“We've been waiting for you.” Linda says ominously as she opens the door to her inner office and gestures for me to follow.
It is February 2008 and Jordan has been in therapy with Linda for nearly nine months, but this is the first time that she has ever invited me in at 4:48 rather than usher Jordan out at 4:45 so she can prepare for her next client. Not surprisingly, over the last couple of years I've come to assume that unexpected things are inherently bad.
I head on into the office and sink into the comfy chair beside Jordan, who doesn't look up but continues to roll a squishy water-filled tube between flattened palms. While Linda steps out to apologize to the waiting client for the delay, I pick up a plastic frog from Linda's basket of fidget toys. The frog belches a big pink pouch out of its mouth when you squeeze it. The wet sound it makes is oddly pleasing and Jordan sneaks a sideways glance at me when I belch the frog three times fast. That oh-so-familiar smirk tells me nothing and the glance is too quick for me to gauge what's hiding behind it or to guess at what new ill is about to befall me.
Finally, Linda comes back, closes the door and folds her lanky limbs into her own chair. She gestures towards Jordan and says, “The floor is yours.” but the child mutely points back at the therapist.
“Ok, well then,” Linda turns towards me and smiles weakly, “Jordan has something to tell you but apparently now he wants me to do it.” She squares her shoulders, looking suddenly uncomfortable. “When Jordan came in today, basically he sat down and said, 'I know why I'm always angry. It's because I'm sad. And I know why I'm always sad. It's because I'm a girl.'”
All the extra air goes out of the room and her words hang in the void at the center of our little triangle. The frog in my hand belches unexpectedly and Jordan giggles. She giggles. I glance over at him and then I look at her.
I cannot yet see the girl-child peeking out through my fifteen-year-old son. True, he's let his usual military buzz-cut grow out over the last few months so that his hair now lays flat, just barely starting to curl at the base of her neck ... and then there was that odd mishap with his eyebrows around Christmas, which hasn't completely righted itself, making him appear more than a little Spock-like … but still he looks much like he's always looked; a sturdy child with ash-blond hair, gray eyes, a generous mouth and strong bone structure beneath a lingering layer of baby fat.… an ordinary boy. Except that she's not.
The oddest things come to you in moments like this and with Linda's recitation of Jordan's words still hanging in the air, I immediately thought of all the times I'd said “All I ever wanted was two sons.” which is the kind of thing that the mother of two sons will say casually though it is no more true than any other bit of revisionist history a parent passes along. It is this thought which prompts me finally to break the silence.
“I'm sorry for anything I ever did to make it worse or make you feel bad.”
Jordan still won't look at me, but Linda is gawking, open-mouthed, as if I'm a dog who just performed some trick she hadn't even thought to teach me. Unlike Linda, I know exactly what those words mean, the weight of what is behind them and the perilous path which stretches out now before us. Everything I ever thought I knew about my child has changed in an instant.
The rest of the meeting is a blur. I agree, without considering the full weight of doing so, to some stipulation about not mentioning this revelation to anyone until Jordan is ready. Linda asks tentatively if we are going to be alright until we see her again next week.
“Oh yeah. Of course.” I say quickly, barely glancing at her because I can't seem to stop staring Jordan. And then, there we are, descending the stairs and climbing into the car, me sneaking sidelong glances at this stranger and Jordan still quietly smirking and staring out the window.
"Of all the things," I tell her, as I pull out into traffic, "I never would have imagined this."
"I know." she whispers.
"You're not just fucking with me?" I have to ask.
"I am not just fucking with you." she answers, “And by the way, my name is Alice.”
"Ok then." I say and we are on our way.
[Note: The final year of my daughter's life was a revelation and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I tell her story in bits and pieces as part of my own therapy, but also to let others who may travel some piece of the same path; You are not alone. These stories are cross posted Laurustina.com.]