them all, honey.”

“I know, but—”

“There will always be more,” he interrupted. “If you manage to get all the weeds, there will be bits of moss, or the lawn will need to be mowed just one more time.” Paul caressed my shoulder. “That’s just the way lawns are.” He smiled. “For that matter, that’s the way lives are, too.”

I rubbed my forehead—and surrendered. “You’re right.” I handed him my weeding tool, and he helped me up.

The next morning, my muscles ached when I got out of bed. I slipped into the kitchen to find Paul. Matthew was sound asleep in his bassinet in the family room. Paul gave me a quick kiss and left for work. Katie followed him out the door and ran into the backyard.

I sat on the couch and gazed out the window. Masses of white dandelion seeds wafted across my vision. I looked out the window. Katie was deliberately blowing the seeds off dandelions!

Dashing to the back door, I yanked it open. “Katie! What are you doing? I told you, they make more weeds!”

She spun on her feet and blew one more great breath, releasing more dandelion seeds. “They don’t make weeds, Mama, they make wishes. Papa read it to me in the fairy book.” She ran to my side. “I am making wishes so Matthew will be better and you will be happy.”

I hugged Katie close and caressed her head. “Thank you, honey. I think it’s wonderful that you’re making wishes for Matthew.” Inside, I thought, maybe it’s time to take away her book of fairy tales. It’s teaching Katie to believe in the unbelievable.

Or was it? Maybe she had learned that even when things seem impossible, there’s always hope. Looking at Katie’s eyes, I saw that they were full of sparkle and awe. She believed. I realized it was time for me to begin to believe in something beyond myself, just as I had as a child.

Although I didn’t know it then, my son would overcome his seizures. He would grow up and one day become the father of his own healthy baby boy. I don’t know if his sister’s dandelion wishes played a part in that.

I do know that my worrying did not.


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