I first met Grant, his mother and his sister in the spring of 2002, when they joined our Moms Club playgroup. Grant and my son, Robbie, were going to be in the same kindergarten class that fall.
Kathy and I became friends -- talking about how school was going for the boys. I could sometimes provide her with day to day insights, through Robbie, into life in the classroom. Kathy appreciated these insights because Grant had cerebral palsy and Robbie was (what they call in edu-speak) typically developing.
|My son is in the mashed-up middle row. Grant is in the front row.|
"Can you ask Robbie if they went outside today?" Kathy might call and ask. There was mud on her son's jeans and she had no idea how it got there. I will never forget the day she called me, thrilled, because Grant's aide had sent him home with a map. Not a normal map -- this one explained the various, multi-hued stains on Grant's T-shirt. Some came from lunch, some from an art project, some from recess.
Another time, she called me, laughing. At recess, Grant's aide had been approached by a serious little boy. He thought it would be a good idea for the two of them to ride Grant's wheelchair down the slide. That was my vehicle-obsessed son. (I drafted a picture book about this incident. Maybe I'll go back to it some day.)
Due to redistricting, the boys ended up at different schools, but Kathy and I stayed in touch. The kids saw each other for birthday parties, or get togethers, but less and less frequently. When my son was diagnosed with dyslexia, Kathy understood the frustrations of coping with the school system. She helped teach me how to be an advocate.
She also understood the process of letting go of that fantasy kid all of us create during the waiting time of pregnancy or before we take home an adopted child. We all let go of that fantasy at some point, as we parent a real, wonderful child -- a human being -- with all of his strength and weaknesses, all of her needs and wants.
Losing a child is unbearably painful. I am hurting for my friend. It was a gift to have her son in our lives. I had planned to share an elegiac poem by a well-known poet. Instead, I wrote about one memory of Grant.
The Map (firstish draft!)
by Laura Shovan
She emptied her son’s backpack every day
after the bus put up its wheelchair lift and drove away,
after she rolled him up the ramp and through the door.
Once there was a map in his backpack, mirror image
of the pale blue T-shirt she dressed him in that morning,
ironed and clean, now streaked with God-knew what.
The map of his shirt said a black smudge was finger paint
(it was nearing Halloween, his aide wrote,
they were doing spiders), green was grass from recess,
the glowing orange splotch – not a pumpkin –
Miranda “borrowed” a highlighter from the teacher’s pen jar,
drew a lopsided heart on his shoulder. The brown was chocolate
(they told Robbie not to share his MnMs, but…)
When her son died, she thought about the map.
If he had worn a map on the last day, what would she know?
The spider and the grass, the misshapen heart,
chocolate melting on a quiet tongue.
Today's Poetry Friday host is Karissa at the Iris Chronicles.