Thursday, August 27, 2009

Talking To Myself

The other night, like many others, Willa and I were in the kitchen making dinner. She sat in her bouncy seat on the floor while I, in my culinary habit, walked a mile in between trips to the sink, the stove, the refrigerator in a distracted yet somehow successful rite of nightly passage. At 6:00 pm Willa gets dinner 1 (dinner 2, the sequel, follows at 9:00), and so while she is happily marooned in her seat she is being fed via g-tube. I hang her enteral bag on a cabinet knob and the pump does its work from the floor. Willa gets dinner and I make dinner in our family’s version of normal.

As I go about all this I keep up a steady stream of chatter. I tell Willa what I am taking out for dinner. I tell her that I am opening the box. I tell her that Daddy particularly loves his vegetables and won’t it be wonderful when one day you dear baby will be able to share in this meal we will soon eat. I go on and on.

It reminded me of people I saw in my pre-Willa days. People on television: documentaries or human interest stories about illness. It reminded me of something I had seen in coffee shops or hospitals or bus rides. I remembered all these women talking to children who did not respond. They were either incapable of it for cognitive reasons or medical ones. The eyes of the children seemed vacant to me. The exercise immensely depressing. I thought how incredibly sad that these women must talk to themselves, all day, all alone, pretending that their beloveds can hear them.

I stopped dead in my tracks in my kitchen. I looked at my daughter. She looked at me. I realized that we had been having a conversation, not a mommy monologue. As I had been opening the olives, turning on the water, being careful cause the stove is hot! she responded back in kind. She laughs at me. She listens. She is accumulating knowledge. She is feeling close to me, and most certainly I to her.

What I had never allowed for in my vision of those “poor mothers” was that they were having conversations too. There is no talking to oneself. If the mind be slower, if the body feeble, if the eyes cannot quite follow the linear progression of words in sentences wrapping all around it does not mean that there is no one there. They are there. In a look come the words. In a tremor of the body come the responses. In sighs and breaths and winks and tilts of heads paragraphs bloom.

I think of people catching us through night windows. A mother talking to a daughter who cannot respond and I wonder what they might think. I hope they can see how much fun we are having. How much we have to share. And I am now very much comforted by the fact that in kitchens all around us such wonderful discussions are being had. We are all connecting and connected.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hospital III or The Invisible City of the Wait

I walked her to the operating room in my arms. The sedation made her body heavier, denser, more like muscle moving through deep water: uncoordinated, sleepy. When I handed her over she reached her tiny arms up for me. My body snapped. And then, the long nervy wait for her release from that room, the place we were not allowed to follow her.

Then, for us, life in the Invisible City of the Wait. It is a place where time can only be time. It does not pass. It does not stretch. It sits upon the clocks, choking them, smothering all life out of the moving hands, the numbered faces.

You pass through a world of seaweed, kelp forests of jangly nerves, deepest underwater fears, clingy hopes and darkness. You cannot tread in these waters. There is no footing either. All senses are sharpened points. Every sound could be news. Every person could bring word. Every sight is hope of report.

But the answers cannot come. They cannot swim. Somewhere on a foreign beach, past the twisted morass you are locked in, they are baking on a beach, bleached by the sun, taking their place amongst the shells, the driftwood, the matte shards of sea glass.

In the Invisible City of the Wait you drown, choke, are clogged, wrapped up in your fear, your desperate need for your child to be alright. But they don't know this. Because while you are trying to breathe, to fight to the surface, to see the sun again through the blackened filament of panic, you appear to all others to be "holding up well" perhaps a little "nervous." You drink coffee, you pace, smile at the nurses solicitously. There may be magazines involved. Because in the end remember, this city is invisible...