A few weeks back, last time we saw Ruby, she was sitting with me working on a colouring book. She asked me, quietly, if I loved her. I told her that I did, because, in fact, I do. She glanced at me and asked, 'Why?' I was a bit stuck for an answer. I'm not often lost for words, but this kid can do that to me, easily. I just grinned at her, gave her a hug and said, 'You know why.' She laughed but I knew she wasn't really satisfied with my answer.
It gave me pause to think. Why do I love her?
I don't love her because she's a 'good girl' ... because that would mean that I love her conditionally. That when she's 'good' she's loved, that when she's 'bad' she's not.
I don't love her because she's really pretty ... because that would mean that I love her, and value her, for something completely arbitrary.
I don't love her because she's smart ... because that would mean that I love her more with a good report card than with a modest one.
I don't love her for those reasons.
We are seeing her this weekend and I've been determined to remind her of the conversation and give her an answer. All the 'typical' answers just seem so wrong to me. They don't accurately sum up my feelings about her at all. This swam through my mind yesterday as a few people sat around in the 'warming area' for the International Day of Disabled people. We, strangers most, sat around in a small circle and chatted. We laughed. We shared information. We 'compared notes'. And I thought, a tiny little thought it was too, 'I love being here right now.'
Later, I thought about that. I loved, not what made us all the same, but what made each person different. It was exciting to talk of a commonality of experience from a diversity of differences. We, all, disabled people are not alike, not one of us. But in our difference is our commonality, in diversity is community.All this was swimming around in the stew of my mind and then suddenly Ruby's little question, 'Why?' popped into my mind.
And I know the answer.
I love Ruby for what makes her different.
Different from every other 5 year old girl.
I love the way one strand of her hair always falls across her face when she's working.
I love the way she pushes it back using her whole hand.
I love the way she always peeks in to see us before she tries to surprise us that she's here.
I love the way she always says 'um' before our names when she's going to ask a question. 'Um, Dave' or 'Um, Joe' is always the start of an interesting chat.
I love the way she kicks off her boots as soon as she can when she comes in.
I love the way she holds tight to the back of my wheelchair as I wheel around.
I love the way she asks me 'why' about things.
I love the way the 'whys' always make me think.
In a society that seems to loathe difference, I think it's interesting that on a tiny little level, the level of 'two' it is difference that makes the difference. But when two becomes four, or, more probably when four becomes eight - difference is greeted, suddenly, with hate. I don't know if it's math or alchemy, but what is loved in another becomes hated in all others.
But, I'm saying none of that to Ruby.
I'm just going to tell her I love her because of everything she does that makes her completely and uniquely Ruby. I'm going to tell her that I love her for everything that makes her different. I'm going to tell her that she's not like any other person I know, and I love her for everything that makes that true.
I really want her to understand this.
Because one day, while we are still two, she will be eight.
And by then I want her to love me, and all my differences, because, and precisely because of those differences.
At eight I don't want her to see me and my differences and wonder, why, just a few years before she loved me, and loved me true, and wanted to know why I loved her too.