Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....
It took me a while to get over the staring phase. I sensed that she could pick up on my staring and that this could be unsettling for her at some level. So I tried carefully to manage the staring process such that what staring I couldn't refrain from could be done discretely, from a distance, not in her face so to speak. Even now, as I gaze upon her, I get emotional. But it really kicked in when she started smiling. She clearly had no idea of the power of her smiles. Her lovely mum warned me about this, but even so I found myself swept away. She too got swept away I think. I saw little spasms of ecstasy shudder through her tiny body as she crowed with delight at successful smile exchanges. Sometimes she seemed so delirious with happiness that the tail end of her crowing culminated in a distinctive throat catch on the cusp of her return to inhalation. That would always set me off again and for short periods of time we both teetered on the brink of complete hysterical, asphyxiating, intoxicating breakdown.
But something else she probably didn't know about was the power of the back of her own neck. I used to look at it and quietly crumble, without her even being aware. She would be staring at a flower or a fly or a tablecloth or inner space, and I would be on the verge of tears behind her. Why was that? What was it about the back of her neck?
Maybe it was something to do with already being helplessly behind her as she marched out into the “real” world. Maybe something to do with that combined with the evident high vulnerability of that small area between her consciousness and her locomotion. It was such a tender space at such a critical junction. Every day I would love her all over again just for that spot.
From very early on I would try to engage her in conversation, speaking normally to her, using the full blown adult lexicon. I imagined her first words would be multi-syllable. In fact her first word was “Tula” - the name of our cat! “Datty” didn't even rate a mention till much later. It wasn't long before she was saying “conversation” and “butterflies”, but my joy at hearing these utterances was compromised by my developing obsession.
My developing obsession had to do with trying to get as much as possible out of her about where she was prior to her being with us. I wanted to do this before her memory became too clouded with the reality the rest of us find ourselves sharing and by which we are daily overwhelmed. I wanted some kind of signal or message before actual language and the perceptions it conveys began to muddy the clear waters of her early memory.
Needless to say, it didn't seem like I was making much progress, but I did notice that whenever I asked her where she was before she was here, she would signal with one or both of her tiny fists, projecting only her little finger. In the absence of any other tractable clues or interpretive guidance, and under pressure of time as her cognitive and communicative skills were beginning to kick in, I eventually took this to mean "Greetings fellow stranger in a strange land. Like you, I haven't a clue, but I respect you, as I respect me, for getting on with it anyway."
Strangely, I found this notion quietly reassuring. Having done my level best to tap into her clarity, and compromised by my conflicting fear of jeopardising her drift into our reality in so doing, I now felt I could relax and perhaps move on. I felt unencumbered and free to do my level best to welcome her into our limited but functional dimensional paradigm. And, self-indulgently, I wanted most to tell her what a privilege it was to be her dad. Her mum granted me an enormous and largely unanticipated (in terms of strength of feeling) emotional gift which I will savour to the end of my allocation of time and consciousness.
But the lesson was not forgotten. I now use her hand signal in my sermonologies and whenever I encounter sentient beings.
© 2015 Deacon Martin