As part of the surgery I’m having this coming Monday, earlier in the week I had to attend a pre-admission clinic where I had some tests done and met with an anaesthetist to discuss my long medical history and how the surgery might impact my lungs. I had the latest edition of Meanjin with me, as well as some notes a dear friend had given me from a writing workshop with Cate Kennedy. I wasn’t sure what to read first. Most of what Meanjin offered wasn’t calling me, so I began to read the notes.
I’ve not been a writer of late. I’ve been more of a reader. My writing ‘mojo’ has been whittled down from rejection after rejection and I’ve been having a crisis of confidence where I sit down, look at what I’m working on and think, ‘what am I doing this for?’ and why does writing have to be so fucking hard?
On Tuesday, through observation and a fair bit of crying, it all came back.
A couple had wheeled their severely spastic daughter into the waiting room, and my pencil just started moving.
They both look tuckered out. They are so very tired
The way these parents looked at their daughter transcended anything I’ve seen of late. Transcend is a big word – often overused. So overwrought and sleep deprived, they took such delicate care with her. They were so mindful – each movement like a meditation. When the girl’s mother tied a bandanna type bib around her crumpled neck, I could see that connection of love between mother and daughter; like invisible ropes that bound them together. It was palpable – the love so close, I could have reached out and touched it.
I looked away for a minute, and when I looked back, the girl had an iPad nestled in her gnarled, but beautiful hands. Her fingers were long and delicate, but her braided wrists betrayed her where muscle and bone have twisted her hands into a permanent state of contrition. It was comforting to know that her mind is active and burns brightly, but confronting and sad that her body has failed her.
Her face – eyes, brows, mouth – were so intent on the iPad. Focussed and centred, her rambling fingers made contact with the screen.
I wonder what she is reading, playing, engaging in?
Her parents would have to have pulled on every thread of strength to get to where they are and they will stretch even more to get to where they need to go, because life – especially life like this – is active combat. Every day and every night.
An elderly couple take pause in their day to stop and talk to the girl and her parents. The lady in the liberty print dress reaches down and cradles the girls face, and they stay for a while. As they shake her parents hands, I am reminded by the kindness of strangers and begin to cry. Little rivers stream down my face, and the old man opposite me who has seen the girl and her parents too, nods. He understands, and he knows I’m writing down what I see.
The parents are in desperate need of respite. Just one big sleep, I whisper. Then they can go on.