I was babysitting my grandchildren, Olivia, 2, and Christian, 4, on Monday, the day before my birthday, when Olivia fell and bumped her head on a wooden threshold. The grey swelling on her temple was getting larger and more frightening by the minute. I held an ice bag against it as she cried hysterically, but after a while she seemed to become very lethargic and was falling asleep in my arms. I panicked that she might be losing consciousness and called an ambulance.
I knew my son Jay, a fire captain and former medic, would be home soon, but I was too afraid to wait. The screeching sirens and flashing red lights of the ambulance arrived almost immediately. The paramedics talked to Olivia, who had completely revived at this point and was wailing loudly as they pried her from my arms to examine her. I climbed into the ambulance and was sitting with my squirming toddler on a gurney when the back doors flew open and Jay appeared in his crisp white shirt and shiny Captain’s badge.”We think she’s fine,” said one of the paramedics, as Olivia caught sight of her father and screamed in pure exhilaration, “Daddy!”and dove into his arms.
She seemed fine when I left to drive home, but my legs were still shaking, and I felt so horrible that this had happened to my precious little granddaughter on my watch. I returned to the house in tears, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to eat a bite of supper, when I noticed a small white envelope on the kitchen table. I saw by the return address that it was from Dodie Osteen, the mother of the famous TV evangelist Joel Osteen. A few weeks ago, I had sent this woman a copy of All in My Head knowing that, as a cancer survivor, she would identify with the story and maybe want to carry it in her church bookstore in Houston, Texas.
Mrs. Osteen had written on the notecard in thick black ink: “Dear Marie, Your book is wonderful! I am so proud of you. You are amazing! Thanks. Love, Dodie.”
At the top of her stationery was the image of a red cardinal. Since my mother’s death, I have always felt that she makes her presence known to me in the form of a solitary red cardinal. I very rarely see this kind of bird, but when I do, it’s often on a holiday or my birthday, which was only hours away.
And Dodie Osteen had written, “I’m so proud of you,” the same words that my mom had said to me so many times in my life for even the smallest accomplishment. As a writer herself, I know she would have been very proud of my book, and maybe she was sending me that message.
Suddenly, the knot in my stomach loosened and I felt completely at ease. I ate a hearty meal. Thanks for the birthday gift, Mom.