Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Intense. Fierce, it was.

Ruby sat on my stomach, well I don't have a lap, and looked straight at me. Straight into my eyes. Like she was transfixed, her gaze bore into me. She wore a knitted cap, bright orange sun glasses and a plug was firmly in her mouth. After a few more seconds, her face slowly began to change. Uncertain at first, then a big, big smile. It was the first time that she recognized me, knew me for who I was.

It was a lovely feeling. Being seen. Being recognized. But even so it was slightly, oddly disconcerting.

It's happened before, of course, and of course as is the nature of the beast, it happens rarely.

I particularly remember a day many years ago doing a counselling session with a frail young woman with Down Syndrome. Pain spilled through the hole in her heart and talking with her was like wandering aimlessly from one fresh ordeal to another. I sought the source of the river of tears but never felt even vaguely close. Till one day she lowered her eyes and spoke, "You know don't you?"

It wasn't clear what she was speaking of, or who she was really speaking to, "You know."

I asked her, gently not wanting to break the moment, what she meant.

"Being hurt, you know."

Breath caught in my chest. Of course, I knew. I fled across country, within my own flesh, fled the demon of memory. "And you know too," I said.


That was the word that bonded us. We knew each other. We recognized each other. Though victims may be outwardly different - there is an inner comradeship. Something others can never really understand.

She didn't get better. She didn't heal. She lived with her pain in her way as I lived with mine in mine. But when together, we were safe - one with the other.

But it was a moments recognition.

To be seen. Recognized.

It doesn't happen often. He was being wheeled by in his chair as I was being wheeled in mine. We had forgot my wheelchair gloves so I couldn't wheel well myself. The person behind him was engaged with in a different world and he passively sat. Our eyes met for an instant and in that instant there was recognition. A vague smile crossed his face - a greeting I've seen now many times. Just for a moment - seen. But not just seen, recognized as sharing difference. The safety of a glance without fear of the hostility of the stare.

Ruby soon broke gaze and discovered the knobs on the radio in the car. This was something much more interesting so she leaned way down to grab at them. My hand was holding her, keeping her safe as she tugged and turned at the controls. Her weight settled, she had recognized me, known she was safe and then turned back to the world.

It happens rarely.


1 comment:

All 4 My Gals said...

My biggest fear for all of my daughters but ofcourse more so for Tarenne because I know the statistics. Didn't you write a book on teaching people w/disabilities to protect themselves? I would love to purchase that. She is only 7, but it is never too early and something I think of often. The strain between protecting her and wanting her to experience life. WOW