Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Change: 27

A Random Parable 

 (This is an ongoing story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)

When my oldest son was 18 months old, my brother had his first baby. He and his wife lived in Seattle and I got the news in a tear-choked phone call. “There’s something wrong with the baby,” was all my brother could say.

Over the next few days, information trickled from the doctors. My nephew was born with foreshortened arms and tests revealed he had water on the brain. By the time he was four days old, this was his prognosis: “The child will probably not survive beyond two years and if he does, he will be completely uneducable.”

I fell apart. My only brother. His only child. I couldn’t fathom the suffering. I remember sinking into the corner of my dining room, curled up on the floor, crying for hours, unable to take care of my own son. My mother had to come over and practically slap me back into the world of the living. “Doctors don’t know everything,” she said.

This was just about the time that my new-mom friends, their babies hovering around two years old, were starting to talk about getting pregnant for a second time.  I retreated from the discussions.

Mothering did not come easy to me. I don’t have a natural affinity for babies and I was bored and exhausted every waking minute. And that was with a baby who was healthy. I didn’t think I would be able to handle a child with special needs and I didn’t want to take the risk.

It took me years to get to a place in my heart and mind where I felt like I could joyfully accept whatever type of baby I got.  I didn’t work to arrive at that place…it just emerged, quiet and profound. Soon after, I got pregnant.

This week, a similar thing happened. I stopped deluding myself that I might again play tennis on Fridays or resume my 3-mile walks with Nancy on Saturday mornings.  I recently discovered a video for a workout on a recumbent bike that’s both strenuous and fun and I’ve added some stuff to my yoga practice that makes my body feel great.  I’ve resigned myself to a life of wearing my ugly, beat-up Merrill clogs (the only shoes I can comfortably walk in). So one day, there was a fleeting moment where a voice in my head said, “If you end up staying this way for the rest of your life, it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

A soft and solitary ray of acceptance.

My nephew just turned 17 in March. He’s a high school junior, president of his class (or maybe his school – I can’t remember which) and was recently chosen to act as a Page for Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles in Olympia, WA. His arms are still underdeveloped – he has very little use of one hand and limited use of the other. Beyond that, he’s one of the sweetest and funniest people I’ve ever met.

I’m not sure how to sum this all up except to say that you never really know how something is going to turn out; sometimes the body seems to have a mind of its own.


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