23 May 2007

Fear of Falling

We’re going somewhere, but I don’t know where. Katrina and I were just on a train, and then we weren’t. We’re running along the tracks, and Katrina isn’t paying attention. I scoop her off and away from the tracks just before the train catches up with us. Then I scold her. You need to watch where you’re going!

Suddenly, we come to a drop off. The train tracks head down a steep slope. A gray slate slab runs along the edge. I sit down. Katrina stands on the slate. Wait! I say. I’m annoyed. I start to tell her to move back, and lean towards her. Then she is gone.

Time slows as I watch her fall from an incredible height. My thoughts slow, too. I suddenly understand all those times when Katrina threw a temper tantrum because she couldn’t turn back time and fix her mistakes. Why didn’t I just reach out and catch hold, instead of wasting time with words? She’s still falling, almost out of sight, and I think, It looks like she’s floating. Maybe a gust of wind caught her and she’ll be all right. Almost immediately I realize how stupid that is.

I wake with the picture of her falling, so far down, her blond hair swirling around her head, and the terrible knowledge that she is gone and it is my fault. I restrain myself from running to her room and making sure she’s there.


The next day, I pick Katrina up from school. The kids usually run around near the school’s entrance while the parents chat. There are a few steps, a low wall, and a bed of shrubs across from the brick driveway. The kids love to walk on the wall.

It rained earlier, so the top of the wall is more slippery than usual. A mini-van is parked in the driveway. I see Katrina through the van’s windows. And then I don’t.

It takes a moment for the screaming to begin, about the time I get to her. She’s lying flat on her back, her head lifted up, hands to head, and oh, the screaming. I scoop her up and carry her to a bench, sit her in my lap. One of the teachers brings out ice. One of Katrina’s playmates had seen the fall and said she had indeed landed on her head.

We sit there for at least twenty minutes, with her volume waxing and waning. I see no blood, no goose-egg, on the side of her head, above her ear, where she’s holding on. Eventually we head home. She’s supposed to go to swim lessons in two hours, but I don’t think she’ll be up for it.

She calms down once we get home, but she refuses lunch. She just wants to hold her BeBe (blanket) and watch TV. I get her more ice and then sit beside her. I open my laptop and look up “concussion” on WebMD.

Mama, I can’t see the TV very well, she says. I’m dizzy.

I look at my watch. The doctor’s office won’t be open for another hour.

A few minutes later, she’s asleep. I try to wake her. She opens her eyes long enough to enunciate I want to sleep! I carry her downstairs to her bed and quietly panic. I call Jon, and he looks up “concussion” on the Internet. The question is, do I rush her to the emergency room, or do I wait until I can call the doctor? We decide to wait.

At 2:30 I call the doctor’s office. The nurse says to let her sleep another half-hour, then wake her up and call if she doesn’t seem right. I make myself some tea, go in to check on Katrina a half-dozen times, and get on the computer.

About 3:05, I start to close out of the computer so I can go wake her. Suddenly, I hear, Mama! MAMA! I’m HUNGWY!

Katrina bounces out of bed like nothing happened. She eats a late lunch and has a near-tantrum because she missed her swim lessons. The dream—the dread, the hollow feeling in my chest—still hovers near, but I’m too busy making macaroni and cheese to pay attention.

18 May 2007

Lyrical Friday: Growing Up Together

I have fallen for another she can make her own way home And even if she asked me now I'd let her go alone
I useta see her up the chapel when she went to Sunday Mass
And when she'd go to receive, I'd kneel down there
And watch her pass
The glory of her ass

I useta to love her, I useta love her once
A long, long time ago ...

D'you remember her collecting for concern on Christmas Eve
She was on a forty-eight hour fast just water and black tea
I walked right up and made an ostentatious contribution
And I winked at her to tell her I'd seduce her in the future
When she's feelin looser

--I Useta Lover , by P. Cunniffe, D. Carton, L. Moran, P. Stevens

Christmas day, sitting around
Full with food we washed it down
Your thirteenth year my only boy
So grown up and so short a time
Just a simple nylon string
To strum along and get the swing
To wish you luck beneath the stars
I wrote this song with your guitar....

Seems like only yesterday
It was Power Rangers all the way
Then Lego stuff and dinosaurs
This year for you your own guitar
I hope it makes you many friends
Brings you fun for hours on end
Takes you places you'd never be
That's what my one did for me

--Your Guitar, by L. Moran, D. Carton, J. Moran

I wasn't yet 21 when I left for Ireland. Never been on a plane before. Never been out of the country before, except to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I was newly engaged.

In 1991, you didn't have to be in Ireland too long before hearing The Saw Doctors. They had at least two singles at the top of the Irish charts, and a best-selling album. As I recall, the U.S. music scene was still pretty deep in the cynical, depressing grunge period. Nirvana and all that. The Saw Doctors' music was fun. Often funny, irreverent, always clever, and it made you want to dance. My friends and I went to a Saw Doctors concert not far from Galway. No reserved seats...no seats at all, if I remember correctly. The venue was a big room with a little stage up front, reminiscent of a cafeteria/auditorium in a high school. I was surprised at how accessible the band was. The difference between being number one in a small country and in a large one, I suppose.

Recently, I saw the movie Music and Lyrics, in which Hugh Grant plays a has-been 80s pop star who needs Drew Barrymore's lyrics to make a comeback. It was a sweet movie, though perhaps best appreciated by those of us who remember when Wham! and a-ha were the hottest things going. One of the aspects I liked was that Grant's character was relatively happy being a has-been, performing at high school reunions and smallish theme parks. He told Barrymore that he was depressed, bitter, etc., when his star first started falling. But after some years, when "retro" became cool again, he and his fans rediscovered each other. His fans, now in their thirties and forties, were glad to see him again. And he was glad to see them, too. I can't remember if the character said it or if I thought it, but it was like the singer and his fans had grown up together and were both looking back fondly on their youth.

The Saw Doctors weren't quite as young as I was 16 years ago, but both they and I have gotten older. They are still making music. (At least, the two original frontmen are.) It's still fun. It's still good-hearted and sometimes irreverant. But they've moved from chronicling teen-age crushes to describing a teen-age son.

I still smile when I listen to "I Useta Lover," and as Katrina approaches her fifth birthday, I've been thinking how fast the years fly. And that light-hearted band I heard when I was at the cusp of adulthood had more staying power than I would have predicted in 1991. It's almost like we grew up together.

13 May 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I woke up this morning with a pretty bad headache, the first in a long time. Katrina and I both slept late and then snuggled up on the couch watching "Lady and the Tramp II" on the Disney channel, while Jon went to church. Then Jon took Katrina to the Chuck E. Cheese-like place on base this afternoon. Tonight if I feel better we'll go out to eat, probably at the little Italian place here in Kindsbach.

I got flowers from Jon on Friday, and Katrina made a little vase with a rose at school. And it is enough. That little vase with its handwritten tag is pure joy.

For what seemed like such a long time, Mother's Day brought sadness and a sense of failure to me. Now it brings a profound gratefulness, and a wish to do better, to be more grateful for my beautiful, bright, kind, curious, imaginative, but sometimes difficult, little girl. And also? It brings wishes that time would just slow down a little, that I could replay moments in our lives together and keep them in vivid memory forever.

At lunch today, Katrina said she wanted a sister, and that we should ask God for one. And tears came to my eyes, and I thought of a blog post I read yesterday, and how well it captured the thoughts and emotions of those of us who have experienced infertility and motherhood:

"I look at his face and know that he is enough. He is more than enough. And yet because he is enough, more than enough, to fill my heart and life with such mind-boggling amounts of joy, I cannot help but wonder what it must be like to have that joy times two.

I cannot help but to take his face in my hands and cover it with kisses, while silently praying gimme baby. Please."

Yes, Katrina is enough. More than I dared hope for. But, oh, I wonder. I wonder.

04 May 2007

Lyrical Friday: Thoughts on Faith

Ah, the news of my impending death
Came at a really bad time for me
Yeah, the news of my impending death
Any other day might have been ok

I was starting to track with my inner guide
I was getting in touch with my feminine side
But when the doctor starts whistling "happy trails"
Tends to take a bit of wind out of the old sails . . .

I'd built iron man stalls in the northern wild
I'd played cabbage patch dolls with my inner child
Now i'm getting sealed bids for a granite vault
And i'm pretty sure this is my parents' fault

--The Lament of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Frederick IV by Steve Taylor

When nothing satisfies you
When nothing satisfies you
When nothing satisfies you
Hold my hand

--When Nothing Satisfies by Jennifer Knapp

I like to read O Magazine because it has longer, more thoughtful articles than most women's magazines. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of pages devoted to such world-changing topics as "stuff Oprah wants you to buy" and "fashion trends that you can follow if you have a spare thousand dollars for this hot new designer dress."

But the real articles tend toward the narrative, personal experiences, and sometimes even a feature article about someone doing some good in the world, rather than the "10 Ways To Improve Your Pathetic Life" that you get in other women's magazines.

The most recent issue of the magazine, though, did its readers a disservice, I think. The issue's theme was "faith." As is the standard format for the magazine, there were a number of articles, most relatively short, written by a variety of contributers. Some of the stories were quite lovely, all were well-written, and at least one brought up some interesting insights. But the magazine had already lost me by that time.

"YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH" the introductory section said. "It doesn't have to be a God thing. You don't have to be religious. But when you're all alone on troubled waters, you need something to hold on to..."

Seriously? It doesn't matter what you believe in, only that you believe in something?

This sentiment is standard Oprah/O Magazine stuff, and, perhaps the sentiment of a good many people in American society. It goes even beyond the idea that all religions have truth. Because O Magazine says faith doesn't "have to be religious."

No. I just can't agree. The object of faith is important. What you believe (or, as Christians say, who you believe in) in shapes you. The mere fact that you believe distinguishes you from the athiest or the nihilist, perhaps, but even they believe in their non-belief.

And (although "the terrorists" are getting to be like "Hitler" in over-the-top comparisons) I venture to say that Muslim extremists are pretty high up on the "strong faith" scale.

Think about what a person's life would look like who had faith in:

  • a vengeful, demanding god

  • a merciful god

  • his/her own abilities

  • his/her own feelings (another Oprah gospel)

  • the power of money

  • other people

  • Mother Earth

  • aliens

  • nothing

Faith matters, yes. But faith is only the act of holding on. Our lives sometimes depend on what--on who--we're holding on to.