I recently read the book “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards. Have you heard of it? It is a gut-wrencher.
The basic gist is that in 1964 a Dr’s wife gives birth to twins. A perfect boy, and a down syndrome baby girl. Only the wife doesn’t know there are twins, as she is gassed up and almost completely out of it. Dr. Henry, noticing at once the DS, passes her to the nurse that has helped with the delivery on this snowy, wintery night, the only other person there, and asks her to take the girl to an institution. That was just what was done in those days.
In a split second decision, he tells his wife the little girl died. He thinks this will spare her the grief and pain of having to raise a child who will be ridiculed by society and will, one day in the not too distant future, pass away from DS complications. He lost his own sister when she was just 12 years old and saw the toll it took on his parents.
He is a good man, who thinks he is doing the right thing. But when his wife falls into a deep depression over the loss of her daughter, and plans a memorial for her, he starts to realise he’s done the wrong thing.
Meanwhile, the nurse who has taken Phoebe to the institution, cannot bring herself to leave the baby girl in this awful place. She leaves town and takes the baby with her, raising her as her own until she is in her late teens/early 20s.
The book is a parallel tale of 2 childhoods. The affluent Dr, his disturbed wife and their son, and the caring nurse and her baby girl, who is different to the rest of the world and treated as such. It is a great book in that it makes you think about the choices you make, the reasons you make them, and how things may not always be as simple or work out for the best as you hope they are or will.
There are so many feelings in this book I can relate to. But the greatest of them is the Nora Henry’s sense of fear. Fear that she will lose her son. She lost her daughter, why couldn’t it happen again? I have never lost a child. But the fear of something happening to me, my husband or my son, is very real for me. There are times he leaves our place with my mum, or we leave him at her place, and for a fleeting second my stomach sinks, worrying “What if…”. It is an awful, awful way to live.
My husband and I are going away for 2 nights for our 5 year wedding anniversary. Our son is staying with Nanna. That’s fine, he’s stayed with her before. But he’s never stayed 2 nights, and we’ve never gone 2 hours away without him. We’ve never gone ONE hour away without him! It will be in the back of my mind just how far away we are the whole time we’re gone. And I’m sure I’ll check on him at least 2x a day.
So how do we learn to not think/live like this? I’d love to know.