March 3, 2009
Ambush my heart
Schuyler came home from school without her speech device today, which as you can imagine is a pretty big deal. We were stern with her, in that way that is probably a necessary part of the parenting process but which makes me a little queasy, and we found ourselves back at her school at seven o'clock at night. A janitor let us in, and Schuyler took us to her mainstream classroom. And there it was, the Big Box of Words, along with her lunchbox and a few other items that should have come home with her.
We led her miserably back to the car, lecturing her sternly the whole way. When we got to the car, we talked to her about the importance of having her device with her at all times, both because of her communication needs and the fact that, yeah, she's a nine year-old kid walking around with a $7500 piece of electronic equipment.
Throughout the questions and the admonishments, Schuyler sat quietly, her face downcast and sad. I can't look at her face when I talk to her in those moments, because I'll fold like a house of cards if I see those eyes.
It occurred to Julie that if Schuyler was leaving her device in her last classroom, she must not be using it in her after school program. That's not incredibly surprising since they mostly play and run around, in a rough and tumble environment that doesn't lend itself to using the BBoW. But in addition to any emergency communication needs, Schuyler also does her homework after school, so she needed to have the device nearby and accessible.
"Do you ever even use your device after school?" Julie asked her.
"No," Schuyler answered sadly.
"No? Why not?"
Schuyler hesitated, then started punching buttons on the device. When she was done, she looked up at us, with an expression of sadness and maybe even defeat, a look I very rarely see in her eyes. Rarely, but occasionally. When I see it, I take notice. She touched the speech button.
"They don't know I can't talk."
Yeah, sometimes it sneaks up on us.
I just started to cry, out of nowhere. Julie held it together a little longer, but not long. "She knows," Julie said. "She really understands, doesn't she?"
There was nothing left to say after that. I gave Schuyler a hug, a long one, and we drove in silence to the Purple Cow, her favorite restaurant.
Later, I asked Schuyler who she was talking about. "Who doesn't know you can't talk?"
She signed "friends".
And so it turns out that a father's heart can break twice in one night.