It has been a long time since I've last posted. As it tends to do from time to time, life gets in the way. I have been working more and writing less, and like trying to get back into the routine of going to the gym (it's the best once you start, but getting yourself there is a monumental task), I have admittedly been avoiding the keyboard. But in one very short and sweet moment, my beautiful, soulful daughter reminded me of the remarkable power of words, and I felt immediately compelled and inspired to write again.
It was the memoir that Tova had silently been working on for her LA class over the last several weeks. A few days ago, I came home and found it resting on the keyboard of my computer. I went out to the back porch to find my husband Brendan sitting on the couch. He saw what I had in my hand and nodded to me as I sat down in the wicker rocker. "I dare you," he said, "to read it without crying."
I am so grateful that Tova chose to share this moment in time with us. I know that she did not write it for us, but because she wrote it, we are able to catch a tiny glimpse of what it must have been like for her. For years I agonized over trying to make sure she was okay during all of this, and having this window into the mind of her younger self is a blessing. After I read it, she said, "You see mom, I had no clue. I was content just going about my business as usual."
Tova bravely agreed to allow me to post it on the blog, so here it is:
by Tova Byrne
Hesitantly, I sidled indoors, ushered like a sheep by my grandparents. The place struck me as unfamiliar; everything (and everyone for that matter) was too quiet and fragile. The entire structure seemed to be made out of marble, glass, and stainless steel, and I wrung my tiny six-year-old hands together, as if anything I touched would suddenly shatter.
"C'mon sweetheart, we're going to see Declan and your parents now," explained my grandmother as she led me around the gradual corner. Mommy? Daddy? I wondered. I hadn't seen them in nearly a month, but we conversed daily over the phone. In the meantime, however, I stayed oblivious and highly enjoyed being passed around by relatives I scarcely saw.
The elevator rang, and Nana held my hand as half the people poured out, like they were water and not humans. They dispersed slowly, leaving the mouth of the stream wide open for the taking, and we stepped in. Many followed, such as people in suits and uniforms, and even a lady in a wheelchair. The doors pulled closed slowly, with what looked like much effortm, and we gave a small lurch upwards.
People shifted uncomfortably, and the whole ride consisted of orchestrated coughs, sniffs, and scratches. Nobody talked. As we rode, the tide of the elevator thinned, only to be thickened again by oncoming others. I stared in awe at the lady sitting so calmly in her wheelchair, not knowing any better. I wondered why she always sat when it proved so much fun to stand and run and jump. The elevator stopped before I got a chance to finish the thought.
I was guided out again, but not directly. Being on the elevator for so long, we had been eventually pushed to the back and so we created a path to get out. I did this excitedly, for it reminded me of RushHour, my absolute favorite game at the time.
The elevator door shut behind us, and we rambled on. Funny-looking doctors passed, sporting shiny, puffy hats that made them resemble blueberry muffins from space, and they wore similar objects on their feet that went, SHHHH, SHHHHH, with every step they took. With the exception of the sound of doctors sliding around, silence positively brewed within the building. We passed gurneys and lots of closed doors, (which, for the record, I didn't like. I was an incredibly curious six-year-old, and all secrets had to be known.)
We finally added our silent and uncomfortable march in front of two gigantic white doors, with little webbed windows too high to peer through. The intercom crackled, and Nana said the magic password, (which included her name and Declan's) and the doors opened magically. I stumbled forward, reminded of Scooby Doo when they shuffled into a haunted house and the door swung wide, but nobody stood behind. Forgetting the haunted house reference, I entered the wing the most at ease since I arrived. There was more sound here, kind of a general murmur, and the walls acted as a sense of relief as well. A mural of a jungle stretched out, if jungles really contained smiling giraffes and exotic butterflies. I stood on tippy-toes and pressed a minute, marker-stained finger against an ornate orange wing, and moved on with a quiet sense of satisfaction.
We eventually found the right room, and we filed in quietly. I wasn't fully sure why we were in the hospital until now, when I spotted him in the massive, sterile crib. He sat like a caged animal, a four-year-old on display at the zoo.
He positively radiated with exhaustion, which confused me some, regarding he was spending most of his time in bed. He seemed too fragile, and I made my way over to my mom, who sat next to the crib. I gave her a hug, and she too slumped with fatigue, but I understood this time. It wasn't fun to sleep in a chair.
"Hi Dec," I ventured, curling fingers around the glacial, rigid metal bars surrounding his bed. It felt good to be able to actually touch something, although the whole setup was very unwelcoming.
"Hullo Tofa." He smiled at me and I gladly returned the favor. He looked very odd, a little boy with a hat that made him look like he had an onion for a head. Lots of wires sprouted out the top, which really didn't help the fact that I currently saw him as an onion. The wires drooped down his back into a backpack, and I remember wondering why he was electricity-powered. No wonder he looked as if he were in the zoo.
We stared at each other for a moment or two, simply basking in each other's presence. After which, I decided my little brother needed to laugh. It became my mission, yet the forlorn boy laughed far too easily. I couldn't blame him. I didn't exactly adore the hospital, either.
Even after informed that these visits would repeat biannually, it took me quite a while to comprehend that this wasn't normal. I mean, I didn't visit the hospital for such a span of time when I was four. Declan stood by himself, different. I didn't care. He was my little brother and I was going to love him anyway.