The heft of the morning pins me down and taunts me as I toil to pretend it’s just another day. I convince myself she doesn’t notice, but she’s nobody’s fool. The forced buoyant tone of my voice cracks, I lose my train of thought, she bends and twists to insert herself into the frame of my expressionless stare. I should be watching her like a hawk. But I space out, partly due to the cold and flu medicine I’m taking and partly due to the scenarios in my head of how this will play out this time, exactly 1 year after the first time.
Before school, we sit in the car and wait for her aide to come and get her for the day. I normally walk her to line up, but Addie’s kind team members have offered to pick her up at the car during my bout with vertigo, chills and aches. I am grateful for it, though it serves to enable my distraction.
I realize after a minute that I’m just sitting in the front seat while the car is parked in front of school, not talking, not reading to her, not following usual morning protocol. What must she be doing? I twist to see behind me and meet her leveled gaze. I get the feeling she’s been staring at the back of my head the whole time. I rally enough to start to talk quietly about what day it is, what classes she’ll have, what friends she’ll see, hoping for a sign back. She just keeps watch on me, patient. The tables have turned. Absently, I trail off.
A familiar tune wafts from the radio, something I have not heard in years. I’m brought back to the summer it came out. 1983. It was all ahead of me then. I was completely weightless that summer and a few others, no decisions to make beyond which leggings and how many rhinestone bracelets I’d wear that day. I didn’t feel it at the time; certainly the morose drama of my teen years convinced me that I had complicated life. But in retrospect, of course, the simplicity is startling. I had a walkman and the new David Bowie cassette tape in it.
In my reverie, Addie recognizes the flash on my face and lifts her own mouth corner in a brief grin. She was waiting for this; waiting for me to come back, for proof (and not words) that all would be fine.
I turn up the radio and serenade my non-verbal, cognitively diverse and highly attuned first grader:
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let's dance to the song they're playing on the radio
Wrapping my arms around the back of my seat so she could see my hands, I sign along with the words that I remember from those easy smooth days.
Let's sway while color lights up your face
Sway through the crowd to an empty space
Before long, my thoughts race ahead of me and I again trail off, remembering a line coming up. The line wrings all the energy from this little show as my gaze slides off my happy, here-and-now girl and out the window. Just as quickly, I feel her tiny fingers hook mine. I look back as I am meant to. She opens and closes her mouth repeatedly and signs the word ‘sign’ with her own hands – her message to me not to stop, to keep singing and signing, that she is not ready to disconnect from me yet.
I pick up again, all volume, wild animated expressions and extreme enunciation, the way she likes it.
If you say run, I'll run with you
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
I have no power against the break in my voice or against the tears that wrench free as I sing out the anticipated line. But she allows me that, patient girl.
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower
Addie’s suspected seizure activity is back, 1 year after it first reared. And it is no less terrifying than the first time.