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27 Jul

A Real Boy

pinocchio_poster_92_500Every visit to the doctor, now, brings bad news. In the early days, there were reassurances and messages of hope – some boys make it out of their teens, there are ways to slow the deterioration of his muscles, he might stay mobile for a long time, he might still get to enjoy some of his boyhood in the ways that other boys take for granted – but now, there are only somber descriptions of what will happen next, of what needs to be done to make things easier, of what use can be made of his diminishing time.

They want to put rods in his spine, she tells me. So that he can stay upright for a bit longer.

Rods in his spine. He won’t be able to bend, I think, before remembering, he cannot bend now. Not in the real, active sense of bending, anyway: he slumps, he droops, he slides forward in his chair, unable to hold his own weight even while sitting, a Pinocchio without strings. His spine is collapsing under the weight of his body, his muscles having deteriorated beyond the point where they can provide any support. He’s like a doll now, a puppet. But he has no strings by which he might be pulled up. He has no Blue Fairy to wave a wand and make such strings unnecessary. He has only surgeons, and rods.

1 Jun

Things That Go Bump In The Light Of Day

nightmare in my closet mayerIt is, of course, our greatest fear. It is the bogeyman in our closet, the monster under our bed. It is the shadow that lurks behind every tree in the wood, it is the crackle of every twig, it is the sudden silencing of birds, the darkening of the sky, the unexpected chill in the air, the thing that stops our breathing, that quickens the beat of our hearts. And we cannot tell ourselves that it isn’t there, that it is just the stuff of fairy tales and scary stories; we cannot shine the flashlight into the closet or under the bed or out toward the trees and reassure ourselves, because it is out there, it is, maybe just as a possibility, maybe just as the faintest possibility, but that possibility is what gives it air to breath and matter to take form.

We could lose our children. Some harm could come to them. They could be erased from the landscape of our lives and our hearts could, would, break, shatter into a million, billion, trillion pieces and we would never recover, not really.

5 May

Songs Of Innocence And Experience, Redux

This – the post below – is something that I wrote a few years ago, when I was still in the first joyous and anxious flush of new motherhood. It’s one of my very favourite posts, although one that has gotten buried in the sands of WordPress, and time. It’s also a post that I’ve been thinking about a lot, not least because of my sister’s ongoing struggle with the prospect of saying goodbye to her son (a struggle that extends to all of us), but also because of my father’s passing, and my keen awareness, in the long process of letting him go, of how difficult he found it to let me and my sister (and, in a completely different context, my mother) go, of how difficult he found it to let anything go. And then, last night, I saw a film (about which I will write more at length, once I can do so without crying) that touched all these nerves, and more, and reminded me that what I thought was a unique experience of motherhood is, in fact, an experience of parenthood, one that fathers share no less for being fathers. And that, perhaps, it is an experience of love generally – of the necessity of giving love air to breathe, of the inextricability of loss from love, of the impossibility of holding on to those we love too tightly – of the undesirability of holding on too tightly – of the inevitability of goodbye. So I am revisiting it here. I am not sure, yet, what I have learned from revisiting it. Other than, maybe, that I need to meditate more upon the cruelty and beauty and necessity of letting go.


One of the most difficult things about pregnancy, for me, was that it forced me to confront myself as a biological creature. It forced me to experience myself as a body, as a being put entirely into the service of nature. My every wakeful – and not so wakeful – moment was spent in a state of hyper-consciousness about my physicality: I was nurturing a life, and that life depended upon my physical being, and no force of intellect or imagination could alter or facilitate or intercede in that dependency. And as a person who had spent all of her conscious years in her head – and someone who was well-trained in a school of philosophical thought that emphasizes the absolute primacy of mind over body, reason over appetite and base sense – this was very, very hard for me.

So I was anxious – anxious beyond measure – about birth and new motherhood, which I perceived as a broadening and deepening of this experience. I didn’t fear it, exactly: I wanted the experience. Every fibre of my physical being strained toward this experience, and demanded that my mind follow – this, in itself, was disconcerting. The thing of it was, rather, that I doubted my ability to stay the course: how would I ever, ever find my way through this dense thicket, this overwhelming jungle, without maps, without books, without the compass of my intellect? How would I survive, if I had only the thrum of my senses to guide me?

28 Apr

This Narrow Valley

There’s a home for the elderly that Emilia and Jasper and I pass every day on our walks to and from preschool and junior kindergarten and ballet lessons and karate. Emilia calls the ladies who live there her ladies – “we need to wave to my ladies, Mommy!” –  and she waves and blows kisses to them when we see them sitting in their enclosed verandah, and, when they come out outside for their daily constitutionals, she stops for chats and hugs. They give her extra candy at Halloween. She thinks that they’re awesome. “Just like Grandma, only not so far away and also they give me candy instead of cake.” Which is an important difference, you know.

The other day, after passing her ladies and dispensing the requisite waves and kisses, Emilia asked this: “why are some grandmas in wheelchairs?”

“Because they’re older, sweetie, and their bodies aren’t working so well anymore, and they can’t walk as much as they used to, so they need help. Wheelchairs help them get around.”

“Are they going to die? Because their bodies aren’t working?”

“Not just yet, I don’t think. But yes, when people get much older, they’re closer to dying.”

“And when their bodies aren’t working they’re closer to dying too?”

This is what you get when death is a semi-regular topic in your household. “Yes, sweetie, when their bodies aren’t working.”

“Is Tanner going to die?”

Ah. Ugh.

11 Mar

If Prayers Were Horses, Grievers Would Ride

Emilia wants to know what happens when we die. She asks a few times a week, on average, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on whether or not we’ve spoken about my dad or about Tanner or about dinosaurs. Today, she asked because they’d been talking about the Easter story at school. She wanted to know why Jesus got to fly up into the sky, and Grandpa didn’t.

You burned him, didn’t you? she asks. How could he fly after that?

Explaining death is one thing. Explaining the cremation, the afterlife and Divine resurrection are something else entirely.

1 Mar

The Music From A Farther Room

I don’t quite know what to say about Joannie Rochette. I’ve been stunned by her bravery, humbled by her strength, amazed by her determination in the face such terrible sadness. When my father died, it was days before I could even walk in a straight line, weeks before I could hold myself reliably upright. After losing her mother, Joannie Rochette strapped on her skates and competed for an Olympic medal. Incredible. Courageous.