Erasing the Scar
“Why do you have a scar?”
She leaned forward, prodding my stomach.
It wasn’t the first time my daughter had asked about my shape or the myriad ridges etched upon the skin by the surgeon’s scalpel. She would repeatedly insist on answers, needing to know her mother. There was a presumptuousness to her questioning and touch that I loved.
Like before, I told her the story of my birth, the deformities across my digestive system and the ongoing impact.
“Remember…” I said. And she would nod, confirming her understanding of the answers she had been given previously.
Our relationship is vastly different to the one I had with my own mother. Firstly, it has lasted longer – my mother died when I was a child – but the key difference was the type of conversation and touch shared between my daughter and me.
Four days before my mother died I told her I loved her. She replied as any mother would I suppose, reiterating her love for me, but my eleven year old self struggled to accept her words. My memories of her are clouded by images of her taking me to hospital, administering treatments or praying for my healing. I watched her treat my siblings differently and was reminded every day of my difference to others in my family.
I had listened as she spoke of my disability and illnesses with others, answered questions these strangers had about my condition, and reserved her touch of me for when I was being treated. I do not remember hugs or kisses, but do recall the medicalised touch that filled my life.
My mother was, after all, my carer and the intimacy of a mother’s touch was not something I could use to evidence her love for me. Instead I have a movie reel filled with her hands administering a regimen haphazardly designed to get my digestive tract working, or clear my lungs of mucus. It is peppered with the admonishing sting of the punishment I received from my father when my body did not work as expected.
There was no comforting hand, nor a tender voice soothing tears.
Many people will tell me the love was there, but my memories also include my parents sharing details about my life with others. I was a conversation starter – a point of interest to the adults in the room – and the polite exchange of my details was not reciprocated by others.
I did not hear prideful boasting about academic or sporting progress, instead there was a litany of inconveniences caused, pressures on family, and wishes for wholeness within my body.
My daughter is not aware of the depth of this scar. In her mind I am valued and loved – my disabilities do not become a part of the reasons for or against any love she has for me.
“At least you’re here now,” she says, smiling up at me.
A new memory – one to replace the old.
“Yes. At least I’m here now.”
About Christine Davey-White
Christine Davey-White is a writer living in the Dandenong Ranges and teaches English in a secondary school. She is a recipient of the 2020 Writer’s Victoria Write-ability Fellowship, and wrote the teachers’ notes for “Growing Up Disabled in Australia” (Black Inc. Books). Christine is currently writing her memoir, “Don’t get burnt by the Holy Water”.