But there was also an entirely different set of motifs playing out in Beck's life. She had vaguely sensed it first as a kind of orchestration, an elegant, behind-the-scenes string-pulling the night she conceived when, somehow, beneath it all, she knew she was conceiving despite having taken all the usual precautions. The same sense returned a few days after the automobile mishap.
By the time the five minutes had elapsed and the pregnancy test results were undeniably positive, I knew that I would not be scheduling an abortion. That was all I knew. I wasn't sure why I had made the decision to continue the pregnancy. I could feel the puppeteers around me, sounding their invisible bells in some inexplicable but irresistible celebration, and I strongly suspected that this meant I was losing my mind. I checked to see if I was still pro-choice. I was. I examined my internalized schedule for the upcoming year: my teaching, caring for Katie, intense classwork, John's travel. This was simply not the time for a baby, I thought. But at the word baby, the joyous carol swelled again, and the magic filled my eyes with tears. I stood up, teetered a little, and went to tell John that he was going to become a father for the second time.
Because of what was then an undiagnosed immune system deficiency, this pregnancy, like her earlier one, was in many respects a nightmare. Weakness to the point of immobility, many faintings (sometimes in public places), inability to keep food or drink down, repeated hospitalizations these marked the weeks and months of her expectancy.
Once, on the occasion of her first hospitalization for dehydration, Beck fell asleep and dreamed one of those vivid, visionary sorts of dream. An ageless youth handed her a piece of paper. "Here," he said in a voice so resonant and gentle that it brought tears to her eyes. "The intensity of my fear was matched only by the intensity of my desire to see what was written there."
The words on the paper were written in a language she did not know. But they carried a force and significance much greater than any words in English a force and significance she immediately grasped.
Reading it felt like coming home to my native country after many years in alien territory. The words of this unknown tongue had been laid down in a firm, graceful hand, and they shone. Literally. A brilliant golden light, like the reflection of the setting sun over water, flashed and sparkled from every mark and line. It was as though the pen had not put down pigment but scraped away material reality to reveal something inexpressibly beautiful shining beneath it. As I read the letter, I felt a deep comfort trickling into my heart the way the glucose solution was trickling into my veins.
The extremity of her physical condition was certainly conducive to "visionary" experiences a fact of the sort she continually recalled to her conscious mind. But there are other, less manageable levels of understanding. After the dream, she says,
I was irrationally certain of three things: that the ageless young man across the table from me was the fetus I carried in my womb; that this being loved and respected me as his equal; and that there was "something wrong" with the baby.
Later, when Adam was three years old, and before he had learned to speak at all, there was a time when Beck reached an unusually low point of frustration. She had just spent fruitless hours trying to teach the boy to speak his first coherent syllables. (She compares his speech at that time to the sound of "car wash" repeated backward.) Afterward, as they passed through the supermarket check-out counter, he gestured to her that she should buy him a rose. She didn't understand why he preferred the rose to her offer of a candy bar.
The next morning, he padded down the hallway to her bedroom, appearing at the door with the rose in a bud vase. Beck acknowledges, "I didn't realize that he knew what vases were for, let alone how to get one down from the cupboard, fill it with water, and put a flower in it." He walked over to the bed and handed her the rose, saying in a clear, calm voice, "Here."
It had been years since I had thought about my dream at University Health Services, years since I had heard the incredible gentleness in the voice of the young man who had sat across the table from me the same voice I had just heard coming from my mute son's mouth. I stared at Adam, almost frightened, as the dream flashed into my mind. He looked back at me with steady eyes, and I knew what I had known what I should have remembered all that time: that his flesh of my flesh had a soul I could barely comprehend, that he was sorry for the pain I felt as I tried to turn him into a "normal" child, and that he loved me despite my many disabilities.
Then he turned around, his little blue pajamas dragging a bit on the floor, and padded out of the room.
Throughout her pregnancy, Beck had "the eerie impression that my life was completely under control but not my control." Strange, sometimes disturbing experiences kept happening things she did not even confide to John, lest he "think I was an idiot." But the underlying effect was always to increase her "irrational" certainty that she was finding the place where she belonged.
Beck's memoir is filled with a seemingly endless stream of inexplicable episodes. Thankfully, she is not unduly concerned either to explain the strange events or to explain them away. She simply offers us the facts of her experience, although she confesses:
It worries me to think that I will be lumped together with the right-to-lifers, not to mention every New Age crystal kisser who ever claimed to see an angel in the clouds over Sedona. I am reluctant to wave good-bye to my rationalist credibility. Nevertheless, the story will not stop unfolding, and it will not stop asking me to tell it.
But the "wondrous signs" are not the real point of the story. The real point was the healing influence Adam brought into her and her husband's lives almost from the moment of conception, even if the means of healing often felt at the time like a crushing blow of fate. That, as it happens, is often the only way we can be saved from ourselves, or else, perhaps, it is the only way our selves can save us.