This I Believe

Pamela - Geneva, Illinois
Entered on January 13, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe there is truth in trite clichés. I haven’t always of course. There were times when these overused phrases made me want to scream at those who dared to utter them, thinking so stupidly, they were offering me comfort. When my daughter was born 6 years ago and shortly after diagnosed with a disability that has kept her from reaching so many milestones, I was, as most parents would be, inconsolable. But people did try. And I usually resented it. Especially when it came from parents of healthy children. The innocently spoken, “Pam, this will make you a better person,” made me want to shout back, “I don’t want to be a better person! What was wrong with me before?” Or even worse, “Then why weren’t you given a child like this, you could use some improving.”

The old-fashioned refrain, “Time heals all wounds,” would leave me resentful. Will time heal my daughter? Will it make her walk and talk and run? No, this is as good as gets. Time will only give me a child who can no longer be easily carried, but still needs to be.

And yet here I am six years later telling you they were right. I never thought those artless remarks would one day seem so wise. But they do.

Time does heal. The first two years of my daughter’s life I carried her with me always. Even if I wasn’t consciously thinking about her, she was there. There is one common theme in my journal entries from those early days, Mirella. Her name is in every one.

I don’t know when I stopped thinking about her all the time, but it happened. No longer just Mirella’s mom, suddenly I was me again. A person who could enjoy the warm sun of a spring day, or lose herself in a good book, and yes even smile, unforced, at laughing children running through a playground.

It may sound self-righteous, but Mirella has made me a better person. All right, not so good a person that I wouldn’t trade it all away just for a chance to see her long black hair follow her down a slide. Or trail after her like some beautiful dark kite, as she races on two skinny, strong legs. No, not that wise, but still better. I’m more appreciative of small wonders, and less concerned with the whimsy and trifling injuries that filled my thoughts in my previous life, before Mirella.

A new mother whose baby was diagnosed with a disability similar to Mirella’s recently called me. Talking with her brought back memories of what those first few years were like, how close the pain was. It was difficult to find the right words to console her. How could any words offer the comfort she sought? So, instead I tried to listen. And somehow let her know that it really will be OK. Different but OK. And I tried to convey all this, despite, my belief, without sounding too trite.