As many of you know, this was not the easiest of weekends in the Diary household. As a matter of fact, it pretty much sucked. But in the middle of it, this happened. And today, this is where I am training my lens — on a small moment that was anything but small. On a sister who gets angry and frustrated … and still tries to understand. On a moment that, if replicated again and again, will change the world.
The epiphany came in the parking lot of McDonald’s. Not really the place one pictures as the backdrop for an epiphany, but hey, they come where they will.
Katie had just coughed and her sister had let out a sharp, pained shriek in response.
This has been going on in some form or another for years.
You have an idea to help? Yes, we’ve tried that. Thank you so much. I very much appreciate the suggestion. Oh, a different one then? Yes, we tried that too. From curing the cough to building Brooke’s tolerance for it and back again, we’ve done it. Sometimes we’re in an okay place with it. Sometimes we’re not. Right now, we’re not.
As hard as it is for Brooke, it weighs on Katie too. Her sister does not want be around her for fear that she will cough. That hurts. She loves her and the sting of what feels to her like rejection is tough to swallow.
Eventually, sadness gives way to frustration. She’s had enough. She doesn’t want to be coughing either, damn it, but she can’t help it. Finally, it turns to anger. “Enough, Brooke! I’m sorry that I coughed but do you really have to yell?”
Yes, I explain.Yes, she does.
It doesn’t sink in.
Until it does.
Until we’re pulling into the parking lot at McDonald’s and Katie says, “It’s physical.”
I turn to her and wait for the rest.
“Brooke’s reaction to my cough, Mama. It’s physical.”
I’ve said this to her before. But hearing it repeated back to me, the words are completely different. They’re hers now. Filtered, processed, absorbed, and now given back. She goes on.
“It’s a PHYSICAL reaction. She can’t help it.”
I wait. I’ve yet to say a word.
“Like this — look.”
She presses a finger into her forearm.
“See how it made a dent. It’s like that. I can’t touch my skin without my skin reacting. It’s just what it has to do. My finger makes an imprint in my skin. Look.”
She pushes her thumb into my arm as I pull into a parking spot and turn off the car. I make no move to get out.
“See? Your arm gives way to my thumb. Your skin can’t NOT move in response to being touched.”
I don’t correct the double negative. I revel in it. I love the raw language of thought-in-process.
“It’s like that,” she says. “Brooke’s response when I cough is a physical reaction. She can’t NOT do it.”
With that, we unbuckle and head into McDonald’s. Brooke is squealing – a happy stimmy squeal. Katie is still talking, but she’s moved on. “So I saw this really funny picture on Instagram,” she begins.
I kiss each of my girls on the top of the head as they pass through the door.
A small moment.
That wasn’t small at all.