The first time I saw a brain, a real brain, suspended in some greenish liquid at the front of my gross anatomy lab, I stood there, staring at it for a good long while. I was long past being disgusted by the organs of the human body, and seeing the folds of the creamy white tissue struck me only with a sense of wonder. This was it, right there: all that you were, all that you thought, all that made you you was right there in that innocuous looking organ.
Really, it could have been a football for as glamorous as it looked.
But to know how it worked, studying the nuances of neurology, that is poetry. All of the mysteries that we still do not know about how the synapses fire to make one person want to maim and dismember and one person want to paint the Sistine Chapel, that is beauty. The smooth folds folding seamlessly into each other made up separate and distinct parts of the brain and instinctively I rattled them off in my head as I examined the brain in the jar: the cerebral cortex, responsible for how we are feeling, our emotions. Those that make someone laugh or weep, smile or scream, right there.
The parietal lobe, which is how we use all of our senses at once to make decisions, the back of the head responsible for sight, the very sense I was using to examine the brain I was so enthralled by. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to drive a car, see the deep brown of my son’s eyes, the bright red of the fall leaves outside of the classroom. One by one, I observed all of these structures on that brain, carefully preserved in formalin in a jar labeled ABBY NORMAL.
How could something that looked like a Nerf ball be so mystifying and so shockingly resplendent in it’s simplicity at the same time? Something that made each of us who we are should have looked unique, special, like a jewel and somehow, the more brains I saw, the more I realized that they all looked pretty much the same.
Maybe it’s what we do with those hunks of white matter that contains the beauty, because with the exception of the cerebellum (which is surprisingly beautiful), it’s a highly understated organ, especially when compared to something flashy like the kidneys.
When my daughter was born with part of her brain hanging jauntily out of the back of her head, the doctors pretty much shrugged their shoulders when we asked what that meant about her future. While she showed no signs of neurological damage, she could be profoundly normal or profoundly retarded, it simply wasn’t something that could be determined by a blood test or an MRI.
Up until she was a year old, Amelia was followed by Early Intervention, who came every couple of months, tested her, declared her normal and left. When she turned a year, I figured it was probably time to let them close the case on her for now and promise to make a call back if something changed. I know the drill with special needs kids well enough, and her medical diagnosis is an immediate qualifier for assistance.
It’s taken me until now to realize that there is actually something wrong with her beautiful brain.
Amelia has no words.
She has no words.
No glorious words, the very thing that I make my (pathetic) living from, she has none. I’ve always derived so much happiness in putting together combination of words to titillate, horrify, or move people, and she has not one word.
She’s had words before, they’ve slipped out of her mouth for a couple of days until it appears that she forgets them and goes back to shrieking and grunting to get her point across. In many ways, this terrifies me more than seeing my mute autistic son did, because it seems as though she has words, then loses them again.
It’s time to call the specialists back in and help my daughter find her words.
For good, this time.
I have a lot of delicious combinations to teach her.