As a mother of four children, I often need to escape my reality. I need to find another place in time. I have come to love opening a book, and losing myself in the characters, and letting their lives seem real enough for me to understand their feelings. I have walked dusty English roads for miles in a dress alongside Jane Austen’s characters; I have crawled inside a hobbit house and traveled to far away imaginary lands thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien; and I have enjoyed numerous young adult novels that are easy to read, and are usually not complex enough to add any stress to my tired brain.
I had heard mixed reviews of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The story sounded intriguing to me, even though one friend of mine said that she had walked out of the theater within the first fifteen minutes of the movie. Maybe that made me even more curious. I bought the book. The author’s detailed descriptions of the smells, the temperature, the out-of-sequence times and dates, and the unexpected age changes of the characters drew me in almost immediately. She described how Claire and Henry met, and explained that Henry traveled through time. I got lost in the complexity of the novel, and forget about my daily tasks. I found myself thinking of the sweet characters continually.
In one part of her novel, Audrey Niffegegger describes Henry’s condition as a neurological disorder. She explains that stress, alcohol, and lack of sleep can bring on a sudden episode where Henry travels in time. This bit of information grabbed at my heartstrings, and struck a chord so close to home. I could feel his anguish and his pain. His episodes of time travel came on just as my daughter’s episodes of seizures begin. Stress and lack of sleep are triggers, but sometimes the brain just acts up with no obvious triggers. The brain is complicated, and it is often difficult to regulate abnormalities.
Henry and Claire couldn’t do much to control Henry’s neurological disorder. They learned how to cope and how to live with his condition. As whimsical as the idea of time travel is, this story has stayed with me, and given me much to think about in the years since I have read the novel. While I was trying to escape to a fictional place, the reality of my life kept seeping in; and now the fictional tale still seeps into my reality.
Bella has gone for two or more years with no seizures a few different times in these last 20 years. We live life as normally as we can every day. During the long periods with no seizures, we let our guard down, but we still know that at any given moment, she can have a seizure. That seizure will undoubtedly turn into a cluster of seizures. Our lives may be interrupted for a couple of days, weeks, or months. For us, the clock sort of stops ticking. Things that are going on in “the real world” are simply no longer that important to us. Days and nights in the hospital run together. Other people may be celebrating birthdays or holidays or the first days of a new season, but we are in another place in time.
Sometimes I see it as our own little way of traveling in time. We share little moments that we don’t always get in the normal hustle and bustle of a busy school day or work day. We stop and smell the roses. We appreciate the little things, and we pray for things to return to “normal.” But, like Henry, we don’t really have full control of our time.
Although Bella’s epilepsy is horrible, and has added undue stress to our lives; although it has stolen moments in time that we would have liked to have been able to spend differently; we are grateful. Because of these lapses in time, our family has been able to let go of reality from time to time, and we have grown closer. We are far from perfect. We don’t always get along; but we can handle a crisis. We are stronger because of it.
Life with a neurological disorder is not something I would wish on anyone, but these little occasions of stepping into another place in time are in some ways a blessing. I am thankful I read a book that put this idea in my head so that I can relax, and accept the times in our lives that we do not have control of everything.