My mind protects me from the wounds of time. The past and the future are treacherous ground for the psyche of the special needs parent. My mind whispers, “don’t try to remember, that was so long ago” and “slow down, no need to think about that just yet” . . . keeping me from looking too far into the unknown of the future, or from thinking back too far and hitting the naiveté of my past.
Oh, the blissful naiveté of my past.
When I stop and remember, the memories have the clarity of home movies . . . I see my former self, this girl-who-I-no-longer-am, pregnant and happy and picking out names for her perfect baby, and I know that she will lose her carefree spark. I see her become a typical mom of a typical baby. She thinks about the future and smiles. She gleefully says things like “By spring she’ll be walking! Can you imagine that?!” But I know that in a matter of months, she will no longer just gaze at her child with love, but with the burden of reexamination, searching for “normal” and “abnormal.” Now, she laughs and plays on the floor with her baby, but soon “playtime” will become “therapeutic playtime”, filled with objectives and practice. Soon, she will cry at night. And during naptime. And when it’s quiet and she’s alone and starts to think.
She will scrutinize and worry. She will struggle to learn to speak the new languages of medical jargon and advocacy. She will not be the same, and not in the gradual way that people mature over the years, but in the radical way of a sudden, post-traumatic shift.
She is the woman that I was before. Watching her is like watching a dog at the pound that wags his tail and yips excitedly all the way to the doggie gas chamber. It’s heartbreaking.
Don’t try to remember, that was so long ago.
The future is equally emotionally hazardous. Advancing towards the future is driving through a thick fog in the middle of the night. I won’t be able to see where our road is leading until the sun rises, and there’s simply no way to make it rise any faster. I drive slowly, rolling through the fog and listening to music and try not to think about whether I’m heading towards a cave or a beach. Honestly, I don’t even want to know where this road leads. If the final destination turns out to be a beach, I’ll celebrate when I feel the sand between my toes. I will think back over the years, about my (now unfounded) fears of the future, and I will sit in the sun and bask in the sweet relief of ending up at the beach.
And if my destination is a cave, well, I don’t need to know that yet. From far away, a cave is dark and grey, a dank place that might house bears or other monsters. Driving through a dark, foggy night towards a cave is the stuff of nightmares.
But standing in front of a cave when the sun rises? Well, there’s enough magic there to show you that caves are misunderstood. With tide pools and rock formations and echoes, a cave reveals itself as something surprisingly beautiful, entrancing even, but misunderstood by the masses. We’re already well-versed in beautiful, entrancing & misunderstood.
If I need to, someday, I will learn about the beauty of caves . . . and I’ll share them with anyone who will listen. But for now, I choose not to look ahead. I have no way of knowing where our path will lead, and I don’t want to guess. I don’t want to think about our destination.
Slow down, no need to think about that just yet.
I’m living for the now. Now is the delight of a normal day at the zoo. Laughter and love, hugs and finger paint. Now is a new favorite animal, an inside joke between my girl and her Daddy, sticky, chubby ice cream coated fingers. Now brings the joy of new successes, the shrieks of “you did it!” the eyes that fill with tears when I see progress right in front of me. Now is proud---the pride of any parent who loves their child and watches them gain independence, baby step by baby step.
Now is savoring this exact age and stage and place and time. Right-at-this-moment-now is unburdened.
Just give me the now, please. Just let me have the now.