As a cancer patient, Ben has had some pretty cool opportunities. He’s been on the JumboTron at Coors Field for a Starlight event, he participated in a fashion show with the Colorado Avalanche, he was the featured kid for the Wendy’s International LPGA tournament, he got a Make A Wish trip, he’s met some pretty important sports stars, and has received a variety of swag from Nintendo, etc.
One of my favorite memories, however, was the day he was invited to participate in “Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels” event. Hyundai annually donates a car that travels to a variety of Children’s hospitals around the United States. Pediatric oncology patients are then invited to place their painted hand print on the car, which is then driven all over the US to raise awareness for Childhood Cancer. It’s a pretty cool event.
Our opportunity to leave Ben’s mark was in 2005. We were living in Ohio at the time. The lady in charge of awesome hospital stuff, Elaine, was always very good at spreading the word about upcoming events. She called me the day before to let me know that the Hyundai would be parked outside of the hospital and Ben should stop by if we were going to be around. As it happened, Ben had scans that day, so we would be at the hospital a good chunk of the day. I told Elaine that we’d do it if the timing worked out.
Scans were always a production, especially at Ben’s age (he was three at the time.) He wasn’t able to stay still for hours at a time so he needed to be sedated with propofol for the length of the scan. The nice thing about propofol is that it sedates very quickly and the patient wakes up shortly after infusion stops, so there’s not a lot of unnecessary downtime. Well, this particular day, Ben had a couple of scans so he was sedated for a while. After he was finished I stuck his cranky butt in a wheelchair, tried to smooth down his incredibly unruly bed head (he has to lay down for all the scans, so his hair got super crazy from sweating and sleeping for so long) and left the hospital.
As we left the building, we rolled right smack into the middle of the Hyundai event. The crowd hushed as we walked out, looking at us like we were rudely interrupting something. I was a little embarrassed, but Ben was so cranky that I imagined he was giving everyone the finger. Elaine’s high heels clicked over the cement as she came toward us, grinning from ear to ear. “SOOOO glad you could make it, Ben!” He glared up at her with a “just leave me alone” grimace. I leaned down and said, “It’ll only take a minute, Ben. Don’t you want to put your hand in some paint?” I could tell he was thinking about it as we joined the circle of people. I didn’t know that we’d have to wait for a while.
BIg checks were presented. Hyundai Big-Wigs gave speeches. Hospital representatives accepted with hearty thanks. Ben said grumpily, “Can we just GO?” His rooster hairdo flopping from side to side as his level of disdain soared. I calmly said, “Okay, let’s scoot,” and just as I was turning to wheel him away, they announced his name over the loudspeaker. I abruptly turned him around and said excitedly, “Oh! Ben! That’s YOU!” and he said, very loudly, “I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!”
I plastered a smile on my face and wheeled Ben up to the pristine white car. The circle of people who were just moments before giving us looks for so rudely interrupting were now smiling and waiting for Ben to take his turn. A photographer stood waiting to capture Ben’s special moment, camera poised and waiting to snap away.
An unknown representative held out a plate full of red paint. Ben looked at the person holding the paint, then looked at me as if to ask, “are you sure I can put my hand in this paint? I usually get in trouble for these sort of shenanigans at home.” I gingerly encouraged him to go ahead. He delicately placed his hand in the paint, admired his red palm, then sternly stated, “Let’s go home. NOWWWWWWW!” I explained that this was the part where he got to put his hand on the nice white car, but he wasn’t having any of it.
Ben is usually not a crank-a-saurus, but he was in RARE form on this particular day. And his hair was just as angry, wobbling like a rooster having a seizure. He shrieked that he would NOT put his hand on the car. So, I put on my mom voice, locked the wheels on his chair, and leaned down near his face. “This will just take a moment, Ben. Everyone is waiting for you.” I was mildly embarrassed as I pride myself on my children rarely having major meltdowns. They just don’t behave that way. But since Ben had been highly sedated just an hour before, I blamed it on the drugs.
Ben looked at his hand, looked at the car, then looked at me and said, “NO!” The poor photographer, he nearly had a coronary running all over the place trying to find an angle to capture us where Ben’s hair wasn’t too crazy or he wasn’t spitting at his mom or mom wasn’t sweating profusely trying to get her toddler to cooperate.
Then it happened. I grabbed his hand. As I pushed the red palm toward the car, Ben pulled back with all his might. “YOU. WILL. (grunt) DO. THIS. NOW. OR. (grunt) NO. FUN. FOR. (grunt) YOU. EVER,” I said this through gritted teeth as if I were practicing my ventriloquism act. Really, though, I just didn’t want the photographer to take my picture while I looked too mean. And as I was pushing and Ben was pulling, he was doing his own under-the-breath swearing. “I. DON’T. WANT. (grunt) TO. DO. THIS. YOU (grunt) EVIL. TROLL.” He didn’t really say that, of course, but since pictures are worth a thousand words… this was my interpretation. That poor photographer gave up and shot us at our worst.
Ben’s hand print IS on that 2005 white Hyundai, so I guess I kinda won that battle. And the photograph shows both of us locked in a heat of determination. With Ben’s red, unruly hair flopping wildly, and my teeth clenched to the point of producing TMJ.
It was a proud moment for the both of us.