Tanner is being bullied. Tanner is being bullied, and it is breaking our hearts, and we don’t know what to do.
All bullying is horrible, of course. I’m resisting the temptation to insist that the bullying of Tanner, who is disabled and terminally ill, is horrible by a whole different order of magnitude than ‘ordinary’ bullying, but the fact of the matter is that to the bullied child, and those who love that child, there is no such thing as ‘ordinary’ bullying. All experiences of being bullied are uniquely, exquisitely horrible.
So it is that our experience of Tanner being bullied, and certainly Tanner’s experience of being bullied, feels uniquely awful and terrible and painful. That he already faces so much disadvantage, that his life is already painful and difficult, that his life will be short makes it all feel like something of a curse. This is how I feel. This is how my sister feels. This is, of course, how Tanner feels, although it must be said that I lack the words to understand or explain how Tanner feels, because I cannot for one instant imagine how Tanner feels, beyond a vague understanding that it involves an order of torment that I have never and likely will never experience.
What’s been happening, in my sister’s words:
I did a gift guide the other week. It was kind of fun, not least because it was totally a tongue-in-cheek gift guide – not that Brainy Smurf isn’t good for awesome gift-giving advice, but still. That said, if I were to do a serious gift guide, which is to say, one that took seriously the question of the things that I or any other contemporary mothers really need, it would look more like this:
This past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, except that it wasn’t, which was weird. I mean, it was Thanksgiving weekend, for Americans, but even though we’re in America, we’re not, actually, you know, American, so it felt like it would just be wrong, sort of, to roast a turkey and do the whole Thanksgiving thing. We had our own Thanksgiving last month, after all. Two Thanksgivings would just be greedy.
But it wasn’t just that. It was more that it just felt like this holiday wasn’t ours, you know? It’s not that we don’t fully feel like we belong – New York City is probably the most exuberantly inclusive place that I’ve ever lived – or that we somehow culturally out of place. And it’s certainly not that we don’t have much to be thankful for. It’s just that Thanksgiving, the way that it’s done here, is really just so culturally specific. It’s so American. And although we’ve so fully embraced being in America, we’re still very much Canadian.
(This post is underwritten by the American Cancer Society, official sponsor of birthdays.)
Emilia likes birthday parties. Actually, like is an understatement. Emilia loves birthday parties, with the fiery heat of a thousand wax birthday candles and a few hundred sparklers.
But here’s the thing about Emilia’s love of birthday parties: she’s not particularly fussy about whether those parties are in celebration of her birthday, or, in fact, whether they’re in celebration of any birthday at all. She’s really pretty emphatic that a ‘birthday’ – that is, a day marking someone’s birth – is by no means a necessary condition for a celebration involving cake and balloons and such. After all, if one limited such celebrations to birthdays, one would only have a handful of reasons to throw such a celebration in any given year. So why not declare every occasion a birthday-party-worthy occasion? Can you think of even one reason why you should not?
Emilia can’t, and so Emilia celebrates everything. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. Because she’s right that we should be celebrating everything, and that when there isn’t anything obvious to celebrate, we should be looking for those things and declaring them celebration-worthy and then lighting candles and eating cake. So it is that we have thrown parties to celebrate potty-training accomplishments, dance recitals, haircuts, rainy days and Saturdays. We celebrate every visit to Grandma’s house with a cake and balloons. We do the same whenever Grandma visits our house. We do the same whenever pretty much anybody visits our house. Because, why not celebrate these things? Who knows how long we’ll have them to celebrate? We’ve faced too many losses; we’re facing too many losses. We lost my dad. My mom had a skin malignancy, and then an aneurysm, and then failed aneurysm surgery. My stepfather battled prostate cancer. Tanner fights his own fight. Every day could bring a loss, or bring us closer to a loss.