Friday, May 15, 2009

A Positive (of Nothing)

Maybe it is impossible to do anything right in a situation that is every which way wrong. I mean, we all know that two wrongs don't make a right, but if a right fell in a forest of wrong, would it make a sound?
Fuck. I am fairly certain the sound it would make would be a quiet, simple fuck.
I am afraid of sickness. Not that most people greet illness with a welcome wagon wide smile of chicken soup of the so what if we're all gonna die soul, but I am more afraid than most. It is my greatest weakness, this fear, one that cripples me at times; other times it lies waiting there white knuckle deep in my marrow. A positive. I inherited my blood type from my mother, and I like the way it looks in medical documents. A+, as if I have aced something. But I also inherited something more, something less, something that makes me not quite right but not quite wrong. Something that makes me know there is a middle to everything, and this knowledge paralyzes me. Last week I took Zoey with me to visit Allen in the ICU. Are you sure you want to do that? people asked me, and I assumed they were afraid of the swine flu. Oh, she'll be fine, I said, a bravado I adopt while climbing tall ladders. I'm not afraid! And I wasn't, and we went, one foot in front of the other, our minds on bacon and its many delicious endearments. Climbing ladders is easy when you're not afraid of heights.
Zoey brought Allen a picture she drew of a tree with small crêpe paper cherry blossoms glued onto the branches. We taped it in front of his bed where the doctors hold up x-rays to the light, and Allen began to cry. These are happy tears, he said. I put my hand on top of my mother's which was holding Allen's hand. Zoey stared at the IV bag, at the machines red and beeping, at the tubes going into Allen's nose, at the bag of urine draped over the side of the bed, at the way his body was small, his skin grey, inside out and all sorts of wrong. She pressed her lips together the way she does when I let her put on my Chapstick. Where'd your lips go? I always tease her. Without her lips, her eyes grow even bigger.
Yesterday I picked up Zoey from pre-school, gathered her sweatshirt from her cubby. Inside was a construction paper drawing of two ducks, titled Big Duck and Little Duck. Big Duck had blue feathers glued to his body, Little Duck had yellow feathers. Is this for me? I asked, I love it! And I did. I'm her mother and as such I have stacks of construction paper with noodles, construction paper with fingerpaint, construction paper with ribbons, construction paper with yet more construction paper. Zoey is three, and as such she likes to construct things: artwork, messes, the world around her. I like to think she constructs sense into a world that must seem completely random at times. Red means stop and green means go. But why? Why not? She is a future Jeopardy! champion who knows that the money is in forming the question itself, never the answer. Still, later, when Zoey asked me Are you sick? and I said no, I was surprised when she insisted that I was, like Allen. She thought that because she gave me her artwork, I would, could or should be in a hospital bed with my urine draining into a bag not at all inconspicuous. And the truth is it made more sense than anything else I've been told: that Allen has MS just because, that I don't just because.
Just because is a reason made of tissue paper, thin. As a reason, it is see-through, and I demand construction paper thick with pulp and devoid of sunlight. I want meat, I want real, I want to know why. Just because is only correct if the Final Jeopardy! question is WTF?
What I don't want is for Zoey to be afraid like I am. A+ positive in her blood that something will go wrong (because why shouldn't it?). I wonder if I should have taken her to see Allen in the ICU. Lips pressed thin and silent. What is better? To stare death in the face and hand it a box of dark chocolate almonds, or to stay home and watch The Backyardigans? Am I wrong in assuming she is constantly trying to make sense of a world that at times must seem random? Or is she inherently at ease in the chaos, in the question, in the possibility of never knowing?
Big Fuck, Little Fuck, quiet and simple. What is the right answer here? Or is the answer something nonsensical like feathers, what is yellow and blue?


Miss to Mrs said...

You did the right thing. As much as we would love to paint a picture of rainbows and unicorns 24 hours a day for little ones, it just can't be that way. She was with people that love her and I'm sure that no damage was done. You're a great mom and that's all that matters.

dee said...

I don't know what the answer is. I think maybe it's good to introduce hard lessons like that slowly though. She's smart so of course she's going to think about it beyond the moment she's in front of him. And that's OK because she's still drawing ducks and happy feathers...she's a happy little girl because of how you've raised her. Plus, think how happy it made Allen. It's scary to watch innocence slowly fade, but maybe better that way then to watch it end abruptly?

I don't know...clearly. These are the kinds of things that I think about when I think about becoming a mom.

Sharon said...

Go buy and read two books:

For Her: A New House for Hermit Crab.

For You: Women who Run with the Wolves.

I was taken to my father's funeral when I was three. It made me fear The End more than anything else. Those two books are about the most help I've been able to find. Plus I became a firefighter after I read "Women who Run..."

Happy Vacation!

Michelle in KY said...

Oh Susannah,

Your words speak directly to my heart. I do believe that we must have been sisters in a different life (afraid of death, leaving our kids behind, the worry and wonder). I, too agree with The Lil Bee - watching innocence end slowly is far better than for it to end abruptly! I think that you did the right thing.

In regards to this you watch Grey's Anatomy? Did you watch it last night? This post is linked drectly with it.

On another note...Where in the world did you learn to write that way? Girl, you need a book deal, a magazine, a blog that pays you. (WTF with Dooce? I went and looked it up after reading about it on a comment on your blog. There's noting in comparison to what you've got going on here).

I truly think that you have a gift and I am not exaggerating. You can go from gut wrenching, make you think to total complete laugh your ass off funny and swift in the blink of an eye. You have talent girl and you must find a way to get it out there for all the world to see.

The other night, I was watching "Rescue Me" on FX and I completely thought of you. You need to be a writer on that show. Not sure if you watch it or not, but it's great. Quick, funny, raunchy, etc... I think I'm going to start sending Denis Leary mass emails flaunting your blog to him. Think it would work??? Maybe worth a try?

Thanks for continuing to lighten my day with laughter and making me take a moment to think a little deeper!

Charlee said...

I would have done it. You know your daughter, and know what she has the capacity to absorb - or not. It also sounds like you did it for Allen. That is very important.

Zoey will grow up to be wordly and stare this life of hers straight on. Good for you. You know when and where the filters should be.

Jackie Chan look alike said...

I have been reading your blog since its inception and have yet to comment due to my ineptitude with all things computer.
Well, I've finally broken the code and can now tell you how amazingly and incredibly talented you are. You are a writer. No two ways about it - that is what you are meant to do. Even though I don't have children I have lived and loved and feared thru your stories and words.
Thanks so much, Susannah. I wish had the talent to tell you how wonderful I think you are.

s. said...

As a tiny person, I was taken every weekend to see my Alzheimer's-ridden grandfather in a nursing home full of Alzheimer's-ridden men and women. It scared me. It confused me. But over time I was able to process it. And I understood that my own discombobulation was tiny compared to the moments of comfort I was able to bring to him... as well as the other elderly people whose grandchildren were never brought for visits, in fear that they were too fragile for what they would see.

You are teaching Zoe lessons of compassion. You are letting her see that dying is part of life and that the sick are not to be hidden away, even when they cry over crepe paper flowers on construction paper trees.

Author said...

Despite the fact that you are an obviously wonderful mother, at some point grown-up Zoey may come to you and tell you there have been a few imperfect parts (from her perspective). They are easy to remember because they are completely off choreography from the norm (i.e., I cannot let my mom forget that when I was 6 & being a brat in the car that she pulled over at Drake High - a mile + from our Fairfax home - and told me to get out. I am lucky I have a good sense of direction, and that the man that asked me directions at the corner of Broadmoor and SFD didn't abduct me, but it is still incredibly scarring to be left in a parking lot on purpose). I think shielding children from life doesn't allow them to ask the questions, and if they don't ask the questions they can never be the Jeopardy! champion, right?

I have a friend who is 2 yrs older than us, was raised by her uber conservative (read: no swearing in front of her even now), highly religious single mom. Often when I recall a story to her she asks me questions that I'm completely astounded a 39 year old woman doesn't know the answer to. Zoey will not be that girl, and you are already making sure of that. And the good news? Rest easy...ab

krista said...

there's no right answer. i think, as parents, we'll never really know when exactly we're fucking our children up (aside from the obvious assholes who should never procreate in the first place) and when we're doing them right. we wade through these decisions in big rubber boots where sometimes water leaks in. which sometimes leads to blisters. but we'd rather have the boots than not.

um, where the hell was i going with this metaphor?
look! over there! shiny things!

Lolo said...

I think that at that age, they are the embodiment of zen. Now. Here and yet more than here.

I know that doesn't answer your question directly.

The thing is, you'll filter what you instinctively and logically know is too much for Zoey. What she knows is that you love her, you love Allen, Allen loves her, she loves you all. It's all love for Zoey and in that love, she is safe.

Write it out, Susannah. Keep writing it out.

Judy said...

I happen to know that the artwork tree and tissue paper blossoms Zoey made and TOOK to give Allen became his talisman. It was the only thing he cared about looking at that day as he faced surgery he didn't know if he'd live through and wasn't sure he could live with. Zoey's tree was what Allen said he would be looking for when he woke up....and he did and it was there. Zoey is love.
And for Zoey...and for you....I think that all Zoey really equates with those visits is that her picture made Allen better. You were both so brave and I am so proud of you both for making those visits. And tomorrow Allen will return to his pirate ship and magical bed and you and Zoey and her artwork are a big part of that. Thank you for being such a wonderful Daughter and world class Mom to Zoey.