35 Again: Happy Birthday, Mom!

Story time:

3 years ago, I studied abroad for a semester in Rome. For most of September 2013, some friends and I traveled around Europe. We did part of the Camino in Spain, and went to Paris, Luxembourg, and London before heading back to Roma.

As most of you know, going to Paris was a huge deal for me. At that time, I was pretty fluent in French (not so much anymore, sadly) and I had been studying the language and that city since freshman year of high school. The day after we finished the Camino, my friend Daniel and I flew to Paris. Ready and excited to go full-tourist-mode, I even wore my map-of-the-Paris-metro boxers. Clutch.

Having just spent 5 days walking through the mountains in Spain, we were dehydrated and exhausted; definitely ready to relax. We checked into our hostel (St. Christopher’s Inn at Gare du Nord – nothing “saintly” about the place) and quickly discovered the first of our many mistakes. In Europe, when ordering a room online, “double bed cabin” does not mean a room with two beds, but instead is one small room with one double sized bed. Whoops….a little coziness won’t kill you.

Daniel and I settled into the effect of our mistake and decided to hit the hay so we’d be well rested to explore in the morning. However, around 2AM I woke up with the worst pain in my side that I’d ever felt; I couldn’t walk, could hardly even stand up. Daniel and I went down to the desk and asked if they could take us to a hospital….”oui, oui” said they, “but you’ll have to walk.” Walk? Humph. Off we go.

Limping through the dark Parisian streets, past the train stations, stepping over homeless people, wafting the smell of French urine in the streets, we eventually made it to this hospital:


Except, picture this at 2:30am with everything dark except for spotlights on the flags over the gate and being confused and in excruciating pain. I felt like I was suddenly a character in Les Mis. After checking the doors and hiding from security, we finally found the ER:


The metro stations in Rome are nicer than this ER. Eventually, my fears were quelled and they said they pain was not my appendix, but only a friendly, neighborhood kidney stone. The only option, obviously, was to sit in the waiting room with the drunk teenagers on cots ├é┬ádetoxing under foil blankets and with the guy covered in blood holding his hand over his eye drinking from the tiniest paper cup you can imagine and wait until the stone passed. Poor Daniel was accosted for money and probably other things (he doesn’t speak French, perhaps to his benefit in those moments) several times. Finally, the stone passed. “Monsieur, zere’s blood in your pee…you must stay for tests.” How long will that take? “Ze test iz only 4 minutez, but ze rezultz will take 5 hourz.” 5 hours!? Can I go home and come back? “Le LOL no.”

So I signed the “I’m leaving even though you told me not to and I understand if I die” forms, and got the _ _ _ _ outta there.

On the walk back, I called my mother to tell her all that had happened. Partly because I was otherwise mentally occupied during this time and partly because I’m just a bad brother sometimes, I forgot that my brother was having his Orchiectomy (read his account here) that day and, because of the time difference, would just be arriving home to recover. Naturally, my mother was in no place to hear about her son visiting the emergency room in Paris, France while she was busy tending the other son who just had a testicle removed. I’ll never forget hearing my brother, drugged as he was, yelling in the background, “You’re always trying to one up me! I just had a testicle removed! You’re always trying to one up me!”

What does any of this have to do with my mom’s birthday? Well, I thought it fitting to share the story of the time she almost had a heart attack the night before her birthday in 2013. That was one of the nights that her motherhood was on its fullest display; both of her sons, down for the count, and all she could do was suffer with us. And yesterday, when she wished my a happy Kidney Stone-versary, she had this to say:


“Never could have loved you both more.” And all the way in Paris, I felt that love stronger and more present than ever. I have lots of things to thank my mom for, but the one that will always mean more to me than anything else is that she loved me, no matter what.

I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My Mommy you’ll be.

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Leave a Comment