We park the cars and everyone gets out. My dad Carrots, and my sister Frances lead the way. Followed by myself, and my mom the Queen. We are holding hands. Blue says to go on ahead, he will get Tink and Buzz from their car seats.
We walk down to the concrete water channels. The kind you find in movies, where drag races are often held. This was just like that. Left over water puddles from a past rain in places. Grey cold concrete. But the sun was shining. No clouds in the sky.
On our walk into the channel we see others, some racing, sprinting. Some walking, and some in wheel chairs going at almost a backwards pace they are so slow.
As we travel through we try to let the crowd go ahead, and stay ahead of the others, to make our own journey through the channel together, with out so much crowd around. We heard it works better that way.
We come to many tunnels, none of them the wrong choice, all of them an option. Just depending on how many people go to each one. We wait… let the crowd choose theirs. We chose after.
Well, Frances chose. It was her journey after all. She chose one far to the right… it had a cat. Small. About one year old, and she was black, but with a grey tone, and these jade green eyes. Wearing a thin purple ribbon with a small purple bell around his neck.
The crowd stayed FAR away from the tunnel with the black cat crossing the opening back and forth. All believing in the myth about bad luck when a black cat crosses your path.
Frances and her love for cats, took it as a sign, this one wanted her to follow him.
As Frances went towards the tunnel. Her dad, protective didn’t want to release her hand. But she knew she needed to go first. Alone.
Papa Carrots grabbed Queen Gigi’s hand, I grabbed for Blue and the children held hands, but they were going in behind Frances. It was like an order of family, but with the power that children have, that they see things and feel things that adults have pushed away over the years. They were brave to go right after Frances.
Now when Frances arrived she was as is. The Frances we all know today in 2012. Silent and generator powered keeping her Dystonia in check.
As she ventured into the tunnel, the lights low, we all quickly noticed her Dystonia worsened. As if the tunnel turned her generators from her Deep Brain Surgery off. Instantly our hearts were sad. We all wanted to run back.
Frances was having a hard time seeing where she was going. Her Dystonia had twisted her head as hard and far to the left as possible, then it pushed her forward, bent over and turning her torso hard to the left. She started to whimper, struggling to see where she was going but knowing this journey was where she was supposed to go. But she was having such a hard time moving on.
The black cat with the purple ribbon and purple bells. Came to the children and instinctively knew to follow the cats lead, each of them took a side by their Aunt Frances, they held her hands, which those too were curled up by the Dystonia into tight fists. So they held her fists. And lead on, following the cat.
The tunnel was the challenge. To face the Dystonia at it’s worst. Frances bark coughed, she twisted, and shook, she drooled uncontrollably, she cried from anger, she cried from hate, she cried from frustration of no control.
My mother the Queen sobbed quietly. I can’t imagine the heartache. Ed and I had tears run down our faces. But my father… he was so optimistic. So intrigued by what would happen next he was quietly, urging everyone to keep on. To see where this went. My mother was terribly afraid. They Dystonia seemed to be getting worse, to a point we were now moving at the backwards slow pace I had mocked the people before.
Tink was the first to see the light. Yes a light at the end of the tunnel. Buzz was just as excited and they said “Come on Aunt Frances! We are here! We can’t wait!” and with that the cat sprinted to the light. Frances, in her twisted and awkward state, started a trot of a run, and we all did as well.
The tunnel light became a small door way. Covered with moss around all the edges. Light purple flowers here and there. That cloudless sky above. And there was no grey concrete either. This was still huge water channels, but now filled with a mossy carpet, corkscrew willow trees everywhere, almost a symbol of her twisted Dystonia in a tree like form. The entire channel was filled with purple flowers. Tall ones, big ones, miniature ones. Dark shades of plum, to light shades of violet. And the smell of lavender filled the air.Frances loves purple, and she loves cats. This channel was the right one. We felt it.
Not sure what to do we let Frances lead. She took a step out into the sunlight alone. She took a few steps. Turned to us. Twisted, drooling, coughing. And crying. But these seemed to be tears of happiness? And she was smiling the best that the Dystonia would let. We saw it in her eyes though.
We all stood, hovered in the doorway. The six of us, waiting for our moment to come in. If there was one.
Frances seemed to forget us for a moment. She was with herself, facing her Dystonia with things around her that made her happy. As she walked along the cat stopped and came to her. He put his paws up onto her leg and she reached her twisted hand down to pet him, as her hand touched his fur her fingers uncurled and were able to pet him as she once did her beloved cats before.
Her heart sang. Full hand movements. A small improvement, not the first thing she’d want to fix. But she’d take it. She turned to us and ushered us in, we slowly walked in together. Blue and the kids stayed back. I stayed with my mom. My dad however, went ahead to Frances, held her hand and they started to walk.
We walked over hills and enjoyed the view. Out of habit Frances went to wipe drool from her face and it wasn’t there though.
As we walked, enjoying the view, the clear blue sky, the beautiful hidden garden, noticing almost with each step Frances’ Dystonia was going back to the way it was when we started out today. Happy to see it was like her generators were back on. And at least she wasn’t twisted.
Besides her hands, nothing else amazing had happened. Well not to us anyway. Frances swallowed. For the first time in years, many years, she swallowed like a normal person. She quickly looked around trying to find water, food anything to test this thought she had.
There up ahead was a table. A small wooden table, from what looked like one of our grandmothers homes and held one small beautiful purple glass goblet. Inside of it was cranberry juice, Frances’ favorite. She hesitated, looking for the straw, and napkin. Two items she needs to attempt to drink anything.
But she just had that feeling. We all look in shock as she raised the glass to her face, fearing she will wear most of this drink and cough spit out the rest, covering her shirt in drool and the dark staining juice, making this a painful moment for her full of embarrassment.
She raises the glass and drinks. She swallows and drinks till the glass is empty. Tears roll down our faces with pride. The small cat turns his head to watch. Frances doesn’t know if it’s a magical glass or if this is really happening. She lowers the glass for us to see a beautiful smile on her face. My mom wants to keep the glass. She looks to the cat, he rubs on her leg to approve, and he bounds down a path of crushed purple stones that lay ahead of us.
The cat stays to the right, awkward, since Frances is always to the left, but at once she turns her head. On her own to the right. Back to the left. And right again looking down to the cat. Smiling back to us. In return we all smile, anxiously waiting the next miracle.
At this point the crumpled hands, twisted fingers are straight and move fluently, the twisted body now in full control, sharp head turned to the left, are now swift movements by Frances herself, and the drooling and coughing have disappeared. Frances stood upright as tall as she could in her 4’ 9” frame. Her Scoliosis seeming to be gone as well.
She ran after the cat, down the crushed purple gravel path, and we all followed, running. No pain, no thoughts of our own physical ailments that should have slowed us down, we followed along the crushed purple stone.
Carrots grabbed Frances hand and whispered something to her.
She laughed out loud.
She laughed like it was 1988 all over again. We cried to hear her sounds again, we laughed along with her, I’m almost sure the cat laughed as well. The smiles on my children's faces. The look of happiness on Blues.
My mother was overwhelmed with joy. My father besides himself. We all stood around smiling. Taking in every second we could. And then, our black cat guide ran to the top of a hill. He sat and waited, and from the other side of the hill came another cat.
This one we all recognized.
Frances’s heart was bursting with joy, could this be? I mean she had her body back, she laughed and drank for the first time in almost 10 years and now this?
“Punkie” said Frances.
And my alarm went off.
But never to be forgotten.
Love you Frances now and forever. Your big sister. xo.