Almost every day around four o-clock in the afternoon, I would smile when I heard her grunt and moan as she motioned back and forth on the swing in our backyard. I had made the backyard her wonderland. Flowers, vines, and white lights wrapped around every structure. There was a large deck which contained a pond, a wooden gazebo, and a rocky trail leading to the shed. The yard was a place of tranquility and magic. Our neighbours, a newly married couple, had two kids, a boy and a girl. Sometimes I would glance out the living room window and eye their children sneaking into the yard so that they could stare into the pond and try to catch a peak at the tiny fish.
My wife and I had two boys of our own. They were ten years older than our neighbours’ children. They were healthy, typical, teenage boys, who loved baseball and had good hearts. You could say that I saw the young couple next door as a reflection of my wife and I ten years ago. My wife also gave birth to a daughter, but there were some complications and we were told that she would not live very long. She suffered from critical brain damage. She would never learn the ability to speak or understand. She was impaired. We were told that the condition she suffered from was called cerebral palsy.
I had made the backyard for her. When we bought the home in the early nineties I chose the biggest lot on the street. I was determined to make a place for her, determined to see her smile each day. The doctor had told us that her mental capacity would never grow beyond one of a young child. She would motion back and forth; she would never grow out of her swing.
Like the garden, she required a lot of attention, and I was willing to care for both. It is only now that I am afraid I will not be able to care for her anymore. Six months prior to today, I had met with our family doctor who had more news to share; this time it was about me. I have been diagnosed with a cancer, which currently has no identified cause or cure. I have been undergoing treatment, but as I feel my life slip from my grasp, I worry about the garden; I worry about her. When I close my eyes I see her swinging, at age five, seven, nine, fourteen, twenty-one, thirty-two… I want to be there to love her; I want to watch her grow.
I lie in the hospital bed; I am surrounded by white walls and patients in blue gowns. The doctors are constantly in a hurry, and the dilated pupils of every visitor appear vividly distinct. I stare into these black tunnels, which extend so far back that they do not suggest an end. Everyone is distant; everyone is afraid of getting too close.
But then I hear her, unfazed, melodic and radiant. I close my eyes again, and see the sparkle and life of the garden, and the sun’s beams bouncing off her golden hair. Her light reaches me in times of darkness. I can see her light at the end of the tunnel. I close my eyes one more time and everything goes black.
I never did hear her swing again.