The Eldest sat, silent. Smiled briefly and embarrassedly at me, signed for me to talk.
(talk, talk, talk, yadda grownups talking hey, kid, do you want to add anything blah blah talk)
The room fell silent. We all waited, the chatter done - and the kid still sat, silent. Shook his head. No, he wasn't going to try the inhaler.
And then we were still. Nothing happens without the Eldest's agreement - nothing. His silence wrapped around him, his back curving gently while his face was calm. Certain.
I looked at him, but the doc spoke first. Quietly, almost delicately, what are you worried about? And wise, he waited for an answer.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 - at 16, the Eldest spoke. I'm not worried about anything.
I am, I said. I don't want to do the wrong thing, and I'm using my worry to help me figure out what the right thing is. Worrying is smart - it means that you are thinking about the risks and the good stuff that can come with any decision.
The Eldest didn't look at me, and looked instead at the doc. Turned away from my flood of words to the still-quiet Dr. Allergy, and considered. Then spoke. He told us about what the tightness in his chest felt like, how he'd run and run and run, which would help. But then it would come back, maybe a little better? than before the running? It happened fairly often, he said.
Still quiet, Dr. Allergy nodded.
The Eldest glanced at me, but I pretended to be busy writing something, afraid to stop this flow of words. He kept talking. The doc stayed quiet, but began to smile, proud of the kid, delighted for the kid.
Do you know what adrenaline is? the doc asked, eventually. The Eldest shook his head. Adrenaline is what's in your EpiPens, Dr. Allergy explained. And it's something that we use, sometimes, to help kids with asthma. By running, you were getting your body to release exactly what would help you feel better.
The Eldest thought this over, considering pride. Feeling out a sense of empowerment, testing it to see if power could be his in that moment of breathlessness and denial. He smiled hesitantly. Dr. Allergy smiled back. Good work, kiddo, he said.
Sadness and pride fissured through my core, my head down. This was their moment, the Eldest and his doctor, and I tucked myself into a corner. Grieved for the burden he'd carried, glowed for the kid and the team we'd assembled. And waited.
The Eldest looked Dr. Allergy in the eye, and nodded agreement. He'd try the inhaler.
After a tight-strung pause, the grownups went back to their chatter, but now? now we talked with him.
This is what your body can do. This is how we can help.