It’s a waste to chase the pipe dream of a magical tiny theory that allows us to make quick and detailed calculations about the future. We can’t predict and we can’t control. To accept this can be a source of liberation and inner peace. We’re part of the unfolding world, surfing the chaotic waves.
// Rudy Rucker,
“The World is Unpredictable”
in This Will Make You Smarter
– What is my name?
She searches the hall with restless eyes. They find many targets but none are me. After a few moments she says, “Dad.” It is then that she looks at me, but contact with her cool blue eyes is fleeting. She studies me just long enough to acknowledge that she answered right. Then her eyes continue their scan of the long hallway in which she, Jeanette and I sit on the floor. She is wrapped in two towels and her hair is wet. Minutes earlier, she experienced a long, intense seizure while taking a bath. We are waiting for her brain to finish rebooting. She has only just now started speaking again.
– That’s right. I’m Dad. What do people call me?
She looks at me again for only an instant. Her face is painted with a defeated expression. We know that in this state Jordan is only half with us. I imagine that inside she is clawing her way out of the haze. She struggles to make some sounds before the word comes out.
I ask her what her grandmother’s name is. She responds, “grandpa.” When we ask her the dog’s name, she says, “dog.” By the way that she struggles to make the words and the way that she nervously fidgets while trying to respond, I sense a tiny part of her knows her responses are wrong. It must be frightening and annoying to command your body to respond only to hear it misstep with your own ears.
Less than an hour beforehand she and I talked about our plans for the day. Her tummy was bothering her, but it didn’t stop her from pecking me on the cheek to wish me a good morning. She was talkative and eager to take a bath. I went downstairs to do some writing while Jeanette got the bath ready for Jordan. Awhile later I heard the shouting. Jeanette was calling my name loudly in a way that she only does when something isn’t right.
I ran up the stairs and stepped inside the bathroom to see Jeanette struggling to hold Jordan still. Jordan’s eyes were dilated wide and she was squirming and trying to stand up. Some of her body was shaking, but this seizure was mostly about absence–Jordan was gone. Her body was here, and it was very animated, but our daughter was somewhere else. When she tried to speak, she spoke in loud whispers. Her words were full of gibberish. She was trying to say something, but it sounded like she was possessed. What spewed from her mouth weren’t words at all, just slurred morphemes that might pass for a foreign language if not for the fact that it was a pure stream of misfires from her over-heated synapses. When she wasn’t trying to stand up or speak in tongues, she tried to roll-over and lay down. It took all of Jeanette’s strength to tame her.
I reached over to the other side of the tub and opened the drain. Somehow, in Jordan’s removed state she retained her modesty. She tried to cover herself with her hands. I actually think the words she was trying to produce for her mother were to ask for a towel. I looked away, of course, but that wasn’t enough for my girl.
When the water had drained some and Jordan’s movements were somewhat less subdued, I suggested that we lift her out of the tub. I lifted her from under her arms and then carried her in my arms to the hallway. My clothes were soaked as we lay her down and covered her with towels. Her right leg spasmed wildly, lifting off the ground now and again. When I pressed my palm to her thigh her muscles twitched as though a strong electric current pulsed through them.
We did our best to dry Jordan and keep her warm. She moved her head a bit in bird-like motions, digesting the scene with her wide eyes but really taking nothing in at all. She still could not really speak. Instead, she’d occasionally make a sucking sound in her cheek while her teeth chattered rapidly. She had all the mannerisms of a malfunctioning cyborg. I imagined this would be the expected behavior if we had put a robot in the tub.
Slowly, gradually, Jordan made her way back to us as her body settled down. She began responding to our questions. Some she got right. Others, were pathetic misses. It is always, always hard for me to watch these mental hurricanes. My mind races in a different way than hers. First, I imagine how horrible it would be if this was her permanent state–how sad I would be to have her here but not here. Then, my head races to conclusions–is her condition deteriorating? Her seizures have come more frequently. She’s been having new neurological issues like the chorea and onset of West’s syndrome. Do these data points predict further decline? My mind races next to solutions–which doctors do we need to consult; is it time to find new insight? While all these thoughts race to my mind, Jordan begins to be Jordan again.
I step away and Jeanette helps Jordan dress. By the time I return to her room she is sitting up on her bed in a pair of comfortable pajamas. She has found her iPad and she taps and scrolls with determined voracity. She spends such little time on each page she visits that I’m not sure she’s absorbing any of the content. This browsing behavior appears to be her proving to herself that she can function again. When we speak to her, she makes more sense and she can remember more names, but her speech is badly slurred. It doesn’t look like the left side of her mouth is cooperating. Still, she has improved. I ask if she wants another blanket and she shoos me away for bothering her too much.
15 minutes later I pay her another visit and find her exactly as I expect. She has rolled over to one side curled up in a ball on her bed, covered with her favorite blanket. She is sound asleep. The only thing we can reliably predict when her neural network reboots is that she will turn all the other systems off to complete the reset. She sleeps for several hours. When she wakes, it is as if nothing happened at all … and she remembers nothing.