Three Short Years

“What’s a cherry red spot”, I asked. image 3 years

The doctor wouldn’t tell me.  She dodged the question completely.  Again, not a good sign.  I was desperate for some sort of concrete answer about anything at this point.  I wished she’d just spit it out already!  If I could have, I would have shaken it out of her.  She told me that she was scheduling an appointment at Children’s Hospital in Seattle for us the next day.  They would be drawing her blood and running a screen for possible neurological conditions.  Neurological?  But she’s functioning, I thought.  She’s been getting better.  I was more confused and now scared than ever.  What is a cherry red spot anyway?

Something no one should ever do is go home and Google any possible medical condition they suspect.  All it will do is scare you to death.  Or in my case, rip apart your world completely.  I just know that after I searched for “cherry red spot” online all it could represent was horribleness.  I spent the next three hours crying in a ball on my kitchen floor.  I had to call my husband, Loren to come home from work.  I had never done that before.  I read online that cherry red spots are most likely indicative of Tay-Sachs Disease.  The Wikipedia blurb didn’t have any redeeming things to say about it.  Once we were at Children’s with the ophthalmologist, and he confirmed that he suspected Tay-Sachs Disease I had to admit that I had heard of it, but had no clue what it was, what it meant. After his very dry and brief explanation from a neurological standpoint only one thing stuck out to me: the word degenerative.

“Degenerative?  She’s going to get worse”, I asked.  And then the unforeseeable end all blow of an answer came spilling from his mouth.

“She’s terminally ill”.

I watched those words pour out in horror and slow motion.  It was the most vial sound I had ever heard.  I remember thinking of how badly I wanted to try and gather them up from the floor as quickly as I could and shove them back down his throat.  I wanted to shut him up and make him never have said it, but it was too late. It wasn’t a mess to be cleaned up and taken away. These words had been spoken, and the sound of them could never be unheard. It was dark and dense in sound, like the thud of a lead pipe hitting a dry dirt floor. It still reverberates in my ears.  And this is when I experienced true devastation.

     This was the one and only time in my entire life, up to that point, that I was literally speechless.  As we made our way over to the hospital’s lab to have her blood drawn to be tested for this rare disease the clerk asked me the patient’s name and I remember my tears staining my cheeks and my mouth opening, but my precious daughter’s name I couldn’t will to come out of the gaping hole on my face. I took a breath and tried again, but still nothing. Finally Loren rescued me and spoke in my stead.

“Elliott.  Her name is Elliott, Benson”, he said.

The next day as I walked out to check the mail, that dreaded child profile had arrived.  Frustrated, angered, and saddened to read about what my child could and would not ever do, I called the state department of social and health services immediately and requested that they stop sending these to me because we had no need for them and they upset me too much.

I gave my daughter a masculine name to give her a competitive edge and to hopefully be a self-fulfilling prophecy of strength.  Little did I know when I dreamed it up what challenges she would soon be facing, or how fitting it would become.  She has always been “Miss” Elliott.  It is how we, and in turn everyone else always addresses her.  It was never a name she needed to live up to.  Never did her name upstage her.  She embodied it fully and she wore it completely.

Excerpt from THREE SHORT YEARS by Becky Benson  Published with Permission

You can see documentation of Miss Elliott’s medical journey HERE.

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Palms Outward

oppression-sketch-onlyHe walked the roadway to another town, dust rising to meet his sorrow.  He knew it would come to this.  Though their hands had given and their faces had smiled, he knew they would push him out someday.  They took his land as if he were nothing.  Despair filled the houses and grew up barren in the fields.

The day the white men came, his village had welcomed them with song.  The mist of the hills parted for the sun.  The children were eager for the gifts that were held out to them as the white women squatted to look in their wide open eyes.  They looked at life beyond what they knew.  If only they had known—as he did—that it would come to this.

Kusudi could find work in the city.  Though his heart ached, he walked with Hope by his side.  He was a strong man—his elder put fortune on him.  He would remove the dust from his mouth and his eyes.  He would bathe and clean his clothes in the River Amini.  And he would speak of his new purpose and see the place of his mother’s dreams.

Sala told him since he was a root-high boy that he would know his way and could find his place amongst Yeweh’s great men.  She saw in her child a mighty man to be.  He didn’t chase or fall down like the foolish boys.  He saw beyond.  The elder, Zamani gave him the kumbuka—the richly carved ruling stick—granted to only one of each generation.

Kusudi held the kumbuka as he followed the long road.  He had left his village in the hills only one time before.  He knew that along the roadway he needn’t go far before the ways of Uzima were not known.  But he held them in his heart.  He held the hand of his mother who had gone from the earth, though he left her body buried in the dirt of Uzima.  He held the hands of his clansmen who had left for the city long before.  They had set them palms outward with fingers to the sky so he could take their soul’s offerings to sustain Uzima in the troubled times.  But their feet had left him abandoned—empty.  And now he left Uzima abandoned to usurpers—full.  Full of grief and shame.  The kumbuka a rod of discipline, chafing against his failure to keep their land for his people to reclaim.

His people—many were not as strong as he.  If no work could be found in the city, would they travel on?  Despair pushed Hope aside.  Kusudi walked with pain though his young body was sound.  They had been scattered like their crop seed to the wind, over fields that offered no nurture in a time of no rain.  The land could not sustain them as the white men churned its bowels.  Uzima left behind—exposed and raped for the oil that lay beneath.

Kusudi knew, the day the crude erupted into the newcomers’ hands and they closed their palms grasping, their fingers turned like claws to the ground—he knew it would come to this.

He reached the next town and pressed on to the city, Fiwa.  The road wound along the River Amini, and he continued to hold the kumbuka as he followed its turns.  His shattered heart held pieces for each of his people.  He journeyed to the east end of Fiwa as each palm outward had pledged to do.  Kusudi would gather them there.  If they had survived.  If they had not traveled on.  Hope held his hands—clinging to fortune and the kumbuka.

In Fiwa Hope left him as he touched his palm to too few of the scattered ones.  Only the strong men could be found at the port on the east end of the city.  Their backs were bent in labor and bowed by Despair.  The kumbuka strengthened them no more.  They said the others had dispersed throughout Fiwa, palms held outward with fingers reaching for a share.  Begging without Hope, for survival.  The ways of Uzima were not known here, even in the hearts of the sons she had birthed.  They had left their soul’s offerings to the ravaged soil of her lost domain. The kumbuka held no sway in ruling the chaos of Fiwa.  The elder’s stick brought no peace for the pieces of his heart scattered in the wind.  The women and the children were lost to time.

Kusudi cast the kumbuka in the River Amini.  Hope drifted away, swirling in helpless desolation from the stick’s floating tip.  He stood palms outward fingers to the sky, his soul’s offerings falling to dust in the streets of Fiwa.  His mouth spoke of no purpose.  He saw nothing in this place of broken dreams.

by Sheri J. Kennedy All Rights Reserved

Image by Sheri J. Kennedy – copyright 2013 From Sketchbook Project ‘ONLY HUMAN’

Find out more about Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn, Featured Author