In April, Mom took Nathan to the doctor for a checkup. I still remember the day she brought him home. She came in the house with this blank look on her face. I was baby-sitting all the other kids, so I plunked in a Barney movie and joined Mom in the kitchen. She was acting really weird. She wasn’t using her crutches any more, so she could at least fix dinner, but she didn’t. She just sat at the kitchen table and stared at her purse. I asked her about dinner and she just said that we’d order pizza. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be that bad if we could still afford pizza.
I ran to the office and got the cordless phone and the pizza coupons. When I came back in the kitchen, Mom was still staring at her purse. “Mom,” I finally asked. “What’s wrong?”
She slowly looked up at me and her eyes filled up with tears. “Nathan’s not talking,” she said flatly.
“Well,” I said, “he’s only two. He’ll talk soon.”
“The doctor doesn’t think so,” Mom said. “He thinks Nathan needs to go to a specialist.”
“Why?” I was angry. What could a specialist do that we couldn’t do? Force Nathan to talk?
Mom covered her face with her hands. “I don’t know,” she moaned. “Nathan is fine. He’s a good boy. A little slow maybe. A little hard to handle maybe, but he’s a good boy.” Mom was losing it. I could tell. I hardly ever saw her cry unless it was something major. I put my arms around her and gave her a big hug.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” I said. “Nathan is going to be just fine. We can help him. We can teach him to talk.” I didn’t know how I was going to show Mom that we could teach Nathan to talk, but she seemed to need to hear me say the words, so I said them. Mom hugged me back and after a minute or two, she stopped crying. “When does he see the specialist?” I asked with a fake smile.
“I don’t know,” said Mom. “I have to call and make an appointment. Since it’s Friday and it’s late, I think I’ll wait until next week.” Mom picked up the phone and ordered the pizza. She seemed much happier, so I didn’t say anything else about Nathan then.
But by the next Friday when I asked Mom about the appointment, she said that she had forgotten to call. I knew better. Mom didn’t want to call. She didn’t want Nathan to go to therapy. She didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong with him. I heard her tell Dad that the first thing the specialist would do is test Nathan’s hearing. If he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t speak. I knew he could hear. When I yelled at him, he always came running. He just couldn’t speak. He could say ‘mama,’ ‘dada,’ ‘ball,’ ‘bye,’ and ‘dog.’ Other than that, most of his words sounded like a foreign language. He was two and a half years old. When Kiyna was two, she could say just about anything. She even got me in trouble a few times for saying things she shouldn’t be saying. Like the ‘shut opposite from down’ word. That was against the rules at our house. If Mom or Dad heard me say it, I always got a punishment job.
By the first part of May, I heard Dad tell Mom that if she wouldn’t call the specialist, he would do it. I’m not sure that Mom would have ever made the call if Dad hadn’t forced her to do it. Anyway, Nathan got his first appointment for the last week in May. He didn’t care. He didn’t even know what was going on. But Mom knew, and so did I.
When the day of the appointment finally came, I stayed home and watched Kinsey and Kiyna while Mom took Nathan to the clinic. I couldn’t sit still while she was gone. What if something was drastically wrong with Nathan? Would I have to baby-sit him until I was 30? Would he ever learn to talk, or would we all have to learn sign language?
When Mom finally got home, I was a basket case too. To make things worse, she didn’t know anything! Even the results of the hearing test would take a few days. Mom was exhausted, so I made supper. Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs were my specialty. I sat by Nathan and helped him cut his hot dog into little pieces. I looked into his big brown eyes and then I gave him a hug. “We’ll show them,” I whispered. “You’ll learn to talk and then you can tell them a thing or two!” Nathan laughed, but I knew he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
When Dad got home, I unladed my dishwashers very slowly. I wanted to hear Mom tell him about Nathan’s appointment. She didn’t like the people or their ideas. Dad urged her to stick with the program at least while the insurance would pay for it. I think Mom would have gladly stayed away from the clinic forever, but Dad was insistent, so the next week, Mom took Nathan back for his first appointment with the speech therapist.
Six weeks after that first appointment, Mom got laid off. She said that the speech therapist wasn’t doing anything for Nathan anyway, so she just canceled the rest of his appointments and said that he wouldn’t go back. Ever. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. When Mom made up her mind, it was pointless to argue anyway. Besides, I had other things to think about.
Aunt Deb was getting married! She asked me and Kinsey and Kiyna to stand in her line and be flower girls. Mom was going to be a bridesmaid. She was pretty upset about it because by the time Deb got married in August, Mom would be eight months pregnant. Then, to top it all off, Aunt Deb asked Mom to make all of the bridesmaids and flower girls dresses. Of course, Mom said yes. She never told her family, “No!” on a favor. At least that’s what Dad said when she told him about it. I decided it was going to be fun even if Mom was going to spend the next month in the craft room behind her sewing machine.
Aunt Deb came up one day and she and Mom went to the fabric store to choose patterns and material. They brought home this shiny green satin and lots of white lace. The patterns weren’t too bad either. Mom called the dresses “princess lines,” but they were about knee-length with short sleeves. All the princesses I’ve ever seen in fairy tales wear long dresses with long sleeves.
Mom did spend all of her time in the craft room. I had to watch Nathan and Kiyna, but they mostly liked to play outside on the trampoline or in the sandpile, so I just took my book and a blanket and camped out on the lawn with a huge glass of ice water. It was a nice way to spend the last of those hot summer days. Neal and Kinsey were already in school, but I was on my way to middle school so I didn’t have to go back until after Labor Day.
Mom finished the dresses only one day before the wedding. She was horribly stressed, of course, but we were excited about spending the weekend at Grandma’s house. I got to do all of the packing so that Mom could sew the shoulder pads into Aunt Laurie’s and Aunt Mel’s dresses. And I know she sewed the lace down the front of Kiyna’s dress while Dad drove for two hours to Grandma’s house. Well, it was really more like three and a half hours by the time we stopped every half hour for Mom and Kiyna to go to the bathroom! I’m not sure I ever want to be pregnant when I get older. Mom looked like she was carrying a basketball under her dress, a shiny green basketball.
The wedding was fun. After we stood for a couple of hours and shook hands with people we didn’t know (boring!), all of the kids went outside and decorated Aunt Deb’s car with balloons and newspaper. Then we got to throw rice at them. I don’t think Aunt Deb was all that happy by the time they got ready to leave.
We came home early Sunday morning to a messy house. Mom went straight to bed and I had to clean up. Dad said that I shouldn’t complain because I didn’t have to do my chores all weekend, but the other kids didn’t have to work because they all had homework to do. I didn’t have homework, but I had lots of planning to do to get ready for Middle School. I only had a couple of weeks before I would be a student at South Jordan Middle School and I had to worry about shopping and friends and grades and teachers and makeup and getting lost.