Nothing much is changing.
BoyChild’s responses show no marked improvement. He will occasionally seem to be conscious of his surroundings but even this awareness is muted. He is moving more and that is a good sign. He continues to respond only intermittently to voice commands. His intermittent responses signal possible severe damage.
However we are given moments of mirth as some internal urges push his body to move. He will suddenly cross a leg over the other one, knee level, and jiggle his foot. At times like this he simply looks as though he is lounging on his own internal beach. It’s hard to not chuckle at this but sometimes it is hard to not burst into tears at its absurdity.
We are blessed with people looking out for us. Friends ensure coffee is available. Boxes of food are brought in and the attendant is cajoled into letting us keep it (against one of the many rules of being in the waiting area). I remain locked in fear and it creates a rigidity in me. The only times this stiffness releases its hold on me are when I see my daughter and I soften to take in how she is. I hold her and perform an emotional scan. When I am with BoyChild the bulk of my fear moves aside completely and I hope he can feel my energy. My partner absorbs much of my pain but I sometimes fear falling completely apart and so get jumpy if she is too solicitous. The other time this fear softens its hold is when I move in to the arms of people coming to help us.
I step into the arms of others, I soften and I sob. I sob my fears into this other person, let them hold completely for seconds the lifeline of responsibility I have to Austin. This lifeline is one of the most valuable things I have. But like all things of value, it bears a high price of responsibility, of care taking. And right now, it feels as though I may have to pay a big price in order to keep it. So when I am surrounded by the love of my community, I learn to use it for a brief respite.
GirlChild asks one night why I cry each time someone new comes in and hugs me. She is genuinely curious and I imagine that this is because she sometimes struggles with how to express herself. She is an even-tempered child, independent, but emotionally available when approached with care. She is quick-witted and can hide herself behind that wit. I think it must be hard to watch this drama unfold at 17. To watch the adults around her fall apart even as she struggles with her own desire to fall apart or scream or run away. But her question still catches me off guard: Why do I cry each time? There is the obvious answer and there is the softening I experience, but at this time I do not yet have the words for this. Then it comes to me and I say, love and pain are very close together here (pointing to my heart). When someone hugs me, it’s as though the membrane between the two dissolves for a moment and I feel both of those things in a way that is so intense I can only cry. She nods. I think I get it.