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The 6th Floor is the Children’s Floor

“We don’t like labels,” the unusually kind doctor said.

And I thought, but language itself is a label. How does one dig underneath that? (Love is the correct answer, though this, too, is a word, and not a very helpful one.)

“But we need labels so we can get into the ballpark of what these symptoms are, and how we can treat them. Oh, and how we can force the school to acknowledge his particular needs.”

Ballpark. How I loathe that metaphor. It reminds me… of heat, of spaces made unnecessarily loud and large. It makes me feel lonely. It makes me miss Paris. Everything makes me miss Paris. Truthfully, though, if one is “in the ballpark,” one isn’t even close to comprehension, right? Shouldn’t it be “tennis court,”  or something slightly more contained? But Americans don’t understand contained, and we certainly don’t understand our children, hence the necessity for reworking our alphabet into a series of increasingly concerning and strange acronyms.

It is an exercise in both anguish and comedy to observe the life of one’s most beloved become a series of sorted and resorted letter games, Scrabble with stricter rules and no winner. His situation reminds me of Buddhist goddesses like Marichi who wear the mundamala around their necks: 52 severed heads, each head standing for a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Perhaps he is in this hospital partly because he has a mother who thinks these thoughts. I’m sure of it, actually. Because without being able to blame myself, place myself at the center of the tragedy, I couldn’t fix it. I would lose control of the narrative, and that, above all else, is what I cannot accept about my son’s suffering. I will fix him. Or this doctor will, the one who takes astonishing amounts of time with me but continues to use this metaphor I do not understand.

Language is sacred. What stands behind language, the biological need for it, the artistry of it, the simple core of it, is beautiful, necessary, ultimately the greatest mystery we have as human incarnations. But even language, these letters and the words they form, the sound it makes, gets in the way. In the way of what I of course cannot name (infinite regress, yes?). We might say an essence, something too sacred to be spoken.

We might say this is prema, or divine love.

I do know that language stands in our way.
I do know that language is the only way.

These are some of my thoughts as I listen to the terrifying letters being strung together, my new personal mala. Vaguely I envision what sort of heads might be strung upon my mundamala. Certainly whoever decided schools should be for tests, not children. DeVos…Certainly… ahh, I am becoming vengeful, but not out of compassion. I must refocus.

My son is this.
My son is that.
My son is brilliant.
My son cannot function.
My son is my son.
My son is my…
My son is

And is is enough.