And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
But it’s all right, it’s all right
We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrongPaul Simon lyrics to American Tune
It is hard right now.
I feel this song. All my cells convene to listen. The aching glory swells and the weight of the world overflows my usual trenches until I start dripping from the outside edges of my eyes. (My metaphorical brain splinters into too many fragments and bears my brokenness. Forgive my mix pf metaphors and run-on sentences.)
Are y’all alright out there?
This is probably hitting y’all hard, too. I understand how sensitive you are and I know when anyone has experienced hardship (which who can escape hardship- Hardship is Trump’s outlandishly large cruise ship much worse than the worst Carnival. Way too many suspiciously coughing people in a panic to go nowhere roll their inadequate suitcases and wear broken hearts on their sleeves. The pools have no water. The buffet has no food. Hardship has no entry fee but when and if it disembarks, society will have lost everything- bankrupted and forsaken.) or trauma unforeseen pandemics can demolish a person.
I have been demolished.
Old wounds and all.
Walt is above the rules of the quarantine. No one should be surprised but it remains difficult to understand and difficult to stomach. When the going gets tough, the tough… Walt has driven more than halfway across the country- not for work but for untold reasons.
Strange how my expectations forget to account for the recent past. Rose colored glasses? Stupidity? Positivity? Forgetfulness? I have no idea. And all I know is that I can’t plan for his actions.
I broke my arm in 4th grade and it was an awful break. It took many resettings and many pins and I was in a cast for over six months. My left arm broke again in 5th grade. I was crushed and being aware of the actual pain and process of healing made it all together worse. The summer after the second break, I was slicing Kraft orange cheddar cheese and I took a small nick out of the edge of my pointer finger. I went in to an absolute panic. I refused to get stitches and fear enveloped me. I screamed at my mom to comfort me and not comfort me. There was no way I could handle another medical emergency.
Walt’s six week quarantine cross country drive to an empty ranch house- I shake my head with my eyes turned down. What more can be said?
“Mama, you should get married again?”
“Really, Mim. Who should I get married to?”
“Daddy. Then we would be in Colorado.”
“Why do you want to go to Colorado? I thought you didn’t like to drive in twisty roads in the mountains.”
“If we were with Daddy, then I didn’t kill that bird.”
George woke up first and hung Mim’s swing in a tree by the creek. Mim appeared naked from her bed and as usual, refused all breakfast, To brighten the day, BeBe got Mim dressed and they went out the back door to try out the swing. There is a small bird nest in the corner of our back porch. Mim walked out first and in the doorway of the porch was a mysterious tiny creature, there was screaming and crying and a stomp.
BeBe never cries. She turned to me stunned- crying without being able to talk. Mim was screaming intermittently and yelling, “I’m so stupid. All my friends are right. No one likes me. I’m stupid.” I was hugging and listening and looking at this lifelessness. And my mind was reeling in the temporary chaos and uncertainty. Did my child with a disability kill a baby bird on purpose? What just happened?
Her sensory system is laced with fight or flight on a good day. An unknown fluttering object sends her to outer space. Once I took the kids to a butterfly conservancy. It was filled with plants, butterflies, Asian tourists and elderly volunteers. I forced Mim to go through the heavy glass doors to see these colorful fragile wings flitting from plant to person to plant. Five feet in and she was swatting and screaming. She was scared. I don’t know what her brain told her. I don’t know why she reacted with terror to butterflies. I carried her out and gave her “pattings” in the lobby ignoring the stares. (Pattings are one of my ways of calming Mim down. She lies down and lays her chest across my lap. She hangs her down over the side of my legs and her eyes are toward me or the back of a bench so it is visually calming. I bounce my legs and pat her back.)
It took three of us an hour to get Mim out of the house and out to the swing. There was calm listening. There was ultimatums. There was a forceful voice. She cried about the baby bird. She kept repeating that she can’t stop thinking about it and she shivered violently. She refused pattings. She hid and slammed doors and screamed- more yelling that she is stupid and her friends are right to never like her.
George had originally hung the swing to address these very sensory needs. Occupational therapists recommend swinging! The swing was supposed to provide an outlet for her jumpiness and emotional disregulation. I had given George this chore and now we couldn’t even get to the swing. We tried going out the front door. She went back into panic and refusal. We tried carrying her. I sat and I affirmed that it was an accident. BeBe convinced her that he baby bird would have died because it was so tiny and had fallen out of the nest. Mim was fearful of her shoes. She couldn’t decide between shoes and barefoot. Her shoes had stomped a a baby bird. Her bare feet could step on any unknown mystery. And her fear of snakes in the grass popped back up. Finally, she rode on my back to the swing area. She never got on the swing because it has not been up since last year and she never accepts the unfamiliar. She hates all her birthday and Christmas presents for a few weeks while they sit in her room untouched and eventually she adapts and tries things out. We calmed her with love and jump roping. We calmed her with hot dogs and phone time. We spent the day reassuring her- and comforting ourselves. BeBe’s tears returned when the mother bird came back with a worm. Over and over that mama bird called for her baby. Hours later the mother waited and called.
I took Mim to the house of my friend who is the counselor at my school. We had a mini social distancing therapy session in her yard. Mim talked to Ashley and Ashley soothed her with validation. The counseling was for me. I felt inept at handling the day your child kills a baby bird. Even if it is an accident.
Next door to the counselor’s house, there are sheep and seven lambs hired to get rid of ivy and brush. I wanted to watch the lambs, especially the one black lamb with a tuft of white fur on top of his little lamby head. Mim yelled and refused again. There is an electric fence to be scared of. There are animals who twitch their lips and move toward you for carrots. There are lambs jumping and crowding their mothers. All of this makes Mim’s brain say NO.
She takes a small dose of Prozac and that has helped her anxiety a lot. A lot. We had an OT assessment scheduled with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to re-start occupational therapy but COVID 19 cancelled my long awaited appointment.
Three times yesterday, she turned the blame to me. If I was with Daddy, she never would have killed that baby bird. She would be in Colorado.
I didn’t point out the truth. Millions of mothers listen to the same rants everyday. Husbands leave and the children are angry and sad. And mamas are there. We stomach the hurt and wipe the tears and fix supper during a fucking pandemic.
Mim and I survive the quarantine by going for aimless drives. I had Simon and Garfunkel #9 on repeat. It is a CD of a live recording of a concert in Central Park. The crowd fills in the empty places in the Subaru. The applause defeats my loneliness. I completely recommend listening to recordings of live music during a quarantine.
I don’t have a Friend who feels at ease.
How can I be lonely or desperate when I have such good company? The city of New York in my car roaring with joy and comfort in the music and so many women in just the same spot- safe at home and stir crazy.
Over and over all day, she cringed and squinched her eyes closed. Birds flew by while she scootered. Birds chirped when we stopped at a red light. At our outdoor dinner, she flinched when she heard birds chirp and ran inside furious.
Say some prayers that this too shall pass. Trump will not be re-elected. A vaccine will be found for Corona Virus. People will hug again and not be scared of physical touch. Baby birds will live. And my family will stop reliving the horrible scene of yesterday morning. The communal sadness of a world will lift.
*In the middle of all my difficulty, I stop and I can see the beauty in this photo. Children gathered around a table. Food to eat. A gingham tablecloth. A flowering vibernum. Love in the time of Corona.