Tenderness - Memoria Press

Tenderness
Written years ago on April 24, just after Michael & Michelle turned thirteen.

We rose on schedule, accomplished our morning jobs, and began schooling at 8:25 a.m., as is our custom. I gave an overview of our day and week with our visual schedule and calendar.

I read our daily Bible lesson as my children listened, recited, and asked a question or two. We covered our core subjects. Today was one of our two half days of the week. With both children reasonably stable, the morning hummed along smoothly.

Morning homeschooling was followed by recess, during which I made a dozen phone calls to find an adolescent psychiatrist who would take the children’s insurance. Our rural psychiatrist no longer “feels comfortable treating them anymore.” (Nor should she, based on drastic errors made to my children’s new schizophrenia medications. Treating twins with mental illness is not for the faint of heart.)

With phone calls made and a few prospects gathered, my children and I shared sandwiches in the car on our way to physical therapy and occupational therapy. We followed the therapies with Homeschool Swim and a visit to the library in our small town. Afterward I grocery shopped with the children for the “megacook” I plan to do tomorrow.

Back at home, I put away groceries and sorted through the pile of mail while Michael and Michelle finished independent work. My husband arrived. He and I talked awhile and walked over
to see the dogwood in bloom on the wooded lot across the street.

I browned some grass-fed ground beef for sloppy joes, made coleslaw, and steamed spinach while the meat simmered. With dinner cleaned up, I cut my husband’s hair on the back porch and took
a quick after-dinner walk with Michelle. This helps her digestion and her mood. Fragrant lilacs and raspberry-colored redbuds cheered our stroll. We returned to begin bedtime routines.

After the children and my husband went to bed, I began to feel the weight of the day. I longed to soak in the bathtub. I reached for luxuriously scented liquids and anticipated a good, hot soak—perhaps with a novel—as I turned on the faucet.

Breathing slowly the fragrance of florals and pondering which book to choose, I jumped at an urgent clatter. Crashing into my thoughts and through the bathroom door, Michelle suddenly appeared as I turned, putting her face close up to mine. Without glasses, she came closer still. Seeing wild worry in her large eyes I knew enough not to scold her for being out of bed.

“I feel all achy,” she said with grave concern, “and though I’ve never used this word this way, tender, as though I could just dissolve.” Not long before, I had read a woman’s self-described descent into schizophrenia’s grasp as the feeling of dissolving. The word brought me to attention.

Still seated on the edge of the tub, I turned off the water. I listened to my daughter as she described popping sensations in her legs and a feeling of someone watching her. Michelle looked to me for both a swift diagnosis and a sure treatment to make it all go away. Such trust.

“It’s probably those paresthesias like you get sometimes. You didn’t do anything to bring it on. It’s just one of those things.” Then I paused and looked at the swirling water. “Would you like a nice, warm bath?”

“Do you think that will help?” she asked.

“I’m sure it will. Just give me a minute, okay?”

Adding some cooler water to the beginnings of a hot bath, I readied the tub. I helped her in. I knew that her sensations were real to her and would not go away autonomously.

“Ah,” I heard as she sank slowly, “that already feels so much better.” I prepared a towel.

One day at a time. Older people tell us this. It was the title of one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns, but I never understood the concept until recently. Teaching, caregiving, and parenting every long day helps me learn this. Like the Israelites told to gather only the manna they would need for each day, so I will receive strength from God to serve and to be gentle and to be patient only one day at a time.

I know my own weakness. Being shortchanged on rest tonight by staying up to help Michelle will affect me. Tomorrow I will be able to accomplish my megacooking and homeschooling, but I will need rest soon. I’m making mental plans for my husband to keep Michael on Saturday and Betty, our older friend at church, to keep Michelle while I spend several hours at the library writing. Time away, time to lose myself in reading and writing, is my own medicine and I must take it as proactively as they take their medicines. Because I, too, am tender.

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