A lot of life is dealing with your curse, dealing with the cards you were given that aren’t so nice. Does it make you into a monster, or can you temper it in some way, or accept it and go in some other direction?—Wes Craven
As a child I’d adored my maternal Grandma, who lived in Witton Gilbert, a village in the Northeast of England. I liked her blue eyes and the way she called me bairn. Whenever we visited from Canada, she allowed me to breakfast on chocolate biscuits.
When I was sixteen, my younger sister and I went to live with my Grandma and my Aunt for the summer while my parents prepared for my Father’s new posting at the embassy in Bonn. At my Grandma’s I spent hours in my room lying on the bed, smoking, listening to the same Police tape over and over, mourning the boyfriend I’d left behind in Canada. When I did come downstairs it was to eat or watch “Top of the Pops”. Grandma and I had a lot in common. We both liked: fashion, Wallis’s Cornish ice cream, and musicals. Unfortunately, these were not our only similarities. We could both be moody, quick tempered and insecure. True to form we clashed. She thought I was lazy, entitled and mouthy. She wasn’t wrong.
Grandma was unpredictable. On one hand, I only had to mention seeing something I liked at the shop and she was slipping me the money. However emotionally she could be very stingy. I once got in a lot of trouble for saying I thought I was a better actress than the star of the 1970’s BBC mini series, Black Beauty.(This was probably because she thought I was getting above myself.) Another time, I got told off for talking too much about how great I thought my Father was. Back then, it puzzled me that she could be so generous yet so mean spirited. In hindsight I wonder how she felt about me. After all my privileged childhood must have stood in stark contrast to hers which was marked by poverty and mistreatment. Grandma went to her grave hating her alcoholic Father for the way he’d abused her beloved Mother. I’m ashamed to admit that in the past, I never considered how much it must have hurt her to watch the Mother she dearly loved so abused. These days I’m beginning to understand her perspective and how this must have shaped her view of the world. Though India’s pain has a much different origin, I do know what it’s like to watch the person you adore struggle. Not a minute goes by that I don’t wish I could take India’s place.
Since Mark and I returned from N.Y.C at the end of October there hasn’t been a day when India wasn’t sick. That’s seventy-four days. Recently India has developed a fear of stairs. I don’t blame her. She’s suffered so many horrible falls. It’s hard to see the intrepid India afraid. Mark carries her upstairs but she will only allow this if we blindfold her. Mark says her hands tremble as he carries her up despite his best assurances. In some cultures people wear black armbands to demonstrate they’re in mourning. This custom makes it easier for society to treat them gently. I wish I had a similar sort of band that I could use on days I’m feeling sad about India. I’d flash it at relatives and friends on the days I didn’t have my usual tenacity. It would let them know that this wasn’t the time to mention my weight gain or to criticize. One of the first places I’d flash this band would be at CHEO. Not long ago, India had two appointments there on one day: Neurology and Urology. At the first appointment, India began seizing continually after it was mentioned that she might need an operation. Her neurologist, who is wonderful, tried to calm her fears but it was too late. Things got worse after we visited the urologist who also suggested she might need an operation to get rid of her kidney stones.
Four hours later as we made our way to radiology for the X-ray her urologist had ordered, India was seizing continually but determined to walk. The journey was slow but we made it without incident. I placed India in the waiting area and went to talk to the receptionist. Our conversation went like this:
Me: We’re here for an X-ray. (Handing in the requisition form.)
Receptionist: (Frowning.)There are no X-rays scheduled until February.
Me: Our urologist sent us here. (Glancing back at India, who’s seizing every 30-seconds.)
Receptionist: (Rudely) For an X-ray?
Me: Yes. ( The receptionist moves to the back of the office and says something to her fellow worker. They look at Lesley oddly.)
(Lesley looks back at India again. India’s prone to falling on her face.)
Receptionist: For an X-ray? Don’t you mean an ultra-sound?
Me: Can we call urology? (India is now seizing every 20 seconds) Or I can go back to urology and ask?
Receptionist: (Sighs loudly.) I’ll go. ( Lesley sits next to India’s catching her whenever she falls. ) (The receptionist marches away. She returns 15-minutes later, takes seat at desk.)India Taylor?
(A woman in a white coat appears.)
Receptionist: Please follow Margo. She’ll show you to the X-ray room.
I don’t know why the receptionist acted the way she did. For all I know she hates her job, she’s going through a bad divorce or something about the way I approached the desk bothered her. Contrarily, maybe she’s just mean.
The other day I was driving to work and I started crying. Of late I’ve been questioning if the M.C.T. diet is working. India seems worse than ever. Anyway I had a funny thought. What would it be like if when we met a person and we could read how their features had been impacted by their experiences. So rather than criticize a person for having a wrinkled forehead we might think: oh that wrinkle, she got that when her son broke his arm, Oh Bob, yes, he turned grey the year his Dad started forgetting stuff. Would this make us kinder? And what would my face say about me? What would you see in my eyes?