I would call it a passive summer. There were no major milestones; no setbacks. It was as if we put our lives in neutral, reclined the seat, and napped for awhile with our hats over our eyes all-the-while keeping the engine running, just in case. My superstitious side grows restless when we enjoy a spell like this. I wonder if it is the universe’s way of preparing us for the next mile. But then I counsel my fears to stop being silly and relish the fact that The Slayer is well and she and I have enjoyed/endured a season of terrific normality.
Yesterday, while we were out for dinner, I watched her walk back from the ladies room. Every step was deliberate, her spindly legs elongating like a praying mantis then resting briefly to catch balance. She doesn’t have much of the latter, so she supported herself by bracing her hands against a passing booth and sometimes a table. The guests were often startled until they looked up and saw the smiling pixie making her way back to her table.
That’s how Jordan weathers through the challenges: unapologetically and with a smile. Her eyes reveal true grit, but her mouth wears a smirk that matches her life motto: never give up.
“That’s just how life is,” she tells me. “You can’t control it. You have to go with the flow.”
Others taught her these slogans and affirmations, but she has made them her own. She believes each and every one, and lives accordingly. It’s how she propels herself through all the setbacks and challenges and sudden turns we didn’t see coming. Jordan understands that life is more a mental game than it is a physical one.
In August we started reading together again. I’m ashamed to say I let this habit lapse. Jordan can’t read on her own, but she loves to be read to. My friend Kassie gave me and Jordan a copy of Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. Every night before bed I come up to Jordan’s room, plop down in her stylishly pink beanbag chair, and read a couple of chapters. We’re nearly finished.
While we read, Jordan sits up in her bed, propped by a couple of overstuffed pillows. She multitasks, using a tray to color or work on some craft. Every so often, when something interesting happens in the story, she’ll pause and look over at me, her eyes deep-set into the world we’re exploring together. Then she goes back to her handiwork.
She listens intently. Sometimes, I quiz her … just to be sure she’s paying attention. Her comprehension and recall are amazing.
I forgot how much Jordan loves words. Inspired by her interest, I started reading her a sonnet every night, after the story. I tell her, “don’t worry if you don’t understand the words. Just listen to them. Enjoy them.” After the fourth or fifth night of counseling her this way she moaned, “I know, I know, Dad. I get it.”
Last night I read her sonnet #17.
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
After I tucked her in, I thought about these words. If I were to come upon this blog many years from now, I’m not sure I would believe all that I have written about The Slayer. She’s a remarkable young woman. I am lucky to enjoy this life with her; lucky to be her father. On this journey of more than a decade, I have been drawn to some very dark corners. But a little quality time with Jordan leads me back to a sound path. Though she says she knows it, I don’t think she understands how much of an impact she can have on those around her. She radiates.
This morning during the latter part of my SoulCycle ride, I closed my eyes in the darkened room and let my thoughts drift. In my stream of consciousness, I enjoyed a vision of my girl. She was running–not angling her limbs like an awkward spider wearing ankle weights, but full-on running. If it were a movie, my camera view was slightly behind her, tracking with her. Every so often she would glance back at me over her shoulder, her cheeks a delightful pink, her mouth a toothy smile. She runs so fast in this vision that I struggle to keep up with her…
I know it sounds mystical, but these occasional projections give me hope. They inspire me. That’s why there was a big smile on my face as I turned up the resistance and pushed just a wee bit harder in my workout.
While it is very unlikely that I will ever see that day when Jordan flat-out sprints across an open field, I can always help her find the rush that should accompany life—I can commit to pushing her in other ways, and letting her spirit run free. That’s what it’s like when we read, when we do photography projects, when we go out exploring museums and concerts and plotting new adventures.
It was a passive summer. And we are rested. It’s now time to challenge life again.