Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Into the Silence

Since I have been on the other side of this table, I can read this specialist like a book. She's wondering, "Just how honest can I be?" I can see her return read of me, evaluating that I am not the type to burst into tears at the first inkling of bad news. It's a delicate dance we're having.

She's telling me what I already know, have hoped to avoid, but have been doggedly pursuing for over a year now: there's something wrong.

Still, I am experiencing revelations daily. Although I have already assessed him, diagnosed him, and have merely sought professional confirmation and assistance, seeing the reality in black and white finally does bring me to tears. I do it discreetly, alone, upsetting no one but myself.

I am learning that some of the professionals in this maze are honestly caring, genuinely concerned, and purposefully helpful. Some are merely indifferent and therefore tolerable. Some, and these are the ones to watch for, are very full of themselves as saviors. They scare me. I'm beginning to think I need armor to save me from those who would save me.

My son, on the other hand, is as happy as ever. He likes going here and there and playing with all the new toys. He never says a word to all these specialists. His speaking is a private and careful affair. He says his precious few words after much thought and very rarely for strangers. But his eyes dance and he catches my gaze to hold up a truck. "Green," is what he would say if we were at home, meaning, "Look, mom, my favorite color."

The technical name for the way he speaks is "telegraphic speech." It's a phase we usually pass in and out of long before the age of three and a half. He and I have struggled for it, attained it late, and have maintained it long enough to make of it an art.

Make no mistake, he is a smart one. He has been deaf intermittently which is part of his delay and partly why doctors have delayed in taking me up on my insistence that something else is going on. Now that they are shouting my own clamorous alarm back to me, I find that I would really rather not be hearing it.

It's an odd position to be in. I am at once an honest assessor of his abilities, a plebeian petitioner among the royalty of experts, and a mother bear on her own turf. Like my son, my eyes speak the volumes I can not say:

Don't mess with me...Help me...I know...I don't understand.

I've been on the other side of all this as a teacher and advocate. I know the ropes. I could have sworn this would have given me some advantage. Only now am I realizing my mistakes. Compassion only carries you so far. It is an arrogance to assume that familiarity with the details gives you a sense of anyone's reality.

I am finding myself humbled in ways I would never have expected. I stare at the experts and think back to when I've said those same words about another woman's son. So this is what she felt when I said that. Now I know why she looked at me that way. Knowledge is always trumped by experience, sympathy by empathy.

Not that I am in any way advocating a lack of sympathy for those in sympathetic circumstances. Not that I think it is fruitless to try to understand another in this world. What I am saying is this: I am slowly and utterly beginning to understand the commandment, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Just because you are familiar with the terms, the outward appearances, there is little of another's actual experience that can be known. We may say things to one another from across a chasm of differences. We may even come to some understanding. But it is in the ringing silences between the words that we lose one another again. There, in that realm, is God. Only He knows what truths lie therein. Leave the fathoming of it to Him.


  1. That was beautiful, those ringing silences are hard to endure but they purify things. God is there in those silences.

  2. I followed this related link from "Mommy" ~ music to your ears. So well said, and so beautiful. The language of angels!