I stood beside the bed looking down at her, seeing her in two different ways at once. Clinically, I saw a child who could have been in a portrait entitled “Ill Child.” She looked sick, had a slight droop on the left side of her face, and was much too thin. My Mom’s eyes saw too much white; her pale face and blond hair made too little contrast with the sheets and pillow. The only colors were the dark circle under her eyes and the blue-flowered gown that dwarfed her skinny body. Her normal vibrancy was gone. On the verge of falling apart, I turned away and began to put her things in the closets and drawers. I desperately needed to have control over something in this room, and organizing her things was all there was.
When the nurse opened the door, I shivered as the cold air rushed out. The door was too narrow for all of us to squeeze through, so I had to let go of her hand, but I stopped them. I hugged her to me and gave her a kiss. She smiled and handed me Lovey Bear.
“I love you, big bug. Lovey and I will be waiting for you when you wake up.”
“I love you, too, Mom.”
The nurses wheeled her to the middle of the room to the narrow metal OR table, where three huge, bright lights made it center stage. They transferred her onto the table as I stood so she could see me smiling encouragement. Her smile wavered a little as they draped her. Suddenly, as they began injecting the anesthetic into her IV, she winced and began to writhe and cry in pain. Before I could shout at them to stop hurting her, she was asleep. The circulating nurse closed the door. I stood alone in the corridor dripping tears on Lovey.
On a beautiful Sunday in late October, I brought Caitlin with me so we could all go to Mackworth Island where the Baxter State School for the Deaf is located. A footpath encircling the island allows visitors a picturesque walk.
As we set out along the trail, I felt as if I had been invited to a a feast for the senses. The foliage was at its peak, with rich crimson and deep yellows on the maple and birch trees. A tangy scent of saltwater filled the air, and the warm sun glistened on the waters of the bay turbulent with schooling herring. Low-flying birds flocked over the shimmering waters, scooping up the tiny fish as they broke the surface in their frantic jostling. I had the video camera running as I followed Hannah and Caitlin, walking with their arms around each other, deep in conversation. I was trying to capture these moments of joy. I wanted this to be our world—sunny, vibrant, teeming with life.