Edgar, age eight, asked this of me last night—a seemingly, deceptively simple question that is, in truth for him, anything but.
Living with undiagnosed ADHD, then a virtual loss of two years of his early childhood due to epilepsy, its accompanying seizures, and the side effects of the ultimately miraculous medicine that helped to bring those seizures to an end, Edgar has never lived anywhere but in the present.
The past and future have had very little meaning for him, and he has held them in even less regard.
It sounds charming, romantic and poetic even . . . a dreamy blue-eyed boy doing nothing more than following his bliss, the very personification of carpe diem—quick to forgive, and, yes, to forget.
But there is nothing charming about that same child asking you on a sunny May day if Christmas is “tomorrow” or in the middle of summer vacation if he has “school today.”
As a society, we regularly extol the virtues of living in the present and have collected all manner of pithy sayings about the dangers of dwelling in the past and the pointlessness of worrying about the future. But it is because we have the luxury of understanding these concepts, of appreciating the fact they exist that we can chide ourselves when we go too far astray from this moment.
But when you are burdened with a condition (or two or more) with which your body—if not your mind– is forced to contend, getting through the day is sometimes the best you can do. Living in the present isn’t a New Age luxury; it’s a mandate and often nothing more.
So, when your eight-year-old child, who has been diagnosed with and treated for ADHD, has experienced more than two years seizure-free, and is now medication-free in terms of his epilepsy, looks at you and finally asks about a monumental event from your past, his past, your shared past, this is very big news.
Almost as big as the love I immediately and viscerally felt from seeing just a blurry paper photocopy of his hospital picture on an early evening in my living room in September 2005.
Almost as big as the moment I first held him in my arms in a visiting room at our adoption agency and knew that I would never, could never let him go.
I told Edgar last night about the day I first met him and watched him beam—with love, yes, but also with understanding, understanding that has necessarily eluded him for far too long.
And I saw in his eyes he—he—for the first time finally understood how big this was.