Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living without Dread or Fear

Being that my day to submit to Hopeful Parents falls on the 11th of every month, I knew I would once again have to write on September 11th—a date that has increasingly gained importance as we are now at the 10th anniversary mark of the now infamous events that hijacked our nation’s (false) sense of security.  I’m not typically one that remembers dates much—I barely can recall the exact date I gave birth to my beautiful twins or the birthdays of the favorite people in my life.  So I am not one to remember dreadful dates either—like the day we finally got Sylvie’s diagnosis, or the exact day my beloved grandfather died, or the day I finally put my aged dog to sleep.  I don’t really want to remember these markers of death, not because I live in denial, but because I’d rather remember the living with fondness rather than doom and gloom.  In fact, if I think about my grandfather or dog in their dying moments, I have as much regard for their passing as I do their living—with no regrets.  I said my farewells and I made my peace, and while I was devastated when they left this physical world, I have changed by knowing them.  I also understand, however, that key dates give us pause and allow us to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. When the terror we never envisioned possible becomes a reality, we need to figure out how to reassemble our lives in possibly new and unimagined ways.

I sent my beautiful twins to kindergarten at the beginning of this month.  It’s a much anticipated transition that one could expect would be full of excitement, dread, and regret—both for the parent and child.  But I didn’t’ feel sad or nostalgic or afraid.  Hell, I was just excited that Sylvie had made it to this milestone, given that her prognosis has been so dismal.  My little girl, in her fragile body and with her brittle nervous system is going off to kindergarten with her sister and other kids her age.  Sylvie has been grinning lots since she’s started visiting kindergarten. She knows she’s onto big things—meeting new people, learning new songs, reading new books, and maybe even learning some things that those of us who speak will never fully understand.  After only a week, the other little people in her class are figuring out how to interact with this cute and voiceless child, scrapping to take turns to see who can make her giggle the most.  


Had someone asked me a couple of years ago about Sylvie going to kindergarten, I suppose I would have imagined it purely a fantasy—another cruel joke to torment my broken heart.  After all, we didn’t expect she would live to see the day she would enter a kindergarten classroom.  But as me and their papa dropped our girls off at school, I felt a great sense of relief that we had made this landmark moment.  Yes, it’s a transitional period for both children, and it means my daughters are growing, but it also means that we are not living in constant dread or fear that something horrible will happen to Sylvie when she is not in our presence.  There is a lesson to be learned there, much as there is from the 9/11 events ten years ago.  An individual, a family, a nation frozen in fear and dread is of little use to anyone.  And it’s not a life to be envied or replicated. 

Kirsten works as a professor of Communication Studies at the State University of New York and is the mother of 5 ½ -year old twin girls.