On Saturday night, I was beaten up by a "gotcha," a particularly evil, knock your breath out, leave you weeping kind of "gotcha." Parents of Special Needs children know exactly what I'm talking about. A gotcha is when your emotions find a chink in your armor and you become incapable of defending yourself against the grief and rage that you normally keep locked up far away from your daily life.
I was eating a bowl of soup at my friend's house when their daughter came home with her group of friends, all 13-14 year old girls. They bounded up the stairs, giggling and joking, talking excitedly about Dickens Fair and other kids at school, texting one another while conversing (which I thought was particularly interesting since they were standing right next to each other), and appearing so happy it made me smile. When suddenly, I felt my heart constrict and my eyes fill with tears. They're the same age as Queen Teen.
Shit! I pushed the thought aside, focused on my soup and forced myself to keep eating, even though it was becoming impossible to swallow. When the girls took the dog out for a walk, my friend asked, "Are you alright?" That did it. I burst into a deep, wracking sob I couldn't control. She sat beside me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. "Oh dear, what's wrong?"
Gasping for air, I said, "They're the same age as Queen Teen."
The girls were so happy with their friends, cell phones, and social life. They could sing and dance and perform at Dickens fair, were all healthy and beautiful, and I longed for that kind of joy for my daughter. She is so alone and cut-off from the simple pleasures of good friends and giggling conversation.
I managed to get myself together before the girls returned, but I was tearful the rest of the night. My friends were so kind and understanding and I am forever grateful to have them in my life. The next day I still felt wounded and although I had a lovely time at Dickens with my friends, the emotional bruises from that "gotcha" lingered. I wanted my daughter to share the fair with me, maybe even perform like I used to when she was an infant. She could be a part of that group of girls in a pretty costume, singing Christmas songs and joking about boys.
Three days later, I still catch myself fighting tears. It can take a while to recover after a "gotcha" attack. It seems that no matter how strong or capable I am, I have no immunity to those moments when I am reminded of all that my daughter, and we her parents, have lost.