Rochester, Minnesota – Ruth Zwald

My 19 year-old son watches Adult Swim Cartoon Network every night
with his college buddies.
It comes on late –
long after I am usually tucked in bed with a book.
But this autumn my son did not return to college.

Each day’s end found the doctors and therapists
tucked in their own homes
disconnected from blood pressure cuffs and thermometers
and young men who should be watching cable TV
with someone besides their mother.
But here we were in the quiet nights together.

I was most taken with a cartoon character called, “Space Ghost” –
a caped and masked superhero with an inferiority complex.
Space Ghost hosts a late night talk show
where he interviews crazy cartoon guests in his cartoon studio.
Space Ghost’s insecurities have him comparing himself to his guests.
He leans across his talk show desk and asks,
“So…what’s your super power?”
My son laughs every time,
which makes me laugh.

The occasion for our nightly rendezvous with Space Ghost
is full of dark wonderings that don’t lead to laughter.
My lanky son has a lanky tumor
growing in the center of his spinal cord.
A lengthy surgery. A lengthy scar.
Followed by
day after day of my son having no feeling in his legs.

So he finds other ways to walk through this time.
Strength of character.
Kindness to caregivers. Keeping connected to hope.
Gratitude for hands to hold.
Keeping up the rituals of his college life.

And slowly, so slowly,
the healing comes to the spinal cord
and then to his legs.

I wish Space Ghost could interview my son,
could lean across the late night talk show desk
and look my son in the eye and ask him,
“So..what’s your superpower?”

My son responds by laughing,
and then getting up to walk.