Thursday, January 10, 2013
I am Alive
What would you do if you had a second chance at life? I was asked this the other day. My answer was easy. You’re looking at it. I would encourage others to love themselves, to love those around them, to love their lives, to use their gifts to bring good things to the world. I would uplift, move, motivate, encourage, inspire. I do these things now. I do them because I figure each morning I wake up, each morning I open my eyes to the beauty all around me, each morning I take another breath, each of these mornings IS my second chance.
I posted the following awhile ago. I feel the need to share again. I feel the need to share with the message that you are beautiful and you are worthy not because of what you do or where you live or how you look, but because you are breathing, because you exist.
If you would like to read more essays on my childhood, feel free to check out my book, Outside the Lines: Essays on Poverty, Possibilities, and the Power of Love, available through Amazon.
Sometimes I say things because I don’t want to say the other things. That last essay I posted? That was nothing. I didn’t even want to write that. I didn’t care. I wanted to write this, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t because when I write, I have to go to a place, in my head, in my heart, in my soul. If I go to THIS place, though, I realize that I may not even exist. I realize that my children, my writing, the effects of my teaching, may all not even exist. I realize that my marriage would not be my marriage. I realize that not only would I not know you, but that any impact I have had on your life would never have happened, that you would be you, without me. If I go to THIS place, I cry inside. I cry inside because I would have been me, without you. I cry inside because on birthday number six, my story would end.
I have just turned six and my family has taken the long trip from Tennessee to Michigan to pick cherries. My dad has heard that people can make money like that. I don’t like this place. It is cold. It is the coldest place I have ever been. I will never come here again. Ever. Also we sleep in a big room with lots of beds and people I don’t even know. They are not really beds. My mom calls them cots. And the floor is not a floor. It is a sidewalk. I don’t like this. It is cold, and I am sleeping with people I don’t know. It makes me nervous. I throw up I am so nervous. My mom says I have the flu, that it’s just the flu. I am sick in this cold place with the strange people. I want to go home.
Being home, though, turns out to be not much better. My tooth is loose, and it won’t come out. It is sort of out because it is not connected. It is only hanging. My dad says come here, and he will take a look at it. He is working on his car. I don’t want him to look at it. I am scared he will try to pull it. He says, no he won’t, but he says let me look at it. He looks with the pliers he is holding. He looks, and then he pulls. He pulls with the pliers. I run back inside. I am running, and I am crying, and I am throwing up Spanish rice all down the sidewalk. I will never eat Spanish rice again.
I am sick, and I am whiter than I have ever been. I get whiter, and I get whiter. I get sicker and sicker. I never go to the doctor even when I am sick. We don’t have money, and we don’t have insurance, and I know doctors need them, but I don’t know how to get them. When I am sick I just lie on the couch until my mom makes me better, but this time she can’t make me better. My Pop tells her that you’d better get that girl to the doctor, that something is wrong. My mom tells my dad that she doesn’t care if we have money or not. She tells him that she doesn’t care if we have insurance or not. She tells him to go get a job and get some insurance because she, by God, is taking me to the doctor.
But the doctor says it is just a five-day virus and that my mom doesn’t need to worry. It will go away.
But it doesn’t. It’s been three more days, and I am getting sicker and whiter. I can’t do anything. I can’t play. I can’t watch television. I can’t do anything. I can lie on the couch. I am so sick and so white. My mom says that doctor was a quack. She says some other things that I can’t tell you because I am not allowed to swear. She takes me to another doctor.
I don’t go home. I go to the hospital.
This doctor says it is not a virus and that it will not go away. He says it is something called peritonitis. He says it is an infection of something about my stomach. I don’t understand. I don’t understand, and I am too tired to try. He says that if my mom hadn’t brought me in today, well Mrs. Wadley, you may have lost your daughter. You are lucky you got her here when you did.
I am in this hospital bed for two weeks. The nurses always come in with shots. They say it is penicillin. They say it is medicine that will make me feel better. They give me shots in my butt when I am awake and when I am asleep. For two weeks I get shots in my butt over and over and over, every six hours I get these shots, all the time I am here. I cannot sleep because I have to get shots. My butt is sore, and I am tired, and I want to go home. But my mom stays with me all the time, so I am not scared. Also, I am feeling bad because I itch and my face is big and I am getting red all over my body. The doctor says I am allergic to the shots, but I have to get them so I won’t be dead.
And I am not dead. The doctor makes me better. And I am excited because school starts very soon, in just a couple weeks my mom says. I like school. This is my first time in school. I practice spelling my name over and over when my mom drives me on the first day. I am so nervous I will forget how to spell my name. And I get my school pictures. But I don’t like them because I look bad. My mom says it has only been three weeks since I got out of the hospital, so not to worry about my droopy eyes and runny nose. She says they are the most beautiful pictures she has ever seen.
There is a beauty pageant at school. My mom and dad think it would be great fun for me to participate since mostly I was in the hospital and in bed all the end of summer, since I didn’t get to play or do anything fun. I have never been in a beauty pageant before. I am excited. I think I will like it.
Mostly, though, I can tell that I am not pretty like the other girls. They are all pretty and happy and smiling. They did not have to go to the hospital. They did not have all those shots or that bad thing in their stomach. They are not white or sick or tired. But I don’t even care. I don’t care because I am on stage in my beautiful pink princess dress. I am on stage, and my mom says that I am special, and I am beautiful, and that that is what’s important. She says not to worry about not winning the pageant. She says I already am a winner. She says I am a winner, because I am alive.