Phantom pains and the word police…

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a bit of a controversy surrounding the new Ben Stiller movie Tropic Thunder.  I have not seen the film but apparently the word ‘retarded’ is used frequently.  For a little background you can read here.  Again, I have not seen the film.  My understanding is that it is a satirical look at pretentious Hollywood actors and none of the actors in the film strike me as being particularly horrible people.

That said, it makes me sad.  I guess a year ago I would have read the story and thought, “that’s terrible, that’s mean, those poor people shouldn’t be picked on, they’re somebody’s child” and gone on with my day.  

But now it’s my child.  

My sweet, adorable, cuddly, soft, gentle little girl with her cute little nose, big blue eyes and toothless, lopsided grin.

I admit I’ve used the word.  I admit that I’ve used it recently, though probably not in the last six months.  I’ve used it to describe all manner of people and things.  I used it as a kid on the playground.  I have laughed at its use.

Not anymore.

Now that word hits me like a kick to the gut, my stomach hurts when I hear it.  Unfortunately I hear it a lot.  You’re thinking, “where are you hanging out?”  No, I don’t hear it around town, I don’t hear it on PBS, I haven’t heard it at Food4Less either.  I hear it in my own head…all the time.  

Short…fat…retarded.

The night Tammy came home from the hospital with the words ‘Prader-Willi’ our first stop was Wikipedia.  The article isn’t long but I still did a speed scan of the words.  It was like taking a big bite of the most horrible-tasting food, you just chew enough so you don’t choke when you swallow it and try not to taste too much.  I scanned the article, looked at the bold-type and hyperlinked words and summarized the future in those three words.

I know that initial impression is neither certain, nor particularly accurate in light of current treatments–but it is the prognosis we all are all working to avoid.  And of course no one would use those terms either would they?

But they do, in my head anyway.  The kids on the playground.  The other parents at school.  That’s what I heard, what I hear, what I fear the world will see when they look at my precious Hope.  Even if she is none of the above.  Will they see she has the same round face and cheeks as her sister?  Will they notice that I, too, am short?  Will they pay attention to all that she can do, all that she understands, all she knows?

Will anyone ever understand how big my love for her is and how these little words can cause such great pain?

Then again, how much of that pain is self-inflicted?  Can I just not allow myself to be hurt by these things?  No, I don’t think I can.  I don’t think I’ll ever develop skin that thick, and anyway, I don’t think I’d want to.  But I should be able to control what goes on in my own, imaginary future — shouldn’t I?

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