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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

She Grew Up

Two little hands
That want to help
“Mom’s too busy now
Watch t.v., go away
I’ll show you how
Another day.”
Two little ears
That want my voice
“No time to read
Please go and play
I’ll read your book
Another day.”
Two little feet
That run about
“Please don’t run
What’s wrong with you?
Can’t you find something
Quiet to do?”
Two little eyes
Are watching me
“What do you want?
Did you want to say
That you can’t wait
Another day?”
Two little hands
Wipe two little tears
“Mommy, Mommy,
Can’t you hear?”
Another day, another day
The ‘little’ hands are
Slipping away.
And it came to pass. The little hands that wanted to help are now the hands of a capable and independent young woman.
I wrote this poem in December 1993 when Anna was 4 1/2 years old, and Hillary was 1 year 3 months. It had been one year since we first noticed Hillary’s seizures and began the journey of being a family with a child who has special needs. It was a very stressful time for all of us, and emotions were such that riding the most thrilling roller coaster would have seemed like riding a turtle in comparison.
So it was that as Anna turned 21 I reflected on what kind of childhood she’d had. Would she remember the times I was too stressed out to play with her, the times I lost patience, or did I hide my feelings from her so well that she didn’t realize how upset I was? I first wanted to remember a happy time when she was our only child, when everything was easier and optimism about the future ran high.
It was the summer of 1990, probably a month or so after her first birthday. Anna was busily climbing in and out of the kiddie pool, picking tiny cherry tomatoes from the garden, washing them in the pool water and eating them. White puffy clouds occasionally blocked the sun just enough to keep the July day from being too hot. I remember sitting in the grass, alternately watching Anna and the honey bees buzzing from clover to clover. It is the last memory I have of being truly at peace. There were probably more times I felt that way, but this one sticks in my memory. There was a companionship between us, mother and daughter, that had been apparent from her birth. She cried when someone else held her for too long, and when she was upset there was nobody she wanted except for me. Poor Bruce! He’d be trying to calm her and I’d take her from him and she’d quiet right down. When she was about eight months old, she’d turn and give him such a look once in my arms, and curl her raised little hand into a fist as she looked at him.
Fast forward a bit to 1992 and the expected event of Hillary’s birth. We told 3 year old Anna that being a big sister was an important job, and all the fun she would have teaching her little sister how to eat, run, and play. Always a serious child, Anna took her job as big sister to heart and once Hillary was born took delight in helping take care of her, kissing her on the head, and sitting on the floor next to her. I recall coming out of the shower to find Hillary in her infant seat on the floor with Anna sitting next to her on the floor watching a Barney episode in which two girls were singing a song about sisters, and Anna singing along. Even after Hillary’s medical and developmental problems began to show themselves, the big sister’s attentions never lessened. She’d go to some of the doctor’s visits with me, and when Hillary started having therapies in early intervention in 1993 she’d participate and help in any way she could. Anna took it all in stride, and even when I was giving Hillary injections of medication to try to control her seizures, she gave her favorite doll shots, like it was just part of being a baby. I recall one time that she asked me when her own seizures stopped--she truly thought all babies had seizures. What a tough thing to explain to a 4 year old!
Anna still remembers a dream she had when she was about 5 years old. The gist of the dream is that Hillary is sick and on a stretcher covered with a white blanket and being wheeled out of the house and Anna can’t find me. I remember her telling me about it at the time, but was surprised that she still remembers it now that she is an adult. When she was in second grade, the teacher gave an assignment with a writing prompt. The children were to write a story about finding a magic pebble that would grant them one wish, and what that wish would be. The stories were posted on the wall outside the classroom for parent teacher conferences. Reading the stories while looking for Anna’s was amusing, as mostly the kids were wishing for toys or sport related things. When I came to Anna’s, tears filled my eyes as I read her wish: that her sister could talk so they could stay up all night talking to each other. It is for this reason that I’m not surprised that she is considering  attending graduate school to become a speech language pathologist with the hope to work with young children. Of all the things that we told Anna she would have to teach her younger sister, I believe that Hillary’s lack of speech and communication is the most frustrating and heartbreaking to her.
Perhaps the reason I remember that one golden day in July of 1990 with my first baby is that things were so simple, and the future seemed so happy and easy. I hope that Anna remembers all the fun times with me, and not the times that I was so stressed out and busy that I put her off. One thing I know for sure is that time flew and that little girl, in spite of all the stress in our house, has become a wonderful, smart, talented young woma


Kathi said...

That made me cry Sue. I understand. Especially the part about "the last memory I have of being truly at peace". My mind tends to slip back to the days before cancer became a dominant topic of discussion. Your Anna wanting to become a speech and language pathologist is so wonderful... wishing to talk with her sister all night long showed her loving heart.

Beautiful post Sue ... revealing women with depth and purpose. Thanks for sharing.

S. Donald said...

Thanks for reading Kathi,and for your comments. Don't we love to hold onto the memories of a peaceful, simple time? I think it makes the rough times easier if I can "escape" to an easier day for a few moments.