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.

3 comments:

TUC said...

Thankfully you are perceptive enough to realize that you are having a conversation, that she is a part of it and is responding, interacting with you, in her way. She is blessed to have such a wonderful conversationalist to chat with her.

Chrystal said...

I'm glad to be connected. Thank you for the reminder that every conversation counts.

BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

This was an exquisite piece of writing. Simply beautiful.

I have a 17 year old son with a rare genetic condition who doesn't speak and I just love how you articulated connections and conversations that occur beyond speech.