When the Bough BreaksMay 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Family, Transylvania | 16 Comments
Tags: Expats, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, Illness, Language, Maramures, Motherhood, Parenting, Romania
The sun lasered through the white pear blossoms as I glopped sunscreen on three sets of ears. Bees sniffed out invisible spots of honey on the wooden breakfast table. The rooster next door cock-a-doodled at us through the fence.
An idyllic Monday morning. In an idyllic country inn. Except for the occasional quarrel over who got to make wishes on the wispy seeds of the next white dandelion.
And then he came rushing outside, the tall, dark-haired father carrying his tall, dark-haired daughter. She was limp and sweaty. Her flushed cheeks looked like too-ripe cherries. Her gangly little-girl-arms dangled strangely, like twigs broken from their tree.
He laid her on the wooden table and bent down to yell her name in her ear.
We all swarmed over, the guests, the kids, the innkeeper, her mother.
Her mother. Crying, slapping those too-red cheeks, screaming in vowel sounds instead of words, as if her brain couldn’t quite connect syllables.
Someone brought water. Someone else brought wet towels. Someone else, a blanket. Voices bounced off each other like pinballs.
I couldn’t understand anything being said. But I could feel the fear. The panic. The helplessness. As if it were my own. It was my own.
All the mothers, we felt our lungs lock up, refusing to accept air, forgetting how to rise and fall and breathe. We looked and looked away and looked again. We sent silent prayers into the ether.
We imagined our own daughters up on that table. Silent. Still. Wrong.
Minutes passed. Or seconds? The little girl opened her eyes. She reached out for her father. She started to cry, quietly, as if she could contain the confusion, the hurt, the embarrassment, in those perfect, tiny tears.
Her parents whisked her off to the shady porch swing in the cool back corner of the courtyard. They stroked her hair and made her drink water she needed but didn’t want. They rocked the swing, gently, gently, gently.
Her thyroid, someone whispered.
A blockage in her neck, said someone else.
Heatstroke, said another.
No one really knew. No one called a doctor.
Instead, we tried to give them privacy even as we brought offerings of umbrellas, orange juice, and barrettes.
We lingered. We held back.
And we pretended that scent in the wind was a mingled mix of rust and mud, and not sharp, pungent desperation.
Have you ever felt another parent’s fear? Ever wanted to help but not known how — or the words to ask? Ever offered refreshments because there was nothing else?