Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Onion Rings

I've been feeling a little bit guilty about my last post. There is so much raw, screaming, wood-splintering grief in the world that I don't feel I have much right to complain. Plus, this was supposed to be a blog about "finding joy". There was little joy in that post.

I think I'm turning a corner though...as my friend Beth commented, I'm rising back above the water. I took the kids to the local (grass-fed) hamburger joint last night. I ordered Oscar and Ruby the usual -- one kids' menu hamburger to split, orange slices instead of fries, and salad on the side. This time I reminded the waitress to give them the lettuce and tomato with their burger. (For some reason they leave it off for kids - argh.) Oscar eats the orange slices first. He works on them for quite a while making sure not to miss a speck of the sweet fruit. Even Ruby says "ewww, Oscar, don't eat the white stuff". He moves on to his half of the burger, eating it plain. He doesn't want the lettuce and tomato on his bun, but he does want it. I end up cutting that up and mixing it into his salad, which he eats next. Slowly. All that chewing isn't easy in a low-toned low-saliva mouth.

Then he starts on the slice of red onion. (Wait -- I didn't ask for onion!) At this point I realize that I must be starting to feel better, or maybe it is the guilt overpowering the grief, because I catch myself thinking, "So what if my 8 year old is eating a red onion ring by ring? He is here. He talks to me. He makes jokes. He is alive!"

This is what I know: A Berkeley family is in terrible pain right now over the tragic death of their kindergartner in a traffic accident. I passed the site of the accident today -- teddy bears, signs, and flowers adorn the corner where he was struck down on the way to his after school program. I can't imagine. I ended up telling the kids a boy was injured because I want them to know I am serious about streets. Ruby gets it and is not balking about holding my hand anymore. Oscar is slower but I keep a hand on him. Abe is not only looking left, right, left, but back over his shoulder to check for cars making right turns.

And that is not all: Another woman in our community lost her husband when he was hit by a muni train in San Francisco just moments after telling her he was on his way home. I'm reading posts at www.hopefulparents.org about families grieving the loss of their children and facing all sorts of challenges I never dreamed of. And more people are newly diagnosed with cancer, recovering from serious surgeries, babies are being born with disabilities or not being born at all. Not all grief is the same, but I remember clearly the horrible feeling when your world falls away and you are lost, so utterly lost, with no ground left to walk on. I have been there and that is not what I am feeling right now. My grief is old and familiar, and I can deal.

So, back at the restaurant, the rest of us are ready to go and still waiting for Oscar. Ruby and Abe get up to say hello to a friend who is also dining out tonight. I stay at the table, w-a-i-t-i-n-g for Oscar who is carefully separating the 3rd ring of the onion and preparing to eat it, one painfully small bite at a time. He obviously hates the taste of it but he is compelled to finish it anyway. That's Prader-Willi syndrome for you! I don't know why, but I just laugh. "Oscar, you're not REALLY going to eat that whole onion, are you?" He looks up, he laughs too, and puts the 3rd ring down. "No", he says, smiling.

There is hope after all, and I am grateful.


  1. i'm glad that your grief has passed, at least for now. this is a nice tribute to the grace that "normalcy" brings. i've always found it important and sustaining to remember that everything passes -- when things are good, be grateful because they won't always be that way. when things are bad, don't despair because they won't always be that way.

  2. you're right...once i got used to the waves i started realizing the despair would pass eventually. very reassuring! and while i am adamant that things don't "happen for a reason" or "only to people that can handle them" i do recognize the upside of having experienced such grief...even the most mundane of moments can be something to treasure. thanks as always for your comments!

  3. Mary, I am so glad baseball season is here because I can't wait to see your kids again!