Gabriel got new braces today. And I hate them.
Structurally, they’re no different than his previous pair. The straps work the same way and he goes on with his life like they hardly exist just like he did before, stopping perhaps only to play with the Velcro for a moment then moving on to something else.
Because Gabe’s feet don’t grow in proportion to the rest of his body, the telltale sign of a toe growing over the edge of his orthotic had not yet happened, so it hadn’t occurred to me that he needed new ones. But his legs have grown a great deal since January, when his original orthotics were fitted, and they don’t grip his legs well enough anymore to keep his feet in the correct position. Enter, the new pair, reaching up to just below his chubby, dimpled knees.
His socks no longer fold over to cover the ugly plastic or crunchy Velcro that’s sure to be dirty by week’s end. These braces look so dominant to me, like a glaring reminder that this is all going to get harder. He may very well have to wear this style of brace well into his school aged years. What ugly names will kids dream up for them, for him? What kind of shoes will fit over these? While his brother is picking from countless pairs of basketball shoes or soccer cleats, what will Gabe be left with?
Life is about so much more than peer’s opinions or choice, I know this. To be reminded of our weakness, our dependence, our limitation, is in truth a blessing rich and pure. But blessings can feel like stones sometimes, when my heart is crying out for bread. It takes time to acquire the taste, to realize that these aren’t rocks in my mouth, but morsels of heavenly manna. And tonight, that time looks like acknowledging the grief cycle and validating it, accepting that it’s repeated itself many times over since Gabe was born and will again. And tonight, I’m in the anger phase. This isn’t what I want for him.
It could be so much worse, I know. But has that mental game ever, and I mean ever, really lifted one’s spirit beyond a fleeting moment? Of course it could be worse. Gabe has legs, and he crawls on them. Though it may be awkward or challenging, by God’s grace, he will most likely walk. But tonight, I’m just grieved for my child. I’m grieved that soon his mind will understand the questions about what he can and can’t do, about this one part of who he is that threatens to rule his story.
“Is he walking yet?”
“What’s his diagnosis?”
“Are his legs broken?”
Questions so well meaning, so understandable, so unfairly and unintentionally landing like breath-stealing punches.
Maybe it’s overboard to share moments this raw, the moments where I can still confidently say that I trust the Lord but that I loathe the hand we’ve been dealt, just for tonight. The moments where I’m sure grace and joy and hope will come in the morning, but tonight, Gabe’s story feels crushing and unending and painful. Maybe it’s overboard, but I think that more likely, it’s just another piece of the manna, the realization of just how imperative this truth-telling is, that letting others in is perhaps the only way to allow some of the agony to bleed out. It doesn’t feel like agony every day, but today it does. And the agony feels like angry and the angry begs me to call it what it is and just sit here for a minute, just feel it. So I’m feeling it, and sharing it, and not wishing it away, but welcoming it, as my dear friend Amy taught me this week. He can work all things together for good, even a mother’s heartbroken anger.
So, I’m just going to sit here a minute, and whisper out to each of you, “Hi, I’m Abby. And I’m in the anger phase.”