Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Confession

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The supermarket checker looked over the top of her thick glasses at me, smug and condescending. One corner of her mouth turned up in an amused snarl. I felt my mouth open slightly in disbelief as the voices in my head began fighting for control over what would happen next. Her words suddenly faded into a wave of hissing static, and the sharp stinging from this normally mundane, unpleasant transaction in my already aching heart faded beneath my ever present layer of protective numbness. Her tiny, gym-perfect body suddenly seemed weak, and, strangely, she seemed to shrink slightly before my eyes. I suddenly felt large, dangerous, and powerful. Enraged. One word reverberated in my brain.


I fought the urge to leap over the counter and forcibly push my knuckles into her face. While I have actually only needed to use force on a couple of occasions to defend myself in the past, I have never technically fought a human being and would normally avoid it at all costs. Quite honestly, I couldn't tell you exactly what this woman even said to me, but it didn't matter anymore. It was plain rude and just happened to be the very last straw for me. She was the lucky winner in the last of a string of horrible days in my life.

I turned to my left and marched to the nearest aisle, abandoning my open purse, a short stack of coupons, and a cluster of keys on the translucent counter top protecting a display of brightly colored lottery tickets. I reached past the products on the shelves, knocking a few over in the process, and pushed my outstretched arms together to clumsily embrace groups of bottles and small boxes, pulling them roughly towards me and letting them tip over onto the unnaturally glossy grocery store floor. I jerked a glass bottle of vinegar from a bottom shelf, uncapped it, and tipped it sideways, allowing its contents to glug in rude spurts onto the floor, forming an acidic lake. When this was done, I released the bottle and heard it collide with the floor. On top of that, I pulled bags of flour, boxes of cornstarch, and bottles of vanilla. I had created an amazing mix beneath my feet. An odoriferous, foaming, angry stew. I had crated total destruction in such a normally peaceful, orderly setting.

God, it felt good.

I could feel my chest fill with a fiery burn as a seemingly endless scream emptied my lungs of air. I felt as if I were drowning, and my head was swimming. Strangely, I could barely hear myself. I growled. I grunted. I made noises only animals should make. The crazier I appeared to the wide-eyed checker (whose smug look was now only a distant memory), the better.

I hurled containers using every last bit of the strength in my arms, and shards of glass sparkled merrily in the air before settling onto the floor. Everything seemed to fall in slow motion. My feet crunched through the mess as I progressed, frantically pulling more items to fall to a disastrous demise. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would feel the bite of a stun gun or the viselike grip of a man's arms encased in a black uniform tightening around me from behind, so I began moving at superhuman speed. Molten rage bubbled up from inside of me. I was full of old, unstable fuel, and something had sparked it. I was tired of smiling politely. Tired of pretending everything was fine. Tired of holding everything together. Tired of attempting perfect. I wanted nothing more than to crash and burn like a fiery comet in front of the world so that I would never have to worry about whispers or speculation or doubt from others again. I would never have the threat of imminent failure hanging above my head like a storm cloud, trailing me day after day like a faithful pet. I was tired of hiding my weakness. Tired of the secrets I was required to keep because they made the world uncomfortable. Heaven forbid I make anybody uncomfortable. In one eruption, I felt nothing but pure, joyous relief.

So this is the dream I had last night.

I actually woke up with tears in my eyes. My chest ached, and I was still really angry. What this means exactly I do not know for sure. Perhaps there is a part of me that desperately wants to tell the world about the part of me that is still really angry and disappointed to this day. About what a failure as a mother and a human being I really am so there is no longer any doubt. About how I will never be the woman or mother I dreamed of being and how much that hurts. Instead, I can only do my best and hope that it's enough. Being a perfectionist can really be a bitch sometimes.

I honestly think that I have accepted what has happened to me as a woman and a mother over the years. I have no choice. What is done is done. Accomplishing this is not a pretty process, but I have generally been successful. I am light years away from where I was when I started this blog. However, expecting to be completely okay with some things is pretty fucking ridiculous.

There are some things that will never really be okay with me. No matter what.

I am doing generally well, but I am not okay. I never will be completely "okay," although I lie about this all of the time. There are some days I want to scream at strangers. To confess my deepest thoughts and unburden my heart, but we don't do that in polite society. It's not acceptable to fail or to even hurt. We are prescribed pills to make these unpleasant things go away. And it makes people uncomfortable if a person is completely honest.

I am not brave, amazing, or any of the other kind adjectives people tend to use when they describe a mother like me. The truth is, I pretend I'm strong and hope that I will believe it someday, which actually works here and there. On many days something tiny and unexpected reminds me of what a failure I was to successfully produce a baby with all of the correct components. To even desire another baby like a normal woman should. To get through a day without snapping at people. To take care of myself the way I should. Each and every day I try the best I can. It's all I can do. The strength I do have comes solely from the endless, incredible love I have for my beautiful son who loves me despite my weakness and imperfections. Ironically, on most days, I see absolutely none of his defects and all of mine. My anger has never been directed at God. I am extremely thankful for what I have and make no secret about that. In fact, I think these days God and I have come to a pretty successful understanding of each other. He knows me better than anyone, and there's no hiding anything from him, anyway. I figure that if I make him uncomfortable, then I'm in a world of trouble.

The truth is that deep inside of me is an ember that shows no signs of extinguishing. While I can douse the fire on the surface, there sometimes remains a white-hot briquette of disappointment, despair, and rage that comes to the surface for a week or two here and there. With each passing year, it gets buried in the day to day stuff. Work, dishes, laundry, trips to school, and grocery store outings. I forget about it, but it emerges in my thoughts or even sometimes in the casual words I speak. Sometimes I sound bitter. I hate that. Sometimes it takes me by surprise in dreams.

In my writing and in my dreams I can throw things. Rage. Confess all. All while putting up a brave front during my waking hours.

I thank God for that.

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Blogger Sue said...

Your story is my story, and likely, so many others. To say "been there, done that" seems trite. But maybe it's a small comfort to offer that life does get easier. Now that my son is 23, the worries and challenges are still present but different and somehow not so energy draining as when he was young. Truthfully, my 18 year old "typical" son is much more worrisome and difficult to handle right now. Who would have thought that the typical kid could be more challenging than the one with special needs ? LOL and Peace~

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember that lots of people love you despite your weakness and imperfections. We all have them too.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

I found your blog through another one, my son has williams syndrome too, I found out about 6 months ago. you post was so exactly what I felt. I am still so sad, but I love my son so much. Thanks for sharing the real feelings, it is so refreshing to read.

9:25 PM  

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