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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Week Before Christmas, part 5

I found a place to hide out, where Teale couldn't see me. Some of the men from the fire department were in a doorway, so I used them as a "screen." They would ask me if they were in my way, but I would explain that they were helping me. Teale has vision loss from her brain damage, the right side of both her eyes are blind. This is not because her eyes don't work, but because her brain damage causes her to not process sight on the right sides. Most people don't get this about her, she presents well, doesn't use a cane and usually doesn't miss much. There are the times she walks into people or objects, sometimes she misses steps or level changes on the ground. In general Mark & I cue her well, it just becomes part of your everyday thinking to say "step, watch the pole, look up, look down." But I must admit I also use her vision loss to my advantage sometimes. I have positioned myself at events where I didn't want her to see me, on her right side. When this event was outside, I stayed on her right, but now that it moved in, there was no option for that. So knowing she is not expecting to see me here, I use people as screens. I can see her face, controlled anticipation as to what is next. Teale is obsessed with gifts and she thinks there may be one given to her today. The gifts are on stage and I'm sure this is driving Teale crazy, but she sits patiently with her class. I love and hate how she can do this. Mark and I rarely see her patience. She is so different with us, much more demanding and little patience, if any! The gifts will be distributed to the kids, but first there is singing, jokes told, speeches made, she sits quietly, I don't see her utter a word to anyone. At home Teale never stops talking, so her show of restraint also bothers me. How Mark and I have wanted to be flies on a wall of her educational settings these last four or five years especially. When she started shutting down at school, it was tough to believe. Our daughter not talking, all day? The thought was so absurd to us, to family and to our friends. People close to us who knew Teale literally doubted what we told them. We had family treat us like liars when we told them Teale doesn't talk in school anymore. There were years of this that we didn't even know about. We had hints of it from other kids who would tell us, but some of Teale's teachers chose not to share with us her silence. I also believe new to her teachers may have actually believed it was normal for Teale. She began the slow decline into silence in the third grade. It was the year Teale became aware of her differences. She stopped being proud of her classwork she brought home and started crumpling it up instead. She would throw it into the garbage, telling Mark and I not to look at it. It was heartbreaking to watch as she slowly lost all her self esteem. We saw other signs too, an active child, Teale had determination when it came to many athletics. Although she has cerebral palsy and her right side is weak, she never had let that slow her down. She only uses her left hand and arm, her right leg and foot are not as strong as her left. She walks with a gate that tells you something isn't quite right, but she is a fighter and has always had spunk! Teale has played many sports, learning how to adapt to her body, she is quite athletic. She would practice shooting baskets at our basketball hoop constantly, making the shot far more accurately than I ever did. But at some point we heard she no longer would participate in gym class. She would watch the typical kids, but would not show her abilities at any of the sports they played. As Teale started shutting down, Mark and I began rethinking integration. Maybe she needed to be with only children like her in order to feel good about her abilities. It was the beginning of the end, third grade killed Teale's self esteem and she slipped into a controlled silence at school only. It would take years before we would win the battle to get her into School of the Holy Childhood and a setting where we thought Teale would feel accepted. As I looked at her sitting there so silently, part of me was proud, she was so well behaved, but part of me just wanted her to be "typical." I remember assemblies as a seventh grader, my girlfriends and I would be whispering and passing notes. Sometimes I just want Teale to misbehave a little, as wrong as that may sound. I want her to talk when it is appropriate, but I also want her to show excitement by talking when it is not. How I wish she would participate in life more, show emotions to her peers and her teachers more. She is just so controlled, sitting there taking it in. I wondered what she is thinking? In this school, Mark and I are sure we will finally get our daughter back. We can finally hope to see her come out of this stubborn, controlled silence she has forced herself into. I have started to see little signs of Teale coming back to us. She has talked more in this school than in other settings over the last four years. She talks about friends at home. Teale is again proud of the work she brings home to show us, to both Mark and I this is a huge change for the better. To have her be proud gives her more reason to want to learn and do better at her work. I get such a kick out of her coming home, ripping something out of her backpack and  shoving it in my face with a proud smile. She is coming back to us. Last spring when the school principal at School of the Holy Childhood called to give us the news of Teale's acceptance she said "We are going to get your daughter back!" I remember the tears falling down my face as I stood  motionless in my kitchen, knowing she could not have offered me a greater gift. For four years we had watched Teale's decline, how I looked forward to seeing her blossom again. So as I watched Teale from afar, I looked for signs of her comfort in this setting. I was getting the opportunity to be that fly on the wall and although it wasn't perfect, I liked what I saw. Teale seemed comfortable, I felt the warmth and it felt safe. But the thought that dominated my head was "next year." I was sure that next year at this same event I would see my daughter, being my daughter. I was sure as I watched her that next year the principals prediction would come true, we would have Teale back!

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