Photo by David Banuelos

Hiraeth Excerpt (Interlude: Misfortune)

The following is an excerpt of:


The Boy Who Dreamed and the Big Bad Wolf Which He Became

By Tex Batmart

If you haven’t been with us from the start, check out Chapter One here

Interlude: Misfortune

That year also brought him to the point of emotional collapse. In October of 1989, his cousin, Elizabeth was born on the other side of the continent. She was premature, and it was quite some time before anyone knew with any certainty if she would live or die. Elizabeth was having problems breathing, and her doctors could only try to reassure her parents that they were doing everything they could. It was around this time that Tex was first torn to pieces for having the temerity to attempt an actual conversation about what was going on.

As part of his studies for class, all of the students were required to start reading newspapers and watching the evening news, and there had recently been something which had been given quite a lot of attention: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Even in the face of a potential tragedy, Tex wanted to learn everything he could, for he knew, or at least was beginning to comprehend, that there was never an effective solution born from ignorance. As he read the articles again and again, there came a day when the phone call came that Elizabeth had stopped breathing in the night, and that they were only just able to get her stabilized in time.

Curious, he asked if this new thing which he had learned might have any bearing on what was going on over in New Jersey. Years later, he would understand the shocked look his mother gave him, but could never forgive her shouted admonition to shut his mouth. No one seemed to be interested in doing anything. They sat around with sorrow draped across their shoulders, and muttered prayers to their god that everything would be okay. Tex hadn’t fully turned his back on the church yet, but he found it difficult to believe that there was nothing more constructive for anyone to do. And when the doctors help that tiny baby finally pull through, no thanks were given to them, only a gushing to god for being so great.

It wasn’t that Tex couldn’t empathize with those around him, it was just that he saw no point in emotionally investing himself in someone he had never met, and felt that the best way to fight fear was with knowledge, something both television and his family had taught him. Perhaps it was because he had never truly faced the possibility of death, and perhaps it was because he hadn’t known anyone for the entirety of their life, but he felt out of place, and, in the moment when he wanted so desperately nothing more than the ability to help, he was commanded to silence and sent from the room.

Even after twenty years, he found that his mother reacted in the same manner. Far more educated in his mid-thirties than he had been as a boy of almost ten, he still attempted to combat tragedy with knowledge, and was still belittled and told that he had not a clue as to what he had been talking about. This might have hurt him, but as was the case with many things in that time in his life, it was only a matter of weeks or months until he would be proven right. What bothered him was that sense of superiority and willful ignorance against which he was constantly forced to butt his head.

That Easter, however, would test even his clinical resolve.

In the dark hours of the early morning, his grandmother arose from a night of fitful sleep, and, feeling out of sorts, made her way to the kitchen to take a couple of aspirin. By the time she’d reached the sink, she knew that something worse was going on, and took a handful rather than her normal two or three. She’d barely been able to call out and make her way to the telephone to call emergency services and inform them that she was having a heart attack before she collapsed upon the floor. From that moment until she opened her eyes to look out over the Puget Sound as the helicopter rushed her to the hospital, she had no recollection.

By the time Tex was informed, everyone was already on their way over to the hospital. His grandmother was recovering from her bypass operation, and all three of her children were desperate to see if she would be okay. In a small window in his mind, Tex began observing all of the adults around him, noticing the similarities and differences between what had just happened and what had transpired half a year before. His grandfather appeared lost, focused entirely on the task of getting everyone to the hospital (for he was the only one of them who could make his way driving in the city of Seattle, having commuted every day for decades), while his aunt appeared a bit agitated and otherwise out of sorts. His mother was pale, and her faced was blotched with the evidence of tears. Tex himself had no idea what to expect, but was fairly certain that it wouldn’t be anything he’d care for.

She looked so… small. That was what came into his mind the first time he saw her in the recovery room. The passionate woman he had known his entire life was so diminished, and even sitting next to her, he felt as though he was seeing her from very far away. There were whispers all around him, and somber faces, and he wished that he knew what to say or do, yet dared not try, after the last time he’d attempted to help out. After all, it had been his grandmother who had seen him dash quickly from the room, refusing to shed a tear before them, and had gone to comfort him, and thank him for his intention. If he misspoke here, he knew, there would be no one in a position to defend him.

After what felt like months (but in reality was only a week and a half), his grandmother returned home for the remainder of her convalescence. She could barely speak, and was confined to bed for the majority of the day. He could not imagine what it might be like for her, for all he could focus on was what would happen if she stayed like this forever? He felt that if it were him, he would rather have died than be trapped within such a broken shell. Had his counselor not destroyed the trust between them, Tex might actually have had someone to talk to about it that might have been capable of helping him to come to terms with things, but all he had was Arthur, and all they could talk about was how it was a bummer, for neither of them possessed the words to adequately explain what it was which they were feeling.

Slowly, she began to improve, and by the summer, was accompanying her grandson on trips to the park, as she tried to learn to walk again after such an extended period of immobility, and he rode his bicycle in the one place where no one insisted that he wear a helmet. It took months, but she finally seemed to be back to who she’d been before. Tex never realized just how close he’d been to losing her forever, and by the time she returned to work and acting as though nothing had happened, Tex made the mistake of believing her.

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