My mom called to tell me about an article on Yahoo. A 43 year old man was presumed trapped in a vegetative state for 23 years. In reality, he heard every word that was spoken to him. Because a doctor finally discovered this, he can now communicate via a keyboard. I think I believe in pulling the plug, but when I hear stories like this, they perplex me. My mom reminded me of a story I wrote about 5 years ago when the Terry Schiavo controversy was in the news. I'm not posting this to start another controversy...I'm just saying it makes you think. At least it makes me think.
Somehow, that world was magical. We were poor, but I was unaware. I had another world to retreat to if the idea of poverty began to sink in. I draped a long, white sheet over the edge of the couch forming a small opening where I could crawl through. This was my world. This was the world behind the waterfall. This was the world I was made for. I would play Care Bears behind the waterfall, and then I would sneak out and take an adventurous rafting escapade on top of my mother’s freshly washed linens. For an hour, I had thoroughly convinced myself that I lived in the land of make-believe.
As I got older, my childish games matured into a more classy form of imagination. After school, I would dash away to the woods behind my house. Entrance into these woods was not an easy task. A thin log over a raging river was my balance beam into the heart of the forest. Perhaps I had watched Fern Gulley The Last Rain Forrest one too many times.
“Ah, look there’s another tree down. What should I do? The builders are taking over! I must save the forest!”
The deathly orange X on every tree stared at me with haughty eyes. Off I ran to mix some concoction of red berries, oak leaves, and pond water to erase the threatening X on all the trees of the forest. I single-handedly deceived the cruel construction workers and sent them home not knowing where to bulldoze or where to build a house. I saved the woods. I saved my world.
In high-school, my world of make-believe became reality.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Venice airport. We hope you have enjoyed your flight. Remember to choose KLM for all your vacations.”
No, these weren’t streets of gold, but they were streets of water. I relaxed in the back of a gondola as I took in the scenery. Could it actually be Marco Polo’s home? Oh, it was. Everything seemed surreal, but this time I wasn’t forced to tear down the sheets or emerge from the woods and enter the real world. I was in the real world, but this world was filled with beautiful boats, homes garnished with flowering window boxes, cathedrals with mosaic tiling that left me in awe, and hearty laughs from Italian men as they conversed with their families over a lengthy dinner. Perhaps I had been born in the wrong country. This land thrilled me. It intrigued me. This was my world.
I flee to my world every day now. I tell myself the stories of my childhood. I tell myself the stories of my future. They think I don’t talk, but I converse all day long. I tell my parents not to worry. I tell my husband I love him. I tell my daughter to smile. Oh, they think I don’t hear, but I hear everything. Their words play over and over like a tape recorder in my mind. Their words are what I cling to. Their prayers, their kisses, their kind whispers into my ear are like presents brought afar by the magi into this far away land where I reside. They reach my world, they really do. I unpack them, I examine them, and I delight in them until more come my way. If I could cry, I think I would, but I seem to have no control over my own tears. I try to invite these people whom I love into my world – even just for a minute. But my invitation never gets sent out. I try to pull myself into their world, but my efforts are futile. So I just let them love me, and I just hope they know I love them- even this moment. Welcome to my world.
This world does not satisfy me. It leaves me hungry. It leaves me thirsty. It leaves me longing for more. I want to emerge from this world. I want to close my eyes and wakeup behind the waterfall, in the depths of the forest, or dodging the pigeons in front of the Basilica of St. Mark. My gifts, my talents, and my character lie dormant only allowing my own self to peer in. I want others to see who I am. I want to learn more about this life, but no one will teach me. I want to further develop as an individual, but my growth seems stunted. So I wait, and I wait, and I wait. I just wait to hear the words, “Welcome to my world.”
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