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.


Dave said...

Powerful post. Gives me some inkling of the range of emotions a parent must feel.

Wendy said...

I actually had similar dreams about Katrina shortly after you guys moved. They were pretty unsettling... I can't imagine how much worse it will be when I have my own children.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Dave!

Wendy, right after she was born, I had dreams that were kind of usual for me, and then my dream-self would suddenly remember that I should have a baby with me. My subconscious adjusting to the whole idea of motherhood, I guess.