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April 28, 2004
"If you really cared..." Kate began, and did not finish her sentence. Q wasn't listening.

"Kate wants to talk to you, I said to Q. He came over and leaned down over the cat on my lap. She said nothing. "She said, 'If you really cared....,' but I didn't get the rest," I said helpfully.

"Maybe, 'If you really cared, you'd be giving me these pills instead of her,'" Q suggested.

"I don't think so. I think it's more like 'If you really cared, You'd stop her from giving me these pills.'"

Kate still hates her pills. I have two fresh punctures this morning, one on each hand. But she is definitely fatter, and this morning she asked for a second helping of breakfast. I think she feels better.

If you really loved me, mom, you'd let me go: all the other kids' parents let them go.

If you really cared, I wouldn't have to tell you what's wrong. You'd know.

If you really cared, I wouldn't get drunk.

If you really cared, you'd give me what I want.

Life looks simple, early on: I want something, and the one standing in the way of my desire is my enemy. No real credit is given to the question of whether the object of desire is truly a good thing. My desire is enough. Most people grow out of it, but some never do. It expands, too: if I am unhappy in any way, it must be someone else's fault.

This makes life hard, because if everything is someone else's fault you can't change anything. Of course, it is your initial desire not to change anything. But most of us get tired of being unhappy and get up and do something about it, discovering as we do that we have a great deal more agency in our own lives that our former passivity allowed us, and that it's a good thing we do. There are indeed certain harsh givens in life, but most of the human agency in my life is mine.

Kate downs her medicine with a hearty gulp. I cradle her in my arms and stroke her jaw. She loves this. I hope it erases all resentment. Stroke and kick, my friend the therapist tells me. Love truly, but set firm limits. Stroke, but also do what you know needs to be done, no matter how much opposition you may encounter from the one for whom you really care.
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