birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

What's Unfair?

What strikes me as unfair is what strikes a child. A disease, an illness, a harsh hand. An infant represents both innocence and promise in their purest forms. To sully that, to spoil it, to hinder anything but the best future for a child is unfair and unthinkable. A lot of what happens in life can be deemed unfair, but it’s without question the harshest, the cruelest, when it happens to a baby. A baby has no defense, completely reliant on the good of others and the dedication or devotion to raising it into self-sufficiency. But what defenses are there for the day when chromosomes clash, omitting one microscopic code or having one too many? What defenses are there when one is dealt the card of a life-long disease? A disease that changes the definition of “life-long,” threatening to shorten it to a decade or two?

My cousin was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Her mother is a special person, to me and many others. Her kindness, her spirit, and her generosity deserved a young motherhood of joy, given back to her tenfold. Instead, she was faced with worry, fear, and uncertainty, until she was made certain of an outcome simply caused by DNA. A gene of hers mixed with a gene of his to land on an improbable outcome. And they’ve been fighting improbable outcomes ever since, for eighteen years. Young Katie is a beautiful girl, inside and out, defying the odds and encouraging everyone she meets. Her uniqueness in DNA is overshadowed by her uniqueness in character, as I’ve never met a more loving, giving person. She’s made it her life’s work to work at a healthy life. And it’s a lot of work. Pills by the handful before every meal, more doses for this and for that, studiously buckling in to breathing treatments with machines and medicines and wires, morning and night. She never misses a treatment, though she’s missed many social events and school days, careful to stay away from contagion that could overtake her lungs. What she hasn’t missed out on is opportunity, as her mother has made sure of that. The two together are a force of life. I can’t wait to see what Katie makes of hers.


Mama Bear