I was sitting on the patio—relaxed on the couch using my wheelchair as a footrest. My hair blew around my face as a breeze swept through—the winter chill now replaced with the reassuring warmth of Spring. The document I was meant to be working on—full of choppy ideas and void of a single complete thought—sat open on the laptop in front of me. My mind wandered without the spark of inspiration.
Soon I realized I was staring. Looking past the computer, now blurred and forgotten, my eyes were focused on my children playing out in the sun. And in a strange twist away from my emotions as of late, I was content to sit back and watch. There were no feelings of alienation or a sense of longing for the realities lost to paralysis that have plagued me over the last several weeks—an unexpected outcome of #quarantinelife. In this moment I was happy to simply watch my children immersing themselves in the ways of childhood.
My hands were still perched on the keyboard and without taking my eyes off my three little humans half-way across the yard, I began to write:
My kids are making memories. They aren’t the special one-of-a-kind memories from a vacation, arrival of a new puppy or an unexpected surprise, but the kind of every-day memories that blur together and create the nostalgic feel of childhood.
I read it back to myself. Once. Twice. Three times. I let myself wonder about how these moments will fold themselves into their memories. What will they remember about whispered plans between siblings, early May jumps into the freezing cold pool, sunshine on their backs as they swing on the swings and the sharp poke of rocks on bare feet as they run over the path to the safety of soft grass on the other side? And how different will each of their versions be?
My son yelled at me from across the yard “Mommy, what time is it? Is it 2:00 yet?”
I smiled and said “yes” as they all proceeded to run past me and inside the house—because at 2:00 they could watch a movie. The backyard was instantly quiet and while the dogs took the opportunity to sniff around the now empty playground, I sat with this strange and lately unfamiliar feeling of peace
Over the last few weeks—well two months—peace has been elusive. But not for the reasons you may think. Through the weeks of Covid-isolation, I’ve been hit with an unexpected relapse of paralysis related grief. I’m fulfilling my kids’ needs and connecting with them in numerous ways—which I’m incredibly thankful to be able to do—but there are many things I ache for.
I can play Yahtzee but I can’t go out and play soccer. I can snuggle on the couch but I can’t race them to the other side of the yard. I can maintain their online meetings like a personal secretary and help them review their math skills but I can’t go exploring on the trail by our house.
None of this is new. But with the hours upon hours we have free to do the fun stuff, the loss is constant. And the fear of being a boring supporting character in their childhood stories sits heavily on my mind.
Yet there I was, sitting on the couch—having watched, not participated in, their afternoon adventures—and I was at peace. It was the reminder I needed to shift my mindset back to feeling privileged. I am not a boring or unimportant supporting character. I am thankful for the active role I will play in their memories but I also know it is a privilege to be here to bear witness to them as they fill in the parts of their stories that don’t include me.
Feelings of loss and gratitude so often swirl around one another and land comfortably intertwined in a memory. I’m content with the presence of loss in my life—welcoming it in alongside gratitude, joy and accomplishment. However I had to swallow a lump in my throat as I realized its absence today. Today I’m at peace in my existence without anything heavy alongside it—or even far off in the distance. It isn’t the first time, however it feels like it’s been a long time, since I allowed myself to truly feel and acknowledge unbridled happiness.
I let a few days pass after I wrote this. Mother’s Day came and went and, for me, was filled with the usual sentiments of children telling me how much they love me. But I read their words to me with this post—these thoughts—in my head. With a refreshed perspective, I saw something different in their words:
“She does stuff that’s hard for her.”
“My mom acts like she’s not in a wheelchair.”
“She is reallllllly brave.”
I saw that no matter how I may perceive myself due to what I imagined motherhood would be like while I was able-bodied, my children don’t see me on the sidelines. To them, I am 100% still in the game.