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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bittersweet Truths

He was born with big blue eyes, a head full of dark hair. He was screaming and wet when they first placed him on my chest and I knew innately, in those first few seconds, that my life would never be the same. And I fell madly in love and cried and stared into a face that belonged to a part of me and I dove into a love that I knew I would never fully comprehend. I promised him the world in those first few seconds and when I finally slept, it was with one eye open.

His sleepy saucer eyes gave me life every morning. He whimpered when he was hungry,;so polite, so careful not to disturb a world that he did not yet comprehend. His tiny feet curled like his daddy’s, and I never loved my life more. He completed a circle I so desperately wanted to belong to. He completed me. He made me laugh and cry and when I held him he made me whole.


He wouldn’t crawl and his arms flapped when music came on the radio. He smiled and giggled and he tried so hard to move a body that wouldn’t listen. He loved lights and Elmo and he hated the thick soup grandma tried to coax into his throat every afternoon. He was so quiet and content and when he smiled I thought I would burst. He loved water and we tried to teach him to swim in the tub. He kicked and shrieked and the minutes ticked by way too fast and when I put him to bed and kissed his damp hair I could feel my heart beating faster and stronger and I knew that I had finally done something right in my life.

They told us that bright March afternoon. They said we were lucky, he was diagnosed so young. I thought I might throw up on the way home. He looked different in his clothes; they were swallowing him whole. He was so tiny, suddenly so frail.

And everything began to change.

He ran crooked, he took too long to look into my eyes, and sometimes I would scream his name, all alone in the car, and I thought I would crumble from the weight that had made its way into my heart. I filled out forms, trying to explain two years of my little boy’s life into spaces that seemed too small. I shook hands with doctors that weren’t good enough, that smiled too wide and promised nothing, writing unemotional reports with too many technical terms.

Tutors and evaluations and suddenly it was May and he collapsed outside and I felt my stomach turn and nothing else mattered and his eyes were rolling and I caught him on the lawn and when he finally looked at me he smiled, and I realized he didn’t even know that the world was crushing the life right out of me.

Those eyes. They begged for understanding in a world where nothing made sense, and they trusted that I would make sense out of it. I didn’t know how. I tried each day, little steps; he loved his books and so we read, sometimes for hours and he pointed to pictures and I wondered if he understood. He loved chocolate milk and I watched him hold his big boy cup, something that other mothers took for granted, something I waited so long to see. We played in the sand and he crunched it in his hands and when he pointed to a plane I was suddenly aware that I had just witnessed a miracle.

I got mad at parenting magazines and shallow articles about playdates and ball games and summer camps and I cancelled my subscriptions. He learned the sign for want and I had to give him everything he asked for just to reinforce it and sometimes it was ten cookies in a row and I just wanted to put him in time-out with his brother when they fought. We hugged and he kissed with his mouth open, patting the bed and pointing to fans. I fantasized about soccer games and football, girlfriends and late night pizza and I wanted to drive fast in another direction.

My mother had a dream. “The Pope said he would talk”, she told me. I swallowed obscenities and nodded quietly. “I believe you” I told her. He drooled all over his new shirt on the way to speech therapy and the young blonde smiled as he resisted, and I couldn't help hating her and her freedom and her distance and her shining eyes as I left my baby in her hands. She has to fix him I thought. She closed her door as I obsessed about his first word.

We kick our feet on the bed. Andrew and I, we kick and we laugh and he stops, eyes wild with anticipation and I scream, “kick” and we bombard my mattress with heels and squeals and for two perfect minutes the world is right and im where im supposed to be and so is he. There are no words necessary in this dance of love and light and anticipation.

We are giggling and we are loud and we are free and I never want to leave this place. I forget for a moment about preschools and proms and PSAT’s and we kick, and my legs are numb
and we are hugging
and we are a circle,
and I am whole.

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