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The boy who can move mountains


OrestesIt's hard to believe that my youngest grandson is now 15 months old. So much has happened and not happened since he endured a two-and-a half-hour operation on the day of his birth.

Ignoring the Greek tradition of family names, my son and his Cretan wife called their son Orestes. The name means 'he who can move mountains', and it is almost as if some instinct informed the young parents of 'naming power', and of the possibility that such power might be needed. The first mountain resembled Everest: the operation, which was necessary to correct a malformed oesophagus.

Orestes' mountain-moving involved four weeks in intensive care, and he is still not out of the Himalayas, so to speak, while his parents have had to contend with their own peaks and valleys: the constant to-and-froing between home and hospital, the coping with the demands of work, the struggle to ensure that the ill baby could have his mother's milk, the sleepless nights at the hospital, for in Greek hospitals there is always one parent with the child. Round the clock: this is the way it has always been.

Then there was what I call Doctor Roulette. Orestes was very quiet when he was first home from hospital, and one paediatrician postulated that he was suffering from a syndrome none of us had ever heard of, and that he would in all likelihood be 'slow'. My firm opinion was that he was simply behind because of his very wobbly start, and another paediatrician confirmed this, much to our collective relief.

These days, after determined and continuing input of talk, songs, games and toys from many quarters, there is nothing 'slow' about O. It's rather a case of 'O on the Go', as he steams around and prattles endlessly. He was quick to learn that old foreign chook Granny makes different noises from everybody else when she talks to him, and he can now make it clear when he wants her to sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'.

He is constantly alert, and starts saying his word for Dad whenever he hears the clunk of the lift after a certain time in the afternoon.

But the ups and downs have continued: the numerous hospital stays, each one involving anaesthesia, so that the site of the operation could be dilated and strengthened; the reflux that is part of the problem, and which led to a failure to thrive for a worrying length of time; the threat of another operation, now thankfully averted; and the recurrent infections that are almost inevitably connected, at least in my view, with a compromised immune system and an overload of antibiotics.

Through all these trials Orestes has grown and developed in normal fashion. He is blessed with an extraordinarily sunny temperament, but in true Greek style sees no reason to hide his feelings, so that primal scenes of jealousy erupt if he sees his mother with another baby, or if anybody hugs either of his parents.

He had yet another hospital stay just recently, and I happened to be present when he was admitted. I have never had to cope with a baby being admitted to hospital before, and I was struck by Orestes' anger. It seemed to me that it was righteous indignation, really. I fancied I could almost hear him saying, through his yells and screams: 'What do you think you're doing? Again? I'm a busy person with my routine and my life to lead, and you've dragged me away from both. And now you're adding injury to insult by sticking needles into me!'

But once the immediate trials were over, Orestes showed his resilience once again, and set about playing happily in his cot. A scientist friend says that babies' smiles are strategic. Of course I don't want to think this, but if it is true then Orestes has the business down to a fine art. With the doctors and nurses he is a general favourite: many of them remembered him from his previous visits, and his most recent paediatrician, a man with 40 years' experience, held his hand and blew him a kiss on leaving.

Orestes is home now, and this is what we want to happen: an end to mountaineering.

Gillian BourasGillian Bouras is an Australian writer who has been based in Greece for 30 years. She has had nine books published. Her most recent is No Time For Dances. Her latest, Seeing and Believing, is appearing in instalments on her website.

Topic tags: Gillian Bouras, Orestes



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Existing comments

My prayers and best wishes for Orestes continuing development....a bonnie baby!

Rosalie Jones | 25 June 2014  

Beautiful boy! Lovely tribute to him and his resilience - and the love and devotion of his parents/mother - and his own emerging personality so lovingly delineated by his grand-mother! Twinkle twinkle little lad...

Jim KABLE | 25 June 2014  

Sometimes it is the hardships that are mixed within the 'crucible of gifts and other things that life dishes out' that in the longer term can be the very things that assist to carve out a character with the finest of points. My hope is that this may be so for baby Orestes.

John Whitehead | 26 June 2014  

My daughter went through this same process 42 years ago, a second operation at 3 years old, constant infections for many years. She has 2 healthy bright children doing very well at school; is a scientist with a Docorate, working on sustainable use of rangelands in NT; plays tennis for fitness and enjoyment; takes a caring and educated interest in politics from a social justice perspective and lives a full and rewarding life bringing great joy and fun to all her friends and family. We too lived through years of fear and angst, many ups and downs but it seems those asked to carry much as our little one over 40 years ago and little O today, are given much more to make that carrying possible. May little O find the same fulfilled and happy future as our first born and I'm sure he will.

Brisbane grandma | 26 June 2014  

What an example little Orestes can be to the rest of us. We moan and groan about insignificant things like the weather and here is a little boy bouncing back again after a few tears of indignation and many unpleasant visits to the hospital!

Elena | 27 June 2014  

I am always grateful for comments. Thank you, Brisbane Grandma, for providing the comfort of your personal experience. We are grateful for the encouragement your message provides.

Gillian | 01 July 2014  

Paradoxically, the struggle with adversity which has been Orestes' lot from birth seems only to have intensified his delight in life and the joy he brings to his family, despite their understandable anxiety about his health. Noli timere!

Jena Woodhouse | 01 July 2014  

I believe is out if the woods, he is a STAR. Thank you for sharing this with the world

Dimitri B | 31 July 2014  

.....Yiasou,Gillian-I just read your words on Orestes once again,still in awe of your precious little man.I'm glad I re-visited,as I found all the eloquent comments sent to you.You are all in my thoughts,& many good vibes & prayers for Orestes the Brave...........Evangelia....

E.Dascarolis | 01 August 2014  

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