“I don’t want to take it off!”
Jordan ran to a corner, arms folded, crocodile tears streaming down her face. In the opposite corner, Jeanette and I did all that we could to suppress laughter. Jordan clutched her right forearm defiantly. A crusted, dingy sliver of translucent adhesive tape dangled near her finger tips. It was a stowaway from her hospital stay. It once held the IV tubing in place, but now it stuck to her arm like a vestigial organ, its only purpose to collect bits of dirt and grime. Jordan refused to take it off when we left the hospital. While she loves the application of bandages, she is recalcitrant about their removal. After all she’d been through with surgery and a cancer diagnosis, we decided to wait and let her take the tape off when she felt ready. Then two weeks passed. We needed to draw the line. The darn thing was just not hygienic.
Clutched in her other hand were a pair of safety scissors. She was determined to snip the bandage into tiny bits. She wanted no help. Sobbing dramatically while wielding the scissors with her left hand, she nipped at the tape futiley.
“Would you like Daddy to try and cut off the part that’s already off?”
More sobs. More drama. More aimless nips with the safety scissors. We stayed in our chairs, not wanting to lose her trust or cause her any more anxiety. So much of what we were seeing was forced. A false move by one of us would only prolong the performance. Then, Jordan betrayed herself. Her eye caught a glimpse of a wrapped lollipop on the dining room table. The eyes dilated and fixed on the waiting treat.
“Maybe I should eat my lollipop. Then I’ll feel better,” she whined.
“I don’t think that’s such a fair trade,” I said. “You haven’t taken off the bandage. You can have the lollipop after you take the tape off.”
She groaned and shuffled her feet. The corners of her mouth turned down with grim determination. The wheels in her head were turning so fast you could hear them. She didn’t want to allow us any satisfaction. This was to be on her terms. A few minutes passed as she grasped the arm again, lest we should sneak up on her and take the tape off ourselves. We remained seated. After several minutes, the whines subsided and her body language changed.
She tossed the scissors onto the table and grasped the free end of the tape. Part of it separated cleanly, with little resistance. She let out a prolonged grunt. It came from the pit of her stomach, guttural and determined.
“Alright! You did it. Take the rest of it off.”
We chanted and cheered like the crowd of a sporting club. One small piece, not more than an inch, clung to her arm with defiant resolve. She was reluctant to challenge it. She picked at it with her index finger, then cried as it provided apt resistance.
We encouraged. We reasoned. Meanwhile, the lollipop beckoned.
After a few moments of indecision and aggida, she went at it again. She tried to outsmart the sticky opponent, grabbing it from the other side. But the tape was on to her ruse and it stuck fast. Angered by the stubbornness of her foe, and no doubt tired of waiting for her lollipop, she grasped the loose end and yanked.
For three seconds, the room was deathly quiet. The tape lay still on the carpet. Its lifeless body shriveled upon itself, its edges coated in black dreck. Jordan stared at the corpse in silence for a split second, then let out a scream.
Jeanette and I jumped to our feet. We had a code blue. Jeanette moved into apply compression to the pink skin of Jordan’s wrist. I ran to the refrigerator to grab an ice pack. Together, we attended to the patient’s physical and emotional trauma. Jordan pouted briefly until she remembered the lollipop. In no time, the wrapper was off and it’s purple surface disappeared into her mouth. The whining and the sobs became more sporadic. I scooped up the dead adhesive tape and disposed of it quietly. Jeanette hugged Jordan who concentrated on the grape pacifier.
I stood back and admired my daughter. After a week of near normalcy, the last evidence of her hospitalization was gone. Returned was her vibrant, precocious personality. She was back to school, back to her ways, back to life. Though the journey is only beginning – she began chemotherapy this week – I find great repose in these moments with her. Life springs from inside her with determination and color. She conquers challenges big and small in pursuit of rewards we often trivialize: laughter, costuming, candy. She’s a remarkable testament to willpower.
As I waxed deep in my thoughts, I heard Jordan call to her mother.
“I think I need a band-aid.”