You breathe it in, but you want to hold your breath. There’s always an edge to joy. It doesn’t last. He trips over the garden hose. The seatbelt digs into his incision. His heart rate is still too high. The joy spins away, torn from your fingers. Sometimes you don’t even notice it until it’s gone. Other times, you feel the height of it – the pure belly-jiggling elation. You want to live in that moment of joy – bury your face in it. You want every last syrupy-sliding bite. You want to hold onto it so much that you risk losing it altogether.
I sat down on the side of his bed. He was pale, no – white. The color completely drained from his face. Eyes shut; tube taped over his mouth. I ran my hand over his forehead, pushing back his hair. His forehead was cool. I wished it was warm. He was asleep, but not really asleep. I wished for him to be awake. He was under, somewhere I couldn’t go. I wanted him back. He’d already been gone too long.
The day before Rowan’s open-heart surgery, when they drew his blood, I held him on my lap. I talked him through the pain. I focused on the process, on what was happening. We acknowledged the shock – the prick and the sting – and then talked about the possibility of it all. The blood dripping into the tube.
Darcie Whelan Kortan
Still, I wasn’t sure if I could successfully teach and accommodate James on my own and maintain my sanity. But I had to try. In the end, it was liberating to stop tracking the failures of an institution, and instead direct my energies toward the positive enterprise I assumed a mission much larger than I had ever imagined for myself—the lofty purpose of being a great teacher to James
We can’t fix Rowan’s heart—that’s the surgeon’s job. It took me a long time to accept that. I wish I could be in control, or that I could make it all go away, but I can’t, and that sucks. But you and me, we can hold him up, pull him in, and make him stronger. We can cut and glue and paste and glitter. We can make our symbols, share our love, and push down the ache. We can create our own kind of magic, full of stories and light and possibility.
Darcie Whelan Kortan
This depression had been in me for years, covered over by anxiety and anger about the logistics of caring for and educating my son, and the election had been the catalyst that pushed me over into the gravity of that black hole that I had been resisting for so long. In the depths of that hole, I found an aching knowing of my very real human limitations.
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