The Life I Hold
The day Miss Anne Sullivan asked my wife and I to take Helen away for a while was one to remember. It hadn’t started off very well, to say in the absolute least.
Breakfast was a vicious event. I may as well have been in the Downtown Pub. Both opponents strong-willed and stubborn. Rooting for a side and winner, I was not, rather I was trying to calm both down. Although I was not loudly exclaiming, I was firmly refusing the ways of our teacher hired for Helen, Miss Sullivan. My daughter, Helen Adams Keller, was being refused food by Miss Sullivan. Even though Helen was but a young child, only the age of nine years, she seemed to have the debatable strategies of a matured mind. Helen had unfailingly apprehended how to get her way. With us, she had unforgivingly succeeded, however, Miss Sullivan would have no pity towards our unstable, confined, deaf and blind daughter’s tantrums. In such a way that she refused our ways towards Helen! She told us we weren’t parenting her rightly by giving her what she wanted. But how, I ask, do we control such a wild and sadly separate child? I love Helen. I love my little girl so much and it ached my heart to unbearable pain some nights that I could not sleep, when I thought of Helen struggling in this world on her own, with no words or even the beauty of a garden to comfort her. I love her, but when she didn’t get her way she groaned, screamed and wailed at such high scales that my ears seemed to bleed at times. Sometimes Helen would hurt herself when we didn’t understand her or until we gave her what she demanded. You cannot blame me nor my wife for doing what we could to try and live a normal life with a deaf and blind child!
When Miss Sullivan asked my wife and I to take Helen and live with her by herself to teach her, for one month, my wife panicked. Kate babied Helen, and I must say I am sorry that I had done so as well. Helen was no baby and what Miss Sullivan claimed about our child being a spoilt one was upsettingly true, though neither I nor my wife wanted to face the fact of what we had truly done to Helen. I didn’t baby Helen as much as my beautiful, young wife. I did try to discipline Helen but again, it is hard to know what is right to do with a child such at Helen.
Kate begged me not to let Anne take Helen.
“I’m not sure. Perhaps Anne could teach Helen to behave. She would be better in communicating with her, as she was once blind herself. Did she not get Helen to eat off her own plate and with her own spoon at breakfast?”
“She can behave, Arthur!” she’d protested, “I can handle her.”
“By rewarding her with sweets each time to throws a tantrum, Mrs Keller? Helen needs not that to behave. That makes her misbehave!” Anne knew Kate’s love and pity for Helen stopped her from being able to bring Helen up the way a normal child should be brought up.
“She needs love! Not cold-hearted discipline! She won’t know what would be happening!” Kate had cried angrily. Her cheeks flushed and had gone bright red, her hair all out of place, I marvelled at her devotion.
“Miss Sullivan. I will allow you to take Helen to the old shed to live.” I had reported.
“Arthur! How could you!” Kate sobbed. “I want my girl with me!” Kate had gripped my collar and stared into my eyes with desperation. It really had pained me to go against my wife.
I pulled my gaze away from the eyes that broke my heart with sadness and firmly stated to Miss Sullivan, “Though, you may not have her for a month, I permit you two weeks to see what you can do for Helen.”
“But sir that is hardly enough time to…”
I had cut her short by interjecting, “Take it or leave it Miss Sullivan. Kate will barely be able to live without seeing her for that long, let alone four weeks! No, Miss Sullivan. Two weeks will have to do,” I had firmly set my eyes on her. Miss Sullivan’s glasses she wore glinted steely as if even they themselves thought I was folly. She had said she would see what she could do, with no interference from me, Kate or anyone else in my household.
Anne had instructed us that very next morning to take Helen on a long carriage ride to confuse her bearings so she wouldn’t know where she was. After leaving Helen with Miss Sullivan, my wife and I had driven home. Kate had been quiet and tense. When I asked her questions, her answers were short and void of emotion. When we got back the house, she got down out of the carriage by herself, refusing my hand.
She had turned and stared at me.
“This is what is best, my lovely. She needs to learn to communicate.”
Again, she had just stared. Her beautiful blue eyes had turned to a dull grey colour and her skin and lips were pale. She hadn’t put on make-up and her hair wasn’t pinned as carefully as usual. Even though she looked sad, dull and closed off, I had seen all as beauty which showed the burning love she held for Helen. I had stepped towards her and she had stiffened, still staring at me. Her eyes were open, yet not open to her soul. The windows to her soul were closed, not allowing anything to come in. Not even me, which hurt me more than leaving Helen behind.
The days and weeks that followed, although it was quiet and peaceful without Helen, there was no life in my household. Kate had warned to me some but still wasn’t herself. This changed five days before we got Helen back.
Kate had been lying on our bed staring at the ceiling for hours. Even when I sat down beside her and put my hand on her leg, she didn’t move, didn’t blink. This coldness was enough to chill me and I had to get her back.
“Kate? Can I talk to you? You know that I sent Helen away to help her?” You know that I want what is best for Helen. You know keeping her with Miss Sullivan is best. I think you may be a bit jealous and that’s why you’re being this way?”
Kate turned to stare at me, sat up and had bluntly replied, “I love Helen too much to give her to another women to discipline her. I do not like Miss Sullivan as she has taken Helen away from me and I think you’re wrong.”
“Kate, I know you know, deep down, that what I chose is best.”
Kate had turned her head away from me and sniffed.
“I know you love Helen. You would do anything for her. I know you believe that some things you do for her doesn’t really help her but makes her more reliant and resistant.”
“Arthur! I do things because I love her! I want what’s best and she needs to be with me!”
I moved closer to her and held her cold hands.
“Please listen and hear me,” I had asked gently, “You are being stubborn. You are being selfish. You know Helen doesn’t need you as much as you want to believe. Let go.”
Kate had then broken down into fits of sobs and kept crying out, “My girl! I know, I know! My baby is not a baby anymore!”
I had cradled her until she stopped and made me look at her.
“Arthur, how can you forgive me for being so stubborn and cold towards you? But please forgive me! I’m so sorry!”
I leaned in to kiss her forehead and said, “I know, I have already forgiven you.”
We soon brought Helen home. Such a difference Miss Sullivan had made! She kept manners when eating and when asking for what she wanted. Miss Sullivan taught us how to communicate to Helen by spelling words into her hands. Anne Sullivan had been a miracle from God!