Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Seeing is grieving

We only knew we were in trouble when the bus came into view.

Yesterday, the bus failed to show up on the scheduled first day back at school for younger daughter after a two-week March Break. Now, a missing bus, in the delicate domino set-up that is the four-to-five-bus journey from home to school and back, throws off the morning's schedule and I had a medical appointment set up for ten, so I took the easy route, led younger daughter home through the rain, phoned the school to say we wouldn't be there, and took her along with me to the ophthalmologist. It's worked before. When younger daughter got up this morning, she seemed no worse than any other school morning, preparing quickly and even being ready ahead of time.

She first started wailing as the bus approached: "No! I don't want to go to school!" I guess she hoped that maybe the bus wouldn't show up this morning as well, and I would take her home again. By the time we'd taken our seats, she was crying openly, and I knew from past experience that any attempt to console her or even engage her would only exacerbate the situation. Finally, I asked her if I should sit with Daddy, and after a few more sobs, she told me to move.

She wept the rest of the long bus ride to Hurdman Station. I sat across the aisle from her, next to the Resident Fan Boy and watched our fellow passengers watching us, and particularly her. We got out to wait for our transfer and younger daughter resolutely moved away from us into a recess of the long shelter, facing the wall.

"What's the problem?"
A bearded gentleman whom I recognised from the previous bus was standing in front of me.
"I beg your pardon," I said, a little sharply.
"I only wanted to know if I could help."
"My daughter has pervasive developmental disorder and she doesn't want to go to school," I said, softening the edge to my voice, but keeping the answer short. You learn to sniff out quickly the holier-than-thous and busy-bodies. This guy wasn't one of them. I don't know what help he thought he could offer, but kind hearts shouldn't be booted around.
"It must be very hard," he said.
"It is. Thank-you."

He walked away. Part of me wanted to say: It isn't like this every day. It isn't. That's why people were noticing us today. They only notice us when something goes wrong. Remember what I said yesterday about being invisible? There are perks...

The Resident Fan Boy decided to accompany us all the way to school. He sat next to her on the second leg of the long journey alongside the barren early-spring fields of the Experimental Farm. I sat in silent misery behind.

We made our way up the suburban street toward the school, younger daughter trailing behind like Eurydice. Naturally, it took some minutes for someone to unlock the door.

"It will be okay," I said automatically.
"It's not okay! It's not okay, Mom," she declared. The classroom was locked; her teacher not yet arrived. Younger daughter stationed herself at the far end of the hall. We met her teacher at the door and gave her a quick rundown.

"She'll be fine," she said calmly. "It will take two or three minutes." If you go right now, she didn't say. I called a reassuring goodbye.

"I don't want it to be a long day...."

We left. The Resident Fan Boy took me to a Starbucks and we slid back into blessed invisibility. Oh God. Dear God.

Can you feel the same?
Yeah, ya gotta love the pain.
Ooh, it looks like rain again.
Ooh, feel it comin' in.
The mountains win again.

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