Being in crisis mode for a long time takes a physical toll on the body. For the past 23 days I’ve been having bouts of anxiety, depression, panic, and irritability, not to mention those other fun stand-bys: grief, sadness, and despair. Tra-la-la. Sometimes it feels like I have little bits of terror lodged inside every cell of my body. Yesterday I was driving Leah home from school and feeling as tense as could be, having just come from the hospital where Charlie is constantly facing new challenges. Without saying a word, Leah attached her iPod to my car’s sound system and cranked up her favorite song from her favorite musical: “La Vie Bohème” from “Rent.” Before I knew it, we were both singing along on the top of our lungs. (Like Leah, I know every word of that show—yes, I’m a total freak in case you forgot!)
I pulled off the road and Leah spontaneously jumped out of the car and started dancing her ass off! In other times I might have yelled at her to get back in the car and to quiet down. But instead of doing that I turned up the volume as far as it would go and we both continued singing loud enough to annoy every human, coyote, and deer in the canyon we were on. I whipped out my camera and started taking photos of Leah in her frenzy. Let me just say that watching her sing and dance like a madwoman was better than any Prozac, Xanax, or therapy session I could ever have. It was the best gift I’ve ever received. Above are some of the photos. I only wish I had a recording of our adrenalin-reducing screeches:
To days of inspiration,
Playing hooky, making something out of nothing
The need to express, to communicate
To going against the grain
Going insane—going mad!
To loving tension, no pension
To more than one dimension
To starving for attention
Hating convention, hating pretension
Not to mention, of course
Hating dear old mom and dad!
To riding your bike
Midday past the three-piece suits
To fruits—to no absolutes
To Absolut, to choice
To the Village Voice
To any passing fad!
Why Dorothy and Toto
Went over the rainbow
To blow off Auntie Em!
La Vie Bohème!
(Those are only a fraction of the words to that very long song but I can’t bring myself to type many of the wildly inappropriate lyrics that Leah has been singing for years. Gulp! Please don't call Social Services!)
It’s scorchingly hot in L.A. this week and before our “Rent” session Leah and I stopped for some frozen yogurt at a yummy self-serve place near her school. As Leah worked on her French homework I sat, exhausted, eating my peanut butter and strawberry swirl and gazing blankly at the customers streaming in and out of the store. The yogurt place is located at the nexus of a large number of private, public, and parochial schools so hordes of people from all walks of life were crowding through its doors. Having just come from the NICU, I sensed my least favorite emotion welling up in me as I watched the parade of families. It’s an emotion I have always been loathe to admit in myself: jealousy.
Everywhere I looked there were fat, red-cheeked babies in strollers, squealing toddlers digging into their frozen creations, gorgeous elementary school kids in Jewish and Catholic School uniforms doing their math and science homework, laughing long-limbed teens texting their friends. Everyone in the shop looked healthy and perfect and without a care in the world. Some of the parents seemed to be enjoying their children, others looked bored and miserable and like they couldn’t wait to get out of there. Idiots, I thought, do they know how lucky they are? Part of the narcissism of grief is the crazy belief that you are the only one in darkness and that everyone else is free from all pain and sorrow. How ridiculous. I have no idea what was going on with any of the people in that store—who was facing what in their lives, which of those beautiful children were dealing with any number of serious challenges. I looked over at my own child sitting there right next to me and saw nothing but perfection. I thought of Charlie in his incubator and realized that for all his 1 lb. 12 oz. (his new weight—we never thought we’d be so excited about a two-ounce weight gain!), he is every bit as perfect as Leah and every other kid in that place. Just as he is, a micro-preemie on a ventilator, dealing with brain bleeds and surgery and fluid being tapped out of his soft spot, he is exactly the baby Kendall and I want, however his little body grows, whatever disabilities he may or may not have. I am honored and thrilled and feel so damn lucky to be his dad.
I don’t think I have the writing ability to convey these feelings, they are too big, too real, too hard to put into words. Am I starting to sound like some kind of religious zealot? I just love my children, that’s all. Leah, with all her fiery brilliance, beauty, and compassion, Charlie, the sweetest baby in the world and a real fighter, and Oliver, who could only stay with us for a few hours but who touched our lives forever.
Oy, this was going to be my “light” post. Oh well. I’ll just turn to Leah’s second favorite song from “Rent” and say that for all the five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes of each year—instead of daylights, sunsets, midnights, or cups of coffee, there’s no choice but to measure our lives in love.