Pink and purple refract from her body in kaleidoscopic patterns–a spring skirt, a bright top, a jaunty hat. She has erupted from her room, petals showing, ready to pollinate. Her latest seed ground: publishing. She informs me that she plans to edit a fashion magazine.
– I have to talk about fashion, Dad. Because people need their fashion.
I can’t help noticing that she has found her glasses. She wears them selectively. Her vision is decent, but the specs are a matter of style. I think of Edith Head as I lock onto her cerulean eyes through smudged lenses set in purple tortoise shell frames. Judging by her demanding schedule – she needs to get the spring magazine out “before spring is over!” – perhaps an analogy to Anna Wintour is more appropriate.
I suggest that she focus on the fall. It will give her more time and she can get to know the designers before the rest of the world. Besides, I tell her, everyone loves fall fashion. She ponders this for a moment, then agrees with me and lugs a tote bag full of coloring pencils, sketch pads and color books to the patio.
She spends the next hour and a half doodling in the shade. She sits cross-legged at the patio table, a floral print skirt fanned out across the chair, head down, eyes focused, pencil scrambling across the page. Occasionally, she asks me my opinion on the content–do I think blue is a good color for fall, should she include clothes for dogs, can we make a trip to Target for fresh coloring pencils. I answer each diligently. Sometimes, I am clearly wrong, like when I told her that her first issue should focus on people, not dogs.
– But Gracie will want to know what to wear for fall, too.
And then the question I don’t want to answer.
– Dad, my casts will be off my legs in the fall, right?
I don’t want to address this question because I don’t know the answer. Jordan measures forward time in terms of surgery and recovery. She has accepted the fact that surgery is inevitable. She is not happy about it. But she has resigned herself to it–in fact, she pesters us to get it over. When she went to the appointment with the orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday, she packed her pajamas, expecting that Wednesday was the big day. But she’ll have to wait, because we want a second opinion before we commit Jordan to a long and difficult summer.
Originally, we believed that Jordan’s surgery would be taxing but straightforward. Maybe we misunderstood or maybe we fooled ourselves into believing that any surgery that wasn’t brain surgery couldn’t be all that bad. Then we heard what the doctors plan. They want to rebuild her feet. Years of over-compensating for nerve damage have caused Jordan’s feet to develop in a way that will only lead to greater problems walking. The muscles and the tendons in her feet have layered up in the wrong places and the bone has set to support her body using the awkward gate she uses to get around every day. It’s wonderful that Jordan abandoned the walker long ago, but the compensatory system she developed to help her get around on her own makes future progress nearly impossible. So, the doctors want to stretch tendons to the other side of her feet, surgically sculpt the muscles, and chip away at the bone to change the support structure of each foot. They want to do it with one foot, let her recover, and then do it to the other six months later.
Jordan wants them to operate on both feet at the same time. The doctors explained that this would lead to a very tedious recovery. She would be completely immobile.
– That’s okay.
She wants it over and done, even if it requires more initial suffering. Her mind has moved on to the promised benefits. She can play soccer again. She can dance. She can reinvestigate her interest in tennis. She lingers on the allure of these physical activities, especially thinking about them without the constant fear of falling and hurting herself. It leaves me feeling helpless. I dare not guarantee that she will be able to do these things after the surgery. That’s the goal, of course, but I’ve learned not to over-promise. And, I can’t provide her any sound timeline. My daughter is impatient. She wants answers. She wants assurances. She wants it now. And she needs those promises as incentive to fuel her dreams. Her fall fashions just aren’t the same if they are impeded by a cumbersome cast that limits her sartorial options.
Jeanette and I have decided that a second, and possibly a third opinion is necessary. We are reticent to put Jordan through this surgery if there is a viable alternative. The surgeon at CHLA is one of the best anywhere. His credentials speak for themselves, but I’m unwilling to plow ahead without hearing other experts either (a) validate his opinion, or (b) suggest other therapies.
In the meantime, I help Jordan plan her magazine. She doesn’t have a title, but she does have a theme.
– It’s all about fashion, Dad. Fashion for people who like to play. Maybe I’ll call it Jordan’s magazine for falling.
I ask her about this, thinking maybe she was being witty.
– I made a mistake. I meant, Jordan’s magazine for fall.
We’ll keep working on the title.