Merry Christmas to all my dear friends and family!
That night she brought the magazine home with her. She even tore out the picture and stuck it in the frame of her full-length standing mirror so she could study it and compare herself. For a long time she stood with her walker to the side, and hung her head in the same way the model did. Her hair was prettier. Her good arm was good. Everything else, not so great. She couldn't will her bad arm to uncurl, couldn't loosen her fist or relax the tendons that stood out with the effort of holding her head up. Nor could she do the one thing that would have helped the most: soften her face so that it was pliable and capable of showing the expressions other people took for granted. Her face had only a handful of options: raised eyebrows (for surprise and joy); a closed-mouth O (for worry and concentration); and a wide-open mouth that filled in for everything else. She had no smile of approval, no soft frown of disapproval, nothing subtle. In every photograph of her, she wore one of these three expressions. The only exception was a picture taken when she was asleep, and then her face softened, like she didn't have CP at all. Why was that possible in her sleep but impossible awake? She couldn't say. Just as she couldn't say why her parents continued to purchase large sets of her school-picture packages, as an annual reminder of her inability to smile.Final Thoughts:
Nine o'clock. Sarah is in her bed, bedside lamp on, engrossed in a new book that is lying against her raised knees. She won't break the spine of a book, even a cheap paperback. She cradles her books in her lap like she's found the Grail. I don't argue against such reverence. I think it's right. When I was her age and finished a book I liked, I used to pet it, stroke the front cover, then the back; and then I'd kiss it.
It began with another book, “The Sunflower,” by Simon Wiesenthal, who was a concentration camp prisoner. He was called to the bedside of a dying Nazi officer who wanted to confess what he had done and be absolved by a Jew. There have been a lot of arguments and discussions by philosophical and religious leaders about whether Wiesenthal did the right thing, which was not to forgive this Nazi. He says: “It is not my place. I am not the one he committed the wrong against. Those people are dead, and he can’t ever be forgiven.” What if that same kind of request was made not during the Holocaust but 70 years later? I began to come up with this fictional account of a reclusive woman, Sage, who bonds with an elderly man in her home town, who is everyone’s favorite citizen. He’s been a teacher, a Little League coach. Then he confides his secret.