Monday, April 27, 2009

Braver Than Most

If you'll indulge me, a few words about the strongest person I know. She's eight.
As I've expressed previously, eight is a truly magical age; a time when fairies can still be real, the Easter Bunny probably isn't but we pretend it is anyway, and big sister's lip gloss is still better to eat than to wear. Eight is silly and adventurous and playful, especially in the case of my little curly girl who, you can tell from the pics, is my reincarnation. We'll laugh some other time about the irony in that.

Many times, I've witnessed her strength in ways that have made me want to run screaming through the streets. This child, above all others, has tested my Christian upbringing and my strong sense of self preservation. She once agreeably marched into the emergency room at our local hospital when I threatened to have her stomach emptied after she'd consumed an entire gallon of ice cream. All smiles, curls bouncing, she huffed off toward the automatic doors, nodding at the security officer as she passed without a care in the world, just to teach me how strong she was. She was three then.

This Friday when we went into the ER it was an altogether different scene. The bounce in my girl's step had suffered and she was hurt. While fooling around with some friends she'd jumped on a folding chair and landed badly. Very badly. She didn't want to embarrass herself in front of friends or others' parents, so she made some mild remark about being sore and carried on. We had company when she got home so when she showed me what had happened, I didn't quite get it all. I helped her a bit, gave the requisite snuggles and kisses, then went back to tending to guests. She didn't say a word. A short while later, I realized there was a bigger problem than I thought.

Heading into the ER, I was carrying my lanky baby in my arms, trying to be extra gentle and realizing we were probably getting to the point where I shouldn't carry her anymore. I just couldn't help it this time. We were both putting on shows for the benefit of the other, both knowing we were doing so, but needing the fronts to keep ourselves together.

As we progressed through seven hours of emergency room care and waiting, we hugged, held hands, cried -but very little, I asked lots of questions and paid close attention, as best I could while watching my baby suffer. With adult-blinding pain, swelling, bruising, four stitches, and hours of strain between the time of injury and the time she could no longer bear to keep up a pretense, my daughter kept her brave face on and her wicked sense of humor flawlessly in tact.

While brimming with pride I felt, at the same time, completely broken to see my face, in miniature, wearing such bravery. How I know that face. I've worn it all my life. That face is the reason I'm filled with tears welling in the most absurd circumstances, replacing all the tears I should have spent on things that really mattered. But I, like my baby, am never able to willingly show weakness. I joke, I rant, I scoff. I'm sure it shows that I'm hiding, but I can't help myself. I do so to protect a very tender and soft interior.

Sara is the same, but not this time. Sara wasn't being strong to protect herself. No. She had the presence at this tender, tiny age to know that I was the one who needed to be protected. The guilt over not being with her when she got hurt was already burning through me like fire racing across a page. My eyes were hot with self-loathe as I insisted to myself that I should have taken notice immediately of how serious the situation was. I was virtually shaking with rage directed inward and then seeping through and across every fiber of my being.

Outside, I was calm, reassuring, patient with doctors, expressing myself with intellectual curiosity. A real model mom in the ER. (Truth is, I've been there so many times with Sam that the attending knew me from the last time I'd been there... very nice man... and a good doctor... probably thinks I've got some disorder or another but... who doesn't?)

But no matter what I was showing the world, Sara knew what was happening inside. She knew it from the moment I took hold of her and told her we were going to the doctor. She knew it and she made a conscious choice not to scare me further with her own expressions of pain or fear. So she put on an afternoon-at-the-park face and kept it on well into the night. For me.
I'm never going to do anything more important in my life than have my children. I know that. And because of them, even in our darkest moments, I am cast away into the clouds, floating endlessly, into the sun, rising, rising, lifting, flying, being held up when I fail by the tiniest of hands, brightened when I fade by the sweetest of smiles and made strong when I am weak, by the bravest of souls I could ever know.
Sara is better now, as am I, knowing that whatever the day brings I face it with this incredible person by my side, strong, beautiful, inspiring. And I know today, as I have always known, that God is real and I am truly blessed.

No comments:

Post a Comment