I am looking for a word

I am looking for a word.

If I had lost it I am certain it would be found under the heaps of papers littering my daughter’s bed. Wedged in between the scissors she slept on top of, the four books she started last night, and three different journals she has abandoned. It would be dotted with craft pom poms and pressed with crumbs from an unfinished snack. The word would go for weeks undiscovered. We’d buy her three new words out of sheer exhaustion from looking by the time we actually found it.

If I had only misplaced the word I would suspect it was washed away in an unsettling sea of my daughter’s tears. Three times in one meal her emotions stormed, her eyes flooded, and any unfastened word would have been swept past the arguing, rationalizing, and interrupting that plagues my dinner table.

The word was never there to start with. I’ve never actually had a word.

I had a feeling, but never a word.

On my 30th birthday I injured my knee. A piece of cartilage broke off and was never found. Not in 3 MRIs, not in two surgeries, and not in 1 year of physical therapy. Nobody could explain the injury to me. There was nothing I did that could warrant that piece of cartilage abandoning ship, never to be seen again. I needed a word. One that would describe why a healthy woman would have a rogue piece of cartilage that would affect her health for the rest of her life. Arthritis? Is that the word I was looking for? Osteoporosis? Could that be the word that stuck? Too many words and just me wading through them. Trying to find one that fit.

My daughter was three years old the first time I suspected I might need a word. She hit me in a fury, not unlike many other times, but her tiny fist landed square across the bridge of my glasses and I cried in pain and frustration. Her face changed from the intense anger I was used to, to a look of sheer horror at what she had just done. I cried even harder. Not because the pain was worse but because the relief was so great that my child could feel guilt. I exhaled the fear of words I had never known I was holding in.

Now, years later, new words grow. As her own guilt compounds and her own anger intensifies and the person on the receiving end of it can’t always be myself with a new pair of glasses. These are teachers and family and children that I know she wants nothing more than to call her friends, but instead she fights, interrupts, controls and dictates. Then she hides in shame.  Her fists are stronger, her words are harsher and her regret gets more difficult to live with.

I never found a word for what happened to my knee. Sometimes the words don’t actually exist, a thought that scares me more than actually finding a word. Because what if the word I end up finding is only four letters long and spells nothing more than my daughter’s name?

So I will keep looking for a word. I don’t want her to be alone in the search.  I know the impossible task of scavenging for something so small that is supposed to explain something so vast.

I am looking for a word.


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