I'm out having a rare lunch with two old friends. Other than my family, they know me better than any people. They have been my emotional pillars during the early years with Max, when I was out of my head with grief and anxiety. They care deeply for both of us.
One friend is telling me that her son's class has two kids with special needs, both of whom have aides. "One of them is deaf, but otherwise he is typical," she says. "And the other kid has cerebral palsy, but not as bad as Max has it. He can talk, and his hands are fine."
I'm startled. She is just being matter-of-fact, but the words "not as bad as Max has it" are jolting.
I say nothing. Suddenly, though, I am having one of those conversations in my head. Why am I so sensitive? Maybe it's a good thing that she feels she can be so matter-of-fact around me, unlike some other friends who still seem uncomfortable when the subject of Max and his disabilities comes up. I wonder how she's seeing Max these days. I think he's making great progress, but I am not sure it seems that way to her given that, as she's just noted, Max can't exactly talk and his hands are still screwed up, to use the technical term. What is this kid with not-such-bad cp like, anyway? What would it be like to have a child with cp who is "not as bad as Max"? I think he's doing just fine for himself, but clearly, she doesn't. Unsettling.
Soon enough, I'm sucked back into the conversation with friends. But I am unhinged. And still, I keep wondering:
When will words stop jarring me?
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