Yesterday I had a gypsy lady coming for IQ testing with her daughter, who just turned sixteen. I went from the nurses' room to my cabinet without seeing the girl, then asked the mom to bring her in.
When I saw her, I literally became breathless. She was beauty incarnate. The purest, most angelic facial structure I've ever seen, golden complexion only slightly kissed with a few freckles by the sun? Check. A nose drawn by the patron saint of plastic surgeons? Check. Soft, sweet voice that could make Boy George switch teams? Check. All this completed with a dark wave of hair and an elfin body. If I'd be even a little bi-curious I would be composing love poetry for her right now.
She sits on the chair in front of my desk, quiet, hands in her lap, her mom doing giving me the girl's data. The mom's pregnant (6th child, she says) and looks like a more mature version of her girl. We chat a bit and then she leaves me with her daughter.
The angel is seriously broken. She has spina bifida and a moderate mental retardation, say the papers. She also has undergone three major surgeries, two on her spine and one on the cranium. She shows me the scar on the skull, carefully masked with a hairpin. She tells me what it feels like to get an infection after cranial surgery and develop meningitis, then stay three months on a hospital bed, not sure if you will be able to walk or talk again, or even survive. "I saw death a few times, you get used to it after a while". She shows me the hospital discharge papers for her surgeries . "This one's for the first cancerous tumor removal". "And this one is for the second".
We joke, I make her laugh and become more talkative while trying not to stare at her face too much although she seems oblivious to her glow. She tells me about her girlfriends, the little sister who gets straight 10s and wants to be a doctor, the brother that can't get past 4th grade even though he's 15 years old, the alcoholic dad that beats mom and takes the money mom earns to go drinking. I discover that she's illiterate. "The brain surgeon said I cannot sit in a school chair for four hours". I give her the IQ tests, Raven, Bender, the whole enchillada - yup, moderate retardation. "I wish I would be alowed to wear high heels. Or maybe run a little. I dream a lot of running, just running." She shows me the drain tube left permanently in her body - a thin line under the skin of her neck, going from her skull to the abdominal cavity.
I write her Handicap Comission papers, ask mom to come inside, give mom a few ideas on how to better deal with the girl when she's angry or frustrated, ask about the overachieving little daughter and the abusive husband. "He doesn't beat me while I'm pregnant .. It's not that bad, really." I tell her we have a shelter, if she ever feels enough is enough. "They won't let me go there with five kids and one more on the way".
Mom and daughter leave, both of them smiling, mom helping daughter to walk. I watch them through the window until they disappear .