Tuesday, January 8, 2013
How We Do It: Part XXI in a series
Did I read about someone the other day -- a parent of a child with disabilities who was approaching a milestone or did someone call me to tell me about it? I was sympathetic. I think I pointed out that milestones like these cause, sometimes, physical difficulties. It wasn't long ago that I watched the coltish legs of my friends' daughters, the daughters the same age as my own but who pranced by Sophie as if she didn't exist. I remembered them on birthdays when I closed my eyes to blow out the candles on her cake and wished for -- what? No more seizures? A different life? A long life? Life? Five years, ten years, fifteen years and I felt not nausea but a pull upward from the gut to the throat. I went long periods where I didn't know how to breathe and when I did remember, it ached. After a lunch with my friends in one of those years, the milestone years, the coltish legs more shapely now, breasts formed, elementary school merging into middle and the friends', the mothers' anxiety of school, where to go and will she get in and I murmured my sympathy yet screamed inside how can they? how can they worry? how can they talk of these things in front of me? and afterward, I lay on my bed, my face pressed into the cool green of the cover, my feet hanging over the side. Did I cry? I remember the cool green and the press upward of stomach to throat, the ache in the lungs, the breath. On the phone the other day -- was it on the phone? -- when I spoke of milestones (but you're always so calm, they say, they have said, over and over through the years, the miles, the stones), I knew, at once, that I wasn't even dreading Sophie's eighteenth birthday, coming up in early March. Things do get better, some might say. The coltish girls drive now and they fill out applications for college. Where will they go? It's hard to adjust to the cold of the east when you've grown up in LA. I shake my head and say Why not Berkeley, then? My god, when I was a girl, Berkeley? So exotic! California! Eighteen years and going into the nineteenth, and finally, at last, without effort, the milestones are behind us. I care nothing for the coltish girls going off to Chicago, to New England, the South or even Berkeley. I look into Sophie's deep brown eyes that have seen nearly eighteen years, she leans into me, there is nothing in my stomach, no pull to my throat, I can breathe and there is, absolutely, no ache.