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Short story – “Can one of you get me some ice?”

Posted Tue 9th Jun 2020 at 07:00
by Yaska Sahara


A beautiful piece of writing by a daughter who's mum has TS.

You walk home from school and open the door to see your mother grinning at you as if she wants to hug you so much you’d be suffocated, “Come here, my beautiful child! I missed you!”

“I was only gone a few hours.” You reply, laughing.

You break away and see she has bandages on her hand that weren’t there this morning. You feel bad for teasing her, even if it was good natured. She probably needs a hug because she’s in pain. How do you feel?

How do you feel when you stand in the kitchen with her and your father and they tell you he walked in on her crying and clutching her deeply-cut hand, crying in a small pool for her blood.

How do feel when you see a small remnant of that pool just before your father also notices it and cleans it up swiftly?
She’s quite used to pain. But she admits the pain made her cry. Maybe the fact that she had to make your father stop working and take her to the hospital and get stitched up also annoys her. She knows he has no qualms about it but just the very nature of being disruptive in a sense upsets her.

“It made me cry. I haven’t cried like that in a long time. But I’m fine now.”

You and your father share a knowing look. You both know it’s not so much the pain as it is the frustration, the fact that it occured, again. She tries not to let it get her down. But it can’t be easy when she controls herself nine times and then the tenth she’s just a fraction of a second too late and she’s hurt herself again.

“I’ll just have to be even more careful.” She says as if she merely tripped, as if she has complete control over her body.
“Is it okay now?” You ask, gesturing at her hand. You think about what it’s like to go without an injury like this for a good while and then be struck by surprise when it finally returns.

“Just found a new creative way to add to my scar collection.” She says softly and calmly, looking at you. “Remember how you and your brother used to argue over who made the best patterns?” She refers to the fact that you and your brother used to think stretch marks were drawings done by the baby in the womb. She smiles at the memories and you don’t want to take that from her even though you want to address her pain in some other way. You’re not sure why, but now that you’re older and she can’t hide as much of it from you, you want to help somehow. You’re dejected that all you can do is let her smile at a small endearing memory.

You still can’t wrap your head around how she constantly laughs at her pain. How she dismisses her pain and addresses your menial problems with her kindness.

She laughs that she can be clumsy sometimes. But she’s not just clumsy, she has Tourette’s Syndrome. The slightest muscle tic makes her drop something which can hurt her. She hits her hand so hard on concrete walls that her hand has graze marks. Her throat forces her to growl so often that her voice comes out hoarse almost every other day. It also once forced her to spit out perfectly good food she was enjoying. You remember her cleaning up, laughing and being embarrassed at the same time.

You wonder if even though she laughs it off, she struggles with the contradiction of being accomplished in her career and happy with her family yet feeling humiliated and incompetent for not being able to control simple physicalities.

Her arm used to hit her leg even though she didn’t want to. She has scars from when she ticed and flipped an entire sofa onto her tiny seven-year-old leg.

How do you feel when you come home to this, knowing it happens often, knowing how and why it happens? You know she’s stronger than anyone you know and that she needs to keep going to bear with the pain, even if that conversely means she subjects herself to more. You come to realise that all you see her do is persist and that’s why you don’t feel as horrified as you think you should be.

You reflect on this and you realise it’s an odd mix of profound intensity but also complacency. You have no choice but to accept that this happens. She lives with it knowing it is incurable and all you can think about is how you admire her strength. That thought just repeats itself in your head. But you don’t understand it. Up until recently, you’ve accepted her unrelenting persistence. But more recently you wonder what it really takes and if you can truly be like that. You wonder if it’s bad that you too are complacent. You like how she laughs at her jumping tic and then you laugh with her about how she is doing a beautiful dance. But when you think of the way other people react with horror and concern at her tics, you wonder if you should also be concerned? The way they jump to her aid…

“Ok. Enough of my funny antics, why don’t you go and do your homework, lovely?” She speaks to you and it takes you a second to fully process it.

You go and sit and your desk and you realise how you from 3 seconds ago was stupid. She likes things to go on. You think about the countless times she has to grit her teeth as she has to explain for the millionth time that she’s not ill.

She just has an incurable neurological condition.

You think about that time you went to the temple together and she ticed multiple times in the space of a minute and how one of the monks working there tried to exorcise her with singing and kampfer lanterns. You remember the odd mix of scorn, confusion and fatigue she was trying to hide as their misguided attempt at help engulfed her.

For some reason, this particular injury, one out of many you’ve witnessed, has rendered you emotional. You see a tear drop onto your desk that you’ve not even bothered to put your books on yet, you’re just sitting there staring at your to-do list and notes for chemistry you’ve had on the wall for months.

You find yourself confounded by how you’re emotional enough to shed a tear yet now you’ve seamlessly got your books out and you’re used to mother getting injured enough that you can still focus on your homework.

You wonder why sometimes you become emotional. But maybe it’s those thoughts in the back of your head that strike every ten or so injuries. How many small injuries can your mother sustain until she can’t grin at you like that anymore? You think that everyone in your family is aware of this. You all know that she savours any time she has as she never knows when any part of her body will give up recovering from all the injuries.

As you solve tedious sums, you think about the monk and the people who think she’s sick and your concentration turns to the mental side of it all. Maybe she dismisses the physical in an attempt to keep the mental at bay. Or maybe the physical pain isn’t even worth it when one has so many mental demons to tackle. The demons forcing one’s body to move are feeble in comparison to the demons that make one feel like the world is against one, thinking one is possessed, attempting to help one but only furthering one’s isolation.

You think about how everyone feels isolated sometimes, like when you started to take interest in foreign languages and no one in class cared and thought you were trying too hard to be different. But with your mother, it’s an integral part of her that she can’t control that which isolates her.

But, wait, you used to laugh at those people who mocked you. You think about that time a child mimicked her on the street and then his little friends laughed and pointed and all your mother did was laugh. She told you she found it refreshing how they didn’t treat her with a blatant scorn or a stepping-on-thin-ice type of concern. She liked the innocence of it, even if it was cruel.

Just as you think of this, she comes into your room and gives you a warm embrace, leaning down a little to wrap her arms around your shoulders as you look down at your textbooks. She doesn’t say anything. She stays that way for a minute or two. And then she says; “You two keep me through these things.” You squeeze her hand and then let her leave to go and work some more, typing with one hand.

You muse over what keeps her going and whether that is you and your brother. She says as much all the time. But it’s at times like this when she comes to you and hugs you and as if your mere touch gives her life, that you truly start to realise the extent of her devotion to you. At times, you take it for granted but then you think about the way she looked at you when that monk tried to ‘cure’ her. You knew. You knew all about her and loved her all the same, she loved you all the same. She does all she can for you and you know you are the motivation for her resilience. You only wish that you can one day love your child as much as she loves you. You can only wish that the being you give life gives you life in turn. You hope that one day you can maybe fathom what you are to her and truly appreciate it. You feel inadequate in your lack of comprehension of what keeps her going but you know that it’s okay to not fully understand her, it’s okay to disagree with her at times, as long as you appreciate her.

Despite all the contemplation, you’ve finished your maths sums by the time you think about this and you decide to make some dinner for everyone. You check the fridge and see there are no leftovers so you start making something. You decide this needs music so you blast music into your ears with headphones, your mother’s been through enough today so she doesn’t need loud music blaring through speakers, you always have to remember it makes her tics worse.

You’re somewhat reckless like your mother and you cut yourself a little as you chop the onions. Your eyes are so sensitive so tears stream down your face, your brother comes in and laughs at you.

You take off your headphones and find that your music is so loud that it can be heard with them simply hanging round your neck. You leave it on as it is a song you and brother both love. He grins that mocking grin at you, even though you know he wants to dance.

“How dare you belittle my tears of woe?!” You cry at him with fake distress, trying to stifle your laughter.

He throws a carrot at you and then helps you chop the onions. You’re still crying onion-tears though.

You dance your way to the cooker and then you throw vegetables into the pan. As you do, your wrist touches the hot edge of the pan. You see your wrist go red and you hear your skin sizzle faintly but you just continue to dance as your brother jumps and throws another carrot at you. You give him a sardonic smile, pick it up, wash it and chop it. You feel a little bit of relief as you wash it and the cold water runs to your wrist, helping your burn. It’s not even that bad. So as you move onto the chopping and stirring of dinner, you’ve forgotten about it and all you feel is happiness as you cook-dance with your brother.

She comes in and smiles at her children having fun. Even though music isn’t all that fun for her, she enjoys herself, intentionally jumping up and down with you two. Your father joins you a minute or two later. You jump and jump, swing out your fist, grin at your mother, spin and smirk and at your brother and mockingly slap your father’s arm.

Then you all rush to the cooker as you hear it make a little too much noise. You stir it vigorously to ensure it doesn’t burn and realise you still haven’t started cooking the rice to go with it. You turn off the music to ensure your mother doesn’t tic too much.

Once you’re sure the vegetables won’t burn you decide to address the rice issue; “Can someone get me a big pot for rice?” She excitedly opens the cupboard door and takes the pot out.

She tics.

The heavy pot falls onto her foot as she tics again.

She winces.

You turn off the heat.

The sound of the pot falling onto the ground still rings in your ears.

“Oh wow, two accidents in the same day.” She laughs.

Your father rushes towards her to hold her in case her foot hurts too much to stand.

She beams at you and your brother, “Can one of you get me some ice?”

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Short story – “Can one of you get me some ice?”

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