weary by winslow homer

Weary, by Winslow Homer. Watercolor, 1878.

Some pain we can justify. (I am dysfunctional at the moment because X has occurred.)  In these cases, fallout from X is universally understood, even expected.  Other times we are broken by things we cannot name. Prayers taste like cardboard in our mouths. Silent tears choke in our throats . What we can name seems small and pathetic. And then to be brought down by such insignificant troubles is itself a trial.

Six or so months ago, Girl one was on our porch weeping madly. Control long gone, she gasped for air. I wasn’t sure whether to get a paper bag and treat for hyperventilation, or just to wait. I ran my fingers through her hair, wiped her tears, held her, and wished that I believed in sedatives enough to have some on hand.

For what seemed like a very long time, she was unable to tell me what was wrong. Either she was crying too hard to speak or she was insistent that she couldn’t say it. Any tiny attempts to explain the problem restarted the cascade of emotion, air shortage and tears.

My mind raced trying to figure it out. Was it sibling conflict, friends at school, or something with mom or dad? She shook her head no. Darker worries began to cloud me. I had never seen her so distraught.

Eventually, she began to talk. She didn’t want to get married (she was 7). Ok, I said. She didn’t want her sister or brothers to get married. I suggested that it might be hard for us to decide something like that for the rest of the family was met with five minutes of hysteria. In a weak moment, I backed down and agreed that none of the other children would get married either.

At last we came to the source of her sorrows. Boy one was changing. He was growing up. In a few years he would be a grown up and move away. She was heartbroken.  She didn’t want him to go to University. She wanted the family to stay together. She didn’t want to have any more birthdays or have anyone grow up anymore.

Logic didn’t prove very useful that day. We got through it by being together and holding hands while she cried. Maybe it’s strange, but I take comfort from that day. Granted, I smiled when she revealed the source of her grief, but I didn’t think she was foolish or contemptible. I loved her heart. Given my perspective and life experience, her response was overblown, but given hers it wasn’t.

I want to have the courage to be like that. Not all pulled together and fine thanks (unless I’ve got notarized wounds to show). Just as I am.  So, a nod to Girl one for showing me how it’s done.

Some sort of arthritis of the soul is at my bones, settled in to a dull ache these days. I was going to say it was ridiculous, as there have been no amputations of late, but maybe I’ll just say that’s the way it is and let it be.

3 Comments to Arthritis

  1. This has a power I don’t even know how to acknowledge. Beautiful and haunting.

  2. Barb says:

    Moving experience for Girl One, you and your blessed readers. Thank you.

  3. Leslie Lynch says:

    You made me weep. Again. In a good way. What a touching vignette. <3