In a too-small chair, under a mural depicting the solar system, I watch a hamster spinning on a wheel, and consider the following list:
Number 1. Cuts with Scissors
Can he do this? Think back to Christmas. He wrapped his own gifts – so yeah, he can cut with scissors. Check!
Number 2. Writes First and Last Name Legibly
Of course! He can totally do that!
But, the writing is pretty messy. Does that still count as “legible”?
Number 3. Handles Peer Conflict
Yes! Mostly. Unless you’re rushing him. Or he doesn’t get his way. Or he can’t get the TV to work. Hmm… What would my mother say?
- Maintains Attention to Task
Definitely room for improvement there.
- Jumps with Two Feet
- Hops on One Foot
- Toilets Independently
Oh my god, this is so overwhelming!
Eyes closed, I mine the database of pictures in my head for evidence. I squirm in my seat waiting for my name to be called. The teacher will review each skill and tell me how my Kindergarten student measures up. Quite well, in fact. Her skills have progressed quickly. A model student.
But it’s not her I’m thinking about.
My 74-year-old father has recently been diagnosed with a neurological disease similar to Parkinson’s, but with a name so long and tongue-twisty I can never remember without looking it up. Progressive Supra-Nuclear Palsy. PSP for short.
“Sounds like a drug I tried in college, once” I joked flatly when my parents broke the news. Not that funny, as it turns out. The list of symptoms is daunting, and with no known cure, the prognosis fairly bleak. Every 4 months my father and his doctor review a checklist of motor skills, memory, mood, and social skills. A kind of report card of his disease. So far he’s beaten the odds. His symptoms have progressed slowly. A model patient.
Each day my 5-year-old continues to sharpen the skills listed on her report card. She learns new words, her focus increases. Not only can she jump, and hop on one-foot, but the other day she told me all of her dreams have come true because she can finally do a cartwheel!
As my daughter progresses, my father diminishes. I guess that’s as it should be. The natural cycle of things. Watching them together fills my heart with joy, but the anxious, uneasy joy of a mother who wants to protect them and fix everything.
I want so desperately to stop the clock.
To freeze this moment in time so I will always have my Kindergartener, and she will always have her grandfather – Pure and Whole and Happy and Healthy.
I know this isn’t possible. I can’t stop the hands of time. As a mother and a daughter all I can do is love them as they are and rejoice in their strengths.