Shortly after Larkin was born, I began to quickly meet many people with a loved one with disabilities. Those that have been home quietly taking care of their lives, some fighting the schools, government and medical institutions that seem to swallow us whole. Working, shopping, cleaning, sharing, going to church, raising, and loving their families just like the rest of the world.
Except to me, it feels as if I see ghosts. Like a Hollywood movie that is set in an elapsed, time period. Life and time moves so quickly for us while others are moving along at the “normal” clip that seems to elude us. We walk among those who have lives that do not focus on taking care of someone else that requires the ability to balance and juggle teacups and saucers. As if time is carrying me on fast forward and yet – I am right next to those moving at regular pace.
When I flew for United Airlines, one of the best parts of my job was sitting in the terminal watching passengers. Crew members in uniform hide in gate rooms away from people so that we don’t have to answer the standard 50 questions but we watch you. Watch your story unfold, your emotions, how you handle stress, how you handle life. That is how I watch people still, but the difference in me today is that in public I feel as if I am a ghost moving among those who move at the normal pace. I am not seen, my scars do not show, my wounds bleed internally, my hurt and yes even my anger is not often seen.
My life is so very different now. I am more observant of people and things around me. The way the sun is shining, the amazing smell of a spring day, rain falling gently on my face, absorbing a moment in time because I do not know if it will ever come again. I don’t worry about superficial things and find that I am having to work really hard on tolerating those around me that do so. Here’s a mental picture for you – I have had to literally stop myself from throwing my head back and screaming at the top of my lungs during a few conversations I have had to endure the past few months. Just screaming. Nothing to say. I just want to scream at the petty, absurd, and ridiculous things that I hear.
I also move with deliberation and caution to ensure that my well-being is intact. I avoid those who cause me emotional harm and I must do it because all of my energy and focus is needed elsewhere. I don’t have time to play games – not that I ever did, but now I pause and redirect around those that, for lack of a better phrase, just. don’t. get it. (and screaming really isn’t proper during conversation unless you are an infant needing to be fed)
There are many people just like me, living out their days with the worry about their loved one tucked deep away while tending to a job or task that requires attention. My job gives me an escape into numbers so that I can forget for a while the pressure of taking care of medical issues and all that it entails. I escape into the world of those who move along at the regular speed of life and I watch their stories. Sometimes I am surprised to find out there is another ghost next to me. Someone else who is escaping from reality for a while and stopping the superhuman speed at which we move and think. All it takes is a phrase or word and we instantly know we share a common bond. A not so secret club if you will
I have met many parents, grandparents and siblings on our time elapse journey who cry with me, laugh with me, just sit, and talk with me. The laughing part is what gets me the most because we laugh at things that would trouble anyone outside of our ghost world. Does the tinkling of our laughter sound scary? What we laugh at would curl toes, make the hair on the back of your head stand on end, and cause fainting or screaming for most.
Today I laughed with a mother in a way that only she and I understood. About things that only she and I could find humor in. I noticed the other people in the cafe glancing at us from time to time and that only made me laugh harder.
We ghosts have a way of making people uncomfortable.