the gut-wrenching musings of a loving father...
"I wish I had a normal smile."
Kami looked down at her Kiddy Menu as she uttered this 7-word sentence that made her dad shutter to his core. These are statements that I knew would come when I first held her in my arms upon her beautiful birth. Her life flashed before my eyes when I first laid eyes on her newly born body, even with her physical anomalies. But her life didn't just flash before my eyes, it flashed before my ears.
I heard her sigh out this 7-word frustration and thousands more like it in the first five minutes I held her in swaddling blankets in my trembling arms. One picture after another filled my mind as I imagined each stage of her life and the joys and sorrows that would accompany them. I heard the whispers of people in the halls of Junior High. I saw staring eyes, and I could read the lips of curious bystanders..."Mommy, what's wrong with her hands?" Reading lips is second nature these days.
So when 7-word phrases like this one come pouring out of my daughters mouth like water that cannot be cupped and contained within ones hand, leaking through clenched fingers, spilling over the fatty flesh of palms desperately squeezed together...these are the moments my life stops dead in its own tracks. Like my worst nightmare coming true, I sit in the moment stunned as with a tranquilizer dart. Frozen in time I fake like I'm not affected. I react with confident answers and stabilizing consolation, but inside I'm melting into a puddle of fear.
"Why are you saying that, Kami?" I already know, but I take the evasive route of the politician, "Let me answer that by asking you this." I don't want to overreact so as to scare her from sharing her inner thoughts with me in the future. I don't want to under-react so as to make her feel that I'm unsympathetic to her feelings. It's a tightrope I'm sure many a parent walks, but when you walk it, you can't help but feel all alone.
"I just don't like having pictures taken of myself." Oh, yeah, Gramma just took a picture of the kids sitting on the end of the table at the restaurant. This, for whatever reason, stirred up the feeling. All day long there had been pictures taken, but this moment was the straw that broke the camels back. No different than the last picture, just one picture too many. It is the difference between 211 degrees and 212 degrees...the degree between non-boiling and the infamous boiling point. That is what this picture was...the one degree.
And what boiled through the lid and over the sides of the pan, "I wish I had a normal smile." This little boiling bubble surfaced and popped in this 7-word form. And I heard it loud and clear.
I hugged her from the side and spoke something funny into her ear. I believe it was a reference from a cartoon that we had watched at one point that went something like: 'But we will have monkey children, Mom!' To which the Mom replies, 'And we'll love them anyway'. I know, stupid, right? But in the moment, it was all I had in my tool belt. All I had in my holster. It's no silver bullet, I know, but it was something. And Kami smirked with her precious little smile and we laughed together.
I don't think I will be able to stave off the bitter taste of these feelings much longer. Certainly not with Phineas and Ferb references. The wisdom will have to be much deeper than that. The dam of innocence that has held back the harsh reality is starting to leak and give way. That reservoir of reality is going to break through...it's only a matter of time, and when it does I want to grab her and float down the flooded ford with her, going under water to hold her head above it, dragging her safely to shore (or just catching a quick breather in a circling eddy). But ultimately, the Lord must be her Savior.
These are the gut-wrenching musings of a loving father.