Note: I wrote this a little over three years ago, just after I retired my old blog. I sat down this morning, planning to update it and post it, but something I swear isn't laziness compelled me to leave it as it is (laziness). If you are new here and are interested in following the saga of my oldest daughter's seizures, you can find it all over my old blog, especially here, here, and here. For the many of you who have contacted me to find out how she is doing now, the short answer is, she's doing fine. Very fine. The long answer will come soon.
I have stopped speaking to my family. I communicate now through grunts, squeaks, waving hands, and, if necessary, tersely worded notes, the latter being the least effective as 2/3rds of my kids cannot yet read.
I have stopped speaking because of the tarantula in my house. More specifically, I have stopped speaking because of the size of the tarantula in my house and what the size of the tarantula in my house does to my voice. The size of the tarantula in my house makes my voice sound unpleasantly high, like the voice of a frightened nine-year-old girl. Which is doubly embarrassing because the tarantula belongs to a nine-year-old girl, and she’s having no trouble at all speaking, thank you very much. She got the beast for Christmas. She named her Imelda.
Or maybe she named him Imelda. I don’t know. I’m not sure if there’s any way to tell the sex of a live tarantula. I’m certainly not flipping it over to check. I’d say it doesn’t matter except female tarantulas live about 15 to 20 years longer than males. And males jump. They jump. I’m not sure if the jumping contributes to the male’s short life expectancy in general, but it certainly will in my house.
My daughter Kathryn picked the name Imelda from a website of “cool & fun spider names.” It means “powerful fighter.” Kathryn says that’s why she chose it, but I’m guessing that she chose it because it was the only “cool & fun” spider name listed that didn’t appear to be lifted from The Lord of the Rings. “Ungoliant” was neither cool nor fun enough for her.
We got Imelda for Kathryn for two reasons. One, Imelda is not a bird. I hate birds. That Imelda can possibly kill and eat birds is the one thing she has in her favor right now. The second reason we got Imelda is Kathryn asked for it.
Something you may not know, but should in case your daughter ever has a seizure while climbing the stairs of her elementary school, is that if your daughter ever has a seizure while climbing the stairs of her elementary school, you will buy her whatever she asks for. Even it it’s poisonous.
It wasn’t Kathryn’s first seizure at school. It wasn’t her worst seizure either. Kathryn has something called Rolandic epilepsy, sometimes referred to as “childhood” epilepsy. It is supposed to go away when she hits puberty, which means I am now the only dad in our town actively hoping my daughter goes through puberty early. It also means in a few years we’ll be trading in a daughter whose brain problems can be treated with medicine for one whose brain problems cannot. It’s a devil’s trade.
Kathryn’s seizures first appeared two years ago. They started off mild, but have grown steadily worse until just before Christmas when she seized on the stairs of her elementary school and used that opportunity to ask for a tarantula.
“It’s not a bird,” she said later that evening. “And it’s cool.” I couldn’t argue with either one of those. Truth is, I thought it was cool. A teacher at Kathryn’s elementary school had once brought a tarantula to school, and Kathryn had amazed her classmates by letting it crawl across her arm. If, when Kathryn was born nine years ago, someone had asked me what kind of girl I’d hoped she would grow into, I’d have said the kind that lets tarantulas crawl across her arm. I’m not sure, though, I would have added “and wants to own one as a pet.” And I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have mentioned a seizure disorder at all.
The next day, Kathryn had a seizure during a grammar test. She lost consciousness. It was followed by another, smaller episode just after that. And then finished the test, the teacher kindly wiping the drool off the unfinished pages while Kathryn collected herself. She got an 87. She tried to hide the test from us because it was not an A. She also asked again for a tarantula.
That night, after we had gotten Kathryn and her sisters to bed, I turned to my wife. “Are we going to get Kathryn a tarantula because she has epilepsy?
“Yes,” said my wife. “Be happy she didn’t ask for a pony.”
So now we have a tarantula. We bought it on the Internet. And it’s size does terrible things to my voice. It’s not big, you see. It’s very, very small. It’s a baby, no more than a quarter of an inch from leg to leg. One minute after we put it in its little enclosure, it disappeared. Maybe it burrowed down in the earth we put in there with it. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s not in there at all.
Its friend disappeared, too. The dealer we bought Imelda from threw in an extra one, a bonus baby tarantula, just in case the first one didn’t survive the journey. The second one is maybe half the size of Imelda. Kathryn hadn’t known it was coming, so she hadn’t had a chance to come up with a name. She let the twins name it. It’s called Foo Foo Cuddily Poops. We think it burrowed down, too, when we put it in its little cage. Maybe not. Maybe it escaped and is somewhere in the house. Hiding. Eating. Growing. Maybe Foo Foo Cuddily Poops has found Imelda and together they have decided that together they may be able to take down bigger prey.
I hope they start with birds.