(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
Beth's young African Gray parrot screeched and squawked in an impressive range of piercing, demanding sounds. I tried to give Timber attention when he wasn’t yelling at me, but he didn’t like my attempt at a behavior plan.
The parrot woke up early every day, an impatient alarm clock. On weekends, John and I took turns babysitting so the girls could sleep in. During my turn, Timber sat on my shoulder while I folded clothes or cleaned or cooked or rewrote my to-do list. I couldn’t sit still.
Through Beth’s freshman year of high school, weekends focused on recovery. Maybe a movie with friends or an excursion to the YMCA pool. Our packed weekdays were overwhelming and exhausting between school, physical therapy, occupational therapy, extensive homework, and frequent medical appointments.
Every small action of life was a challenge.
The approaching holiday season lost its appeal for me. Timber shrieked when I pushed his cage in a corner to make room for our artificial green tree. With everyone busy, I decorated most of the tree, topping it with a red glass cardinal. The sweet ornaments my kids made when they were little did not evoke the usual nostalgia. I fought more tears, thinking about my babies growing up and the end of childhood.
I avoided people and neglected friendships.
I dreaded the social interactions required at holiday choir concerts and other events; “How are you?” echoed from well-intentioned acquaintances. How should I respond? I would not share my regret in the high school lobby. I refused to be a lightning rod for pity.
When I was asked about Beth, deadly health risks of quadriplegia came to mind. Instead, I said something about her amazing attitude and found an excuse to retreat.
My counseling sessions slammed me every week with sharp dichotomies. I had no disability and fought with pain every day. I appeared calm and anticipated crisis. I loved my family and my heart ached. My guilt spilled over in waves. How could I contain it? My psychologist didn't know. She reminded me about all the things out of my control—which might have been helpful for someone in a better frame of mind.
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