Wednesday, November 07, 2007

All in a Row

I went to the doctor today, and although I got an appointment on the spot when I called, and waited only five minutes at the office, it was a miserable experience.

See, I've had this cold thing for going on two weeks now, and I started thinking I could have a sinus infection, or bronchitis, or something, and that I should just get someone to listen to my chest already. But I got a more enthusiastic response than I bargained for.

He had me breathe into some Breathylizer-type unit, after which he shook his head and said, "Well, that doesn't look good." It doesn't? Apparently, he wanted 370, and got only 170. He left the room and came back with literally a buffet of sample meds, pills and potions and inhalers, and wanted me to take all of them and an aspirin and call him in two weeks. "Then we'll go from there," he said portentously. We will? So, I should medicate myself to the gills for two weeks in the hope of ruling something out? Or in?

I tried not to come unglued when he asked me my age twice with a 20-second gap in between, and asked Jarrah's name and occupation three times during our visit. But I really started to panic (interesting that I felt more panic than annoyance) when he started talking about her like she wasn't there. Now, Jarrah is almost three, and looks older by at least a year. So doesn't it stand to reason that she's a sentient being who's going to understand that someone is talking about her when they're standing 18 inches away?

"She Chinese?"

"Yes," I smiled.

"You go over to get her?"

"Yes, we did."

"My sister-in-law has two kids from China. What an amazing thing to see them bloom like little flowers once they got over here."


"So you went to the orphanage and everything?"

"Yes." (quieter now)

"And they had all these little girls just laid out in rows?"

"Mmm." (barely audible)

Jarrah had been vigorously scaling the furniture, but she turned around and observed us during this conversation. Mostly she watched me. I think she really wondered what her mommy was going to say about this business with blooming and rows. And her mommy kinda let her down, because I didn't say much. I sat there and had a conversation as clinical as the one I'd just had about my lungs. As if she wasn't my daughter, but someone I'd met on vacation and brought back here to see the sights. Or worse, not even a stranger, but someone not quite human. An acquisition. I had this same feeling during a very early doctor's visit with a key difference: Jarrah didn't speak English then. Not just because she was 14-months-old, but because she'd only heard it for a few weeks. So while I did burn with fury then for the insult to ME, this time I ached for my unacknowledged child.

"She's right behind you," I should have said. "Why don't you ask her where she's from?"

I will learn, I suppose. I'm a slow learner, but I get things eventually.


Anonymous said...

Funny, this topic of talking about the child as if they are not there came up in our home just yesterday. Different circumstances, mostly sharing cute stories about him or how his day went, etc...Anyway, I am now trying to learn a new habit as well, of including him in the conversations and engaging him even if the other person forgets or doesn't think of it. Afterall, it is the acknowledgment from us that is the most important.

Jarrah is very lucky to have you for her Momma, many would not have even noticed.

Anonymous said...

Too bad I wasn't there to bop him in the nose for you! This guys sounds like he is totally out of touch.

It was great seeing you all today!



Marlene said...

Oh, my beloved Sam, I cried when I read this post--for so many reasons: I'm so sorry you're sick. It's so hard to do anything, particularly to launch a massive political critique, when you're ailing. No wonder you were panicking--your body and brain can only handle so much. You're responsible for a child full time, you can't breathe, for heaven's sake! On top of that to be called upon to reeducate politically some bozo who is also responsible for tending to your physical well-being. Treat yourself with loving care, Sam, the same care with which you would treat your most beloved daughter. I have very complicated feelings about the hows and whens of teaching my son about racism (and idiocy). Jacob got a crash course when we had these events this last week on campus, but when he told me he hated himself because he was brown, I did little more than cry. I wasn't brilliant or fabulous or politically and personally healing. We will fight for our children, not just because of mother-love, but because we have always believed in justice. We are going to have to learn along the way how to navigate it, but we will. We will do things we wish we didn't and leave things undone sometimes, but it's like the mistake you make in teaching a class--it is one moment of a semester. In this case, it's one moment in a lifetime. It all matters, but we are human too. I know I'm gushing, but I just want you to know you're wonderful, amazing, loving, beautiful--and Jarrah KNOWS you love her wholly and that you stand up for her, that you have her back. Take care of you, get back your breath, and talk to her, if you need to tell her you wish you'd said something. Mostly, remember how your love for her is giving her the greatest gift of her life.

Anonymous said...

Hope you feel better soon! :)

And the good news about the doctor story is that now you have a sassy come-back waiting for the next idiot -- unfortuntely, there always is a next idiot. ;)

Dr G said...

Hi Sam:

I'm a friend of M's and wanted to share with you an amazing interview I heard about a woman's experience rasing a biracial child... Particularly poignant was the discussion of the question she always gets "where did she come from" and her answer "my womb." I was thinking about this exchange as I read your post.

I hope love and that unconditional celebration of our children can protect them from the ignorance and bigotry of the larger world around us. You and Jarrah are in my thoughts today.

Jen said...

What they said. Sending you love and support, and feeling great admiration for you! You are a smart mama.

Miss J