When Krista Lee Hanson’s son Lucas was born, he couldn’t breathe on his own. At 2 months old, his doctors inserted a permanent tracheostomy tube. He has needed breathing support ever since, including the constant suctioning of saliva and mucus to clear his airway. Hanson weaves her reflections on the challenges of raising Lucas with an account of an experience at the symphony with him, and the whispers and raised eyebrows that came with it. Hanson’s essay on parenting and caring for a disabled child, and being seen, is at once tender and powerful.

The Seattle Symphony conductor enters from stage right, bows to polite applause, then lifts his arms to begin. I try to wait for the loudest crescendos to do the suctioning, but sometimes Lucas can’t wait. I feel smug disdain scratching at the back of my neck from the people behind us. I can’t hear them, but seated at our angle, I see them out of the corner of my eye. They point at us and whisper. I summon all my powers of meditation, of focus, to try to ignore them. I remind myself: We have the right to be here. The symphony donated these tickets to an organization for disabled people, so they knew who they were inviting.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.