Whale – VII: Recognition

“My grief work is not so much about climbing a ladder to get out of it as it is about the awareness of how many people are in it with me.” – Madge McKeithen from Blue Peninsula: Essential Words for a Life of Loss and Change.

The dermatologist knocked and opened the door. I took in her face, her smile, her small stature and then…her prosthetic right arm.

Recognition was immediate; a full body sensation. At the same time, a startling realization that this wouldn’t have been my reaction five months ago. This is my first time with a visible difference.

The appointment became less about my mole of concern (she wasn’t) and more about what it was like to be in the world with one arm (her) or one breast (me). The grief, the responses, the internalizations. She lost her arm in an accident at sixteen; I’m guessing at least thirty years ago. Her prosthesis is functional at work. She doesn’t usually wear it otherwise.

Whales vocalize to find each other. In the vastness of the ocean, it must be the only way. I walked out of her office with a new sense of myself. Like I had finally gotten a response to a sound I made months ago.

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