Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Endless River

Last night my five year-old daughter woke up around 330 and came in to our room. "I had a bad dream." She wanted to get in bed and snuggle with mom. Mom, as Jade has NEVER wanted to sleep with us... EVER, delightfully obliged. I could hear them whispering as I fell back asleep.

What was your dream about?
I was dreaming that I was talking to all of you and then everyone turned into stuffed animals.
All of us?
Everyone. It was very scary.

And I drifted off to my own dreams.

For me it was the same dream I've had since I was a kid. I had it several times. My dad had recently taken me to the mountains for an Indian Guides YMCA outing. We fished and told stories around a campfire. We probably made s'mores (but I don't remember for sure). And we stayed up later than I ever had before in my 6 year-old life. I remember climbing into the white Volvo with my dad and we drove about an hour home. You would think it was the fishing or the s'mores or the time with my dad I'd remember. But it was the drive home.

I had never driven in the mountains before. I vividly recall hugging a mountainside and trying to look as far down the other side of the road as I could see. But it was night... just blackness. I knew the bottom was down there somewhere, but tonight was just darkness... nothing. I was horrified at the unknown. I remember the sheer terror I felt as we rounded every bend and the headlights would shine briefly on the top of what hid certain death and uncertainty below. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I marveled at the duplicity of the road. The headlights showing me what lay in front, but not what lay beneath.

Thirty Five years later I had the dream again. In my dream I was riding my red beachcruiser Schwinn. I remember it well. It was fat and clunky. Safe. It represented freedom. I could go wherever I wanted on my bike. It would never fail me. In my dream I was riding in, you guessed it, the mountains. It was certainly a bit of deus ex machina as to how a six year-old got to 4000 feet in the Sierra Nevadas.

I was free. I was literally above the world and held that childlike exuberance that gives us unlimited confidence That feeling I so, so long to re-capture now.

And then night falls.

I take a turn too fast and tumble over a railing.

And I fall.

As a child, I would usually wake up here. Gasping. Terrified.

But not always. Now, as an adult, with a better understanding of the silent lucidity of dreaming, I allow myself to fall. It's darkness, and I'm still falling. Certain to smash into something... soon!

Splash! It's a river. A river moving fast. I look to the left and right... nothing but rushing water. I frantically turn around and notice calmer water, with several reeds piercing the surface. I could probably grab on to them. As long as I don't give up swimming. The current carries me as I try my hardest to get there, continually knocked back into the eddy of my swirling river. I try again and again until... at long last... I grab a reed.


I think of the journey with my son. I think of all the mountains and rivers and chasms and unknowns we have, and will continue to face with his journey through autism. I get the metaphor.

But I think of my daughter. I think of her journey through epilepsy. I think of how ignorant I am and how little I can guide her. I oddly wish it were autism, because the devil I know is better than the devil I don't know. I'm reassured that 80% of kids with absence seizure childhood epilepsy "outgrow" it by adolescence... but that means that 20% don't.

This evening, we got the news that she was going to need to do further blood work tomorrow. Routine. Checking levels. But, have you ever taken a 5 year-old to get their blood drawn? I have. It's terrifying to them, and it takes longer than a quick shot in the arm.

But my baby girl is a champ. She said "okay, daddy. I'll do it again. But I want a new Equestria Girl doll for it."

So, tonight, I took her Target to get the Equestria Girl doll for tomorrow's reward. Apple Jack. On the way to the register, she eyed the Los Angeles Kings (excuse me, World Champion Los Angeles Kings) hockey caps. She said she wanted one. I said, "are you sure? I can get you a different hat, something with the equestria girls?"

"No, daddy. I want to be like you"


And I think to myself... "why?!?!"

I am scared baby girl. I am scared that I can only see the surface and terrified of the darkness below. We might fall. We might plunge into that darkness and find ourselves in the rushing water. Helpless. Flailing. Overwrought. Seizing.

We could take the easy way out, baby girl. We could wake ourselves up. We could return to the comfort of mama's bed. We could go back to that warm embrace of maternity. We could be safe.

Or we could swim.