Friday, May 16, 2008
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
For me, the answer is easy. I am absolutely terrible at facial recognition.
(Sidebar - this is kind of a trick question. I'm a strong believer that there is a flip side of the coin for every trait/foible that we have and that changing one, even an undesirable one, could have unforseen consequences....so I guess what I'm saying is that in my fantasy world where I could theoretically upload Facial Recognition Software to my brain like on The Matrix, after great deliberation I would very reluctantly decline. But if facial recognition were something important to No Child Left Behind, I'm quite sure that I would qualify for a learning disability.)
I'm not sure I realized how bad I was until my eldest daughter was talking. At age 3 she recognized people better than I did. We'd be in the grocery store and she would say "That's Jenny's dad." I would soothingly say, "Oh, ok honey" and not believe her. But she was always right. And continues to be, to this day. "You see that lady there, Mom? That's Jason's mom, he played on my soccer team three years ago." I've gotten to the point now that I treat her like crib notes when we go to school functions..."Who's dad is that? He looks vaguely familiar...and which one is Scott's little sister?"
I can literally spend an hour chatting with someone new at a gathering, and see them not three days later without recognizing them. If you were to ask me what we talked about, all that is still there. But the memory of their face has exited my brain. It can be embarassing at times, particularly at work. It's more than once that I've been seeing a new child, looked at the parent and said "You look familiar" to which they reply "You've been treating me for 6 months." Ouch.
When Henry was in the middle of his 4th round of chemotherapy, he was visually unrecognizable to me. His face swollen, his lips bloody, his head bald, his voice hoarse...of course, I knew he was mine. But the knowing was a very cognitive thing. I kept looking at him, looking for something to tell me that it really was Henry, my son, lying in that bed. The emotional connection never broke, of course, but I could feel my mind searching for visual cues to tell me that it was him. It was the strangest sensation, like I was an animal in the wild, and could hear my young calling for me, but just couldn't find him. I searched his face again and again.
What really bothered me was that I knew that had I not been there all along, I wouldn't recognize him. How could I not know that he was mine? If you lined him up with 10 other deathly ill boys, I couldn't have picked him out. It bothered me deeply...I was his mother, and I could not see him there in front of me.
As he started to recover, it was the eyes first. His smile looked so distorted, but even with swollen eyes I could see his expressions. Henry's expressions. My eyes trained on to them, like when you're in a foreign country and you see a sign printed in English. It was such a visceral relief.
I miss his hair, but it's ok. The eyelashes are on their way back in (Yah!). But I hope to never feel that searching again.