Friday, March 12, 2010
My Heart and Yours
Yesterday Ashley and I were at our local Children’s Hospital for her semi-annual dental checkup. Not surprisingly, since it is commonplace at the hospital, we had to wait quite a while. Ashley was content to look through magazines, and I sat and ‘people-watched.’
A young woman, probably about 19 years old, sat not far away. She had a trach and severe CP. Her wheelchair was a mechanical marvel but she never moved. Every so often her mother would need to suction her, but when she wasn’t suctioning, her mother played with her daughter’s hair – twirling it, running it between her fingers, braiding it. All the while, she gazed lovingly into her daughter’s eyes.
In the seats behind us sat a young mother cradling her severely disabled baby in her arms. She rocked back and forth in the ‘baby dance’ all mothers are instinctively bred to do. As she rocked, she stroked her baby’s cheek with two fingers of her right hand.
An older gentleman walked toward those of us who waited. He was holding the hand of a young girl whose left arm was bent strangely and appeared to be of little use to her. She struggled to walk but the determination in her eyes said she would not give up. The man and the girl sat down, and the man’s hand drew circles on the girl’s back. She looked up at him and he looked back smiling, never stopping the stroking of her back.
The whole time I was watching, I had my hand on Ashley’s arm. I was very gently stroking her arm, almost oblivious to the fact that I was doing it. Every so often, I would weave my fingers into hers, and she and I would exchange a smile.
It seems we parents of children with severe disabilities must always be touching our children, almost as if we fear they will slip away if we don’t. The connection binds us together, and holds the unthinkable at bay. It is especially strong for those of us whose children have almost slipped away. Something deep inside, some primal urge to protect, keeps our children’s heartbeats, the warmth of their skin, and the rhythm of their breathing alive on the tips of our fingers.
There is no better feeling in the world.