July for us is a month of milestones and anniversaries. We already celebrated L.'s birthday on the 6th, and the next day, our 14th wedding anniversary. But six years ago, on July 12th, 2004, T. had major cranio-facial surgery to correct her metopic craniosynostosis. I've written about this before--and about her discharge, finally at age five, from her surgeon's care. Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever get so far away from that time--the time before her surgery and right after, that it will no longer have that same hold over us. But I don't think we ever will, for that experience is etched into our memories, our hearts, our bones, our dreams.
The other night I had a terrible nightmare about T. When I woke up I was flat on my back, which of course explained the nightmare (ever since I was a child I have nightmares when I sleep on my back). But it was one of those unspeakably awful dreams that leaves you feeling emotionally spent and wrung out. When I surfaced abruptly, at the worst moment, there was a terrific thunderstorm raging outside. The room filled with lightning, and the house shook from the thunder, and the dog was lying, panting, on the floor by our bed. Normally I like thunderstorms--they are a good reason to snuggle down even further into my bed, turn over, and revel in the warmth and safety of the sheets, and my husband sleeping an arm's length away. But I felt laid open that night as if by a knife, stripped and vulnerable.
I got up to check on the kids: L. first (asleep under a heavy pile of magazines) so I could linger longer with T., and then to T.'s room where I found her lying in her bed, curled on one side, blissfully asleep and completely unaware of the thunder and lightning outside. I had to fight the urge to scoop her up and carry her into our own bed--the dream was still in the air around me, terrifying and so real, like an electrical charge. For some reason I felt panicked, the way I had in the days before her surgery, when I'd stand over her crib or the changing table and soak her up with my eyes, memorizing every curve and dimple and angle, storing away the picture for surgery day, when I'd have to be away from her for seven whole hours, maybe more.
I told a friend about T.'s history the other day. When I tell the story people's eyes always round out in horror and surprise.
"Wow," they inevitably say. "You've been through so much!"
And I always squirm a little inside. Because we have been through so much, that's true. But then again, we are lucky beyond words to have moved on. It's done now, over, a thing that belongs in the past, like a bad dream--to the dark, to another time. That one day in July vanishes with the comforts and beauty of the mundane, the real, the here and now moments that fill up your life suddenly and brilliantly, the way lightning fills a room at night.