Wednesday, May 18, 2011

...Ages and Ages Hence

The title of today's entry should tell you all you need to know about who is writing this entry...

Let's start here. I'm always apologetic when it's been so long between updates but two familiar notes:
1) My BFF Sue told me just yesterday that it was okay because no news is good news. She is, of course, absolutely correct. As I tell my Creative Writing students, "No good narrative without conflict." Over the last several days, all there is to tell is about cuteness, the joy of being home, and how Kristin and I feel like we're kind of figuring out how to take care of this beautiful boy. Not enough conflict to warrant or drive an entry.

2) Turns out, now that I've been back to work full-time and Kristin is a full-time mom, precious down time is usually spent fighting sleep deprivation (read: catching 40 winks in front of an 8:30 p.m. sitcom).

So...with that, onto the meat of today's entry. In my professional opinion, the problem with Robert Frost's poetry is that way too many people misinterpret his work. Which is really not his fault at all. What does this have to do with Sam and his condition? Patience. Sue would also tell you that I have to do this in my own way. Yesterday, I sat through a ceremony recognizing our school's IB graduates. Two of the speakers had separately prepared speeches, but both invoked Frost's most famous poem, "The Road Not Taken." Read it if you haven’t before; it’s short and brilliant. Anyway, the speakers of course referenced "the [road] less traveled by," an ostensibly obvious commentary on the value of individuality, and lauded the students for their gumption in attempting IB, generally considered a much more challenging program than the "regular" curriculum. However, while I love that idea in principle, closer inspection would yield other possibilities for the poem's interpretation.

For example, the title itself focuses elsewhere, specifically on "The Road Not Taken" (italics mine). Focusing on the negative emphasizes what is missing in the speaker's life, not what is present. Think of it as the photo-negative to the final stanza's apparent positive. So, rather than suggest the value of taking this "other" road, the title actually gives the poem a tone of regret, a sense of longing perhaps for the possibilities that the speaker does not get to experience. Further, the second stanza includes the most frequently ignored line in this piece: "Though as for that the passing there/Had worn them really about the same." Evidently, these roads have very little difference if the traveler bothers to consider more than just an initial, gut reaction. Moreover, the third stanza tells us quite directly that "both that morning equally lay/in leaves no step had trodden black" (italics mine). Are we certain the speaker's road was somehow better? Since when did equality connote superiority? Why applaud a choice that is simply equal to the other option? And of course we find in the last stanza that the speaker "shall be telling this [story] with a sigh." Why a sigh? A sigh of relief? Of satisfaction? What about the possibility of remorse? Of loss? We never find out what "all the difference" is. Was that difference beneficial? Did it bring satisfaction? The only textual evidence supporting this view says the road is "as just as fair," an equivocating comment at best. Some would point to the phrase "having perhaps the better claim." But again, "perhaps" lacks certainty. And, as previously noted, is immediately followed by the qualifying note that upon closer scrutiny both are "really about the same.” Frost leaves the question regarding difference ultimately unanswered. So what can we safely infer? That this difference made him more successful? Happier? Hmm...I suspect not. It may be so, but not necessarily. In light of the other stanzas, we should at a minimum suspect otherwise. The poem focuses on "doubt" and "keeping the first [road]" in mind, not complacency based on having made a correct choice. All of which is to say that we should consider another possibility when understanding this piece. Joy of individualism? The collective would say so. To me, on the other hand, it is much more about the way perception, especially initial perception, leads and misleads us. We know with certainty what is best, yet hindsight suggests otherwise. We interpret one way, and yet further examination gives the lie. Which brings me to the real topic: Sam.

Sam is doing wonderfully since he’s been at home! His infection is under control. He is taking more food than ever by mouth. His cries are getting louder and stronger. He is more alert. He is more interactive. He is happier and smiles more. He is gaining weight. He continues to “look great!” clinically.

He is sicker than ever.

As of 1 o’clock or so this afternoon, we are back in hospital. Sam had a stroke. My wife noticed that Sam’s left arm started twitching while he was taking a bottle today. He stopped eating. His eyes glazed. His left wrist oscillated like an old man with Parkinson’s. When it happened again a few minutes later, Kristin hooked him up to our home pulse-ox, made sure he was stable, then drove him to the Children’s Hospital Emergency Room. His sats, his heart rate, his respiration have been stable throughout, but like his long-gone sleep apnea, he has been having episodes every 5 or 10 minutes. His echoes look like they have not changed, yet clearly something, somewhere has. All his numbers look great, yet he continues to get sicker. An MRI confirmed this afternoon that Sam has something (probably a blood clot) in his brain that has caused this stroke, which is manifesting as a series of seizures. The good news? It appears to be a small clot, causing a small stroke, resulting in minor seizures. The bad? Is that like being a little pregnant? A little wet? Are there really degrees of acceptable, non-frightening, non-life-threatening strokes and seizures? This stroke-causing clot came from somewhere. Where? His crucial PICC line? The “vegetation” in his heart breaking up? Somewhere else we’ve not considered? Will other clots—larger, more dangerous clots—navigate their way through his body? What does this mean for his stability over the next couple of months before he gets his Glenn surgery?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tired of hearing how good he looks while simultaneously watching his condition deteriorate. I no longer care how “grassy” his path is; his “fair” looks mean nothing to me. Better an ugly road that leads, however unpleasantly, out of the woods.

Forgive my momentary pessimism; it’s late, and I am exhausted, not really able just yet to wrap my head around this new development. I’m sure the morning will bring comfort and hope. "I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence." Hopefully, that sigh will be one of relief. Until then, one sad photo and several beautiful, overdue ones. I will go to sleep with the latter in mind. Good night.

Sad moment: a technician hooks Sam up to an EEG to monitor his brain activity during seizures.

The little guy starting to recognize his own reflection:

My lovely wife has good fashion sense. So dapper!

That elusive moment...Wolfman smiles at his Aunt Anna!


  1. :-(((( Hang in there. Thinking of you and hoping things will turn around. lots of love xoxoxox

  2. ps: tell Kristin that Sam is too young to be dressed like Winston Churchill!!!!

  3. I'm in tears=[ I hope and pray that he gets better, you are all in my thoughts constantly

  4. Jason and Kristin,
    You have made me rethink “The Road Not Taken”. I am posting another Frost poem that I go to when I need fortitude. My dear friend Vernal would often quote the last stanza to me when we hit those times when we need to dig in and carry on.

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village, though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.
    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there's some mistake.
    The only other sound's the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    As always, you are in the Rusnak family’s hearts and minds.

  5. May you find the love, strength, courage, anger, and anything else you need to hang in there.

    We're feeling & sending all of those things your way.

    Jenny & Family

  6. My heart aches for you. Your nights must be especially terrible. I think of another Frost poem, “Acquainted with the Night,” and I hope that this recent trip “out in the rain” will soon end. May all three of you wake to a bright new morning.

    Acquainted with the Night (by Robert Frost)

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
    I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
    I have outwalked the furthest city light.
    I have looked down the saddest city lane.
    I have passed by the watchman on his beat
    And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
    I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
    When far away an interrupted cry
    Came over houses from another street,
    But not to call me back or say good-bye;
    And further still at an unearthly height,
    One luminary clock against the sky
    Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
    I have been one acquainted with the night.

  7. What a shock again! I'm praying for you all!

  8. I am crying. And praying. And sorry to hear this. Do not lose hope. I haven't.
    -Kendall in Oklahoma

  9. I also wanted to remind you that first God sent out the raven, then the dove, then the dove a second time before the flood was over and the dove never returned. Praying the flood ends soon.

  10. Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all
    And sweetest in the gale is heard.
    ~ Emily Dickinson

    Praying your hope has the strength of eagles and will bear you up through these anxious times. Trust in the One who can sustain you.


  11. The picture of him smiling is SO great!

    I am also in tears after reading this post and latest development. I pray that God will give all 3 of you the strength to get through this scary time.

    I am thinking of you all of the time!

  12. I don't understand how God works. You both deserve a perfect baby in every way and yet Sam is something special, no matter the struggle. He is in my prayers always, and so are both of you.

  13. Praying so much for you all

  14. I'm glad you could still provide us student's with an English lesson despite all that is going on.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Mr. Leclaire.

  15. Our thoughts and prayers are with you! Hang in there! Sam has two incredible parents fighting for him. Sometimes it's darkest before the dawn, and we trust God to lead us to the dawn. You are not alone! There are so many people cheering you on and praying for you!