Thursday, October 23, 2008

Luck of the Draw

While the Matron was driving to College XX today, she received a hint of the blog post. Just an impression, really, of how much her children frightened her, given all that Brain, Drama, and Pyromanic Tendency (yup, a new 'cute'? story about Merrick) swillin' up in her household.

At College XX, she was one of the first two people at a meeting. The other, a man about her own age, always struck the Matron as lonely. He never stood in the hall or lingered in someone's office, making small talk. No, he strolled to his space with purpose, taught the class, and left. She imagined him living a solitary life.

Well, the Matron can do small talk (although hers nearly always crystallizes to 'how much money do you make' and 'do you believe in an afterlife' in about 6.45 minutes) so she asked Professor X if he was married?

Yes!

Children?

Three!

Now, he started to pull out a picture, and in that instant, the Matron understood they were to bond over children. She was pleased, that Matron! Just like the earlier blog post came to her as an impression, a general sense of thrust and intent, she realized how much she liked talking about her children and how she would do so, here.

And in that instant, as he was pulling out the picture from his worn brown wallet, she knew she would tell him how Stryker joined the Junior High School Computer Club and came home with a laptop he built himself, using disparate abandoned parts (she knew, although she wasn't really thinking this, that she wouldn't say how the Computer Club teacher emailed her to say: Wow, not standard 7th grade experience in 2 hours). She wouldn't talk about the girl's fabulous acting gigs, but would alude to drama with a discussion of this morning's Act I, wherein Scarlett spent 45 minutes weeping at the kitchen table becasue she was "cold inside my stomach, the kind you can do nothing about."

Merrick? That five-year old knows how to read! Scarlett told her, yesterday.

Scarlett: "Mama? Did you know that Merrick can read. It's been three whole weeks. Did you notice?"

She knew, in that instant that the photo was sliding out that she would laught at herself, as she does on the blog and in life, for not noticing, when in fact, she is all about these three sweet amazing children.

Professor X hands the Matron his photo of himself, his wife, two boys and a girl in the middle. What follows was a bit more of a conversation, but the Matron is cutting to the chase.

He says: "The reason I'm holding my oldestin the picture is that he has severe Autism, combined with a rare neurological cluster of syndromes. He can't stand up, really. He's constantly having seizures. He doesn't go more than 2 to 4 minutes without a seizure. The doctors pretty much have tossed their hands--but don't get me wrong -- we've been to the University and the Mayo Clinic. Nobody can help him. Now we're hoping he can learn how to feed himself and know when he needs to use the bathroom. He spends his days mostly on a mat with a Special Education assistant, working on walking. He's 10."

Next comes some (pained but managing) Matronly inquiry after the others, handling all of this?

"My youngest son is Autistic and mentally retarded. He has fewer physical problems, but is really unable to do more than the things we want our oldest to do -- use the bathroom, feed himself, walk. He's in Special Education, too, and needs pretty much round-the-clock monitoring. We have someone who helps at night, thank goodness."

"Our daughter is fine. We try really hard to pay a lot of attention to her becase the boys demand so much. She's 8 and vacilates between defending her brother's in public: "He can't help it!" to being really embarassed by them. Friends really don't want to come to our house, so we try to get her to playdates as much as possible, and find babysitters so we can take her normal places. She's doing okay, but not great. I think she's depressed. Our house is sort of like an institution."

And the Matron wanted to throw her arms around this man and weep for those five precious people, suffering their seperate and shared pain. Now she knows what he carries when he trudges through the halls with that insular focus. She thinks about that mother.

The Matron never spoke of her children. He didn't ask.

The blog post? On one level: Lucky, lucky, lucky.

But on a deeper level, the place where she strives to reside, we each suffer. We will grow old and ill. We will die. We'll lose the people we love to death. Terrible pain awaits each of us in the morning-- at least, it might. For most of us, that pain is packaged and delivered in neat, limited quantities. The illness, the loved one's death and the aftermath, the temporary challenge.

So she shoulders his pain a bit, and knows she is one head injury or serious illness away from a similar life. There are no guarantees. The Buddhist cornerstone: Life is suffering.

When the suffering is limited and piddling? The late night or crabby child? Remember to be grateful that our own private greatest personal suffering is not here. Not yet.

16 comments:

JessTrev said...

Wow. People are unbelievably strong.

JCK said...

You killed me on this one. So very, very true. And what an amazing life this man has. The strength of him and his wife. Thank you for sharing all of this.

justhay said...

Yes, yes, yes. Not a single day passes where I am not reminded of the suffering of others. Thanks once again Matron.


(And well done to the completely amazing Stryker!)

smalltownmom said...

Wow, that man has a heavy load.

I am thanking the powers that be that we haven't had to face what he has.

And can Stryker come give my 18 year old a lesson on how to build a computer??? ... Frank keeps talking about it but nothing has happened yet.

M said...

Matron, he was probably so relieved to share his life with you, that one other person just knows. That you understand, as you do, why he acts as he does.

Irene said...

Count your blessings every day, even when they don't seem to be blessings. God forbid me a destiny that this man has.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I had a similar realization when I went out for the first time after my mastectomy. I looked pretty normal (I still had my hair :) ) --- but, I realized that under my clothes I was different than anybody realized, and that everyone else could be the same. It made me realize that I should give everyone the same kind of benefit of the doubt that I felt I needed at the time.

I really hope he has a dean who will let him teach and tend to his family without much hassle... he needs the support.

Tammy said...

Lovely post again, Matron. Thank you for that dose of perspective. I needed it this morning!

Ree said...

Oh Mary - so very true - everything you said. I will try to remember this when I see, once again, the mess that is the wake of Shortman.

Heather said...

A great reminder to appreciate the little things. My son may irritate me by talking constantly, but isn't it wonderful that he CAN talk?

Becky said...

Great post. I try to remind myself to be grateful every day. And I agree that he was probably glad to be able to tell someone what he's facing.

And poor Scarlett and her cold tummy!

Cha Cha said...

There's nothing like a little perspective to just ruin everything.

What a graceful, incredibly strong colleague you have there. And what a lovely, graceful woman you are, dear matron. M is right - you have given him a gift just in knowing, and acknowledging. Thank you.

Fairlie said...

There seems to be a lot of perspective being found around the blogs I visit at the moment. Thanks for a post which has made me appreciate even more the small mercies.

Daisy said...

I understand. My son, age 16, is blind and has Asperger's syndrome. We make a point to spend time one on one with his sister so she doesn't feel like her life is defined by her disabled brother. It's tough to do sometimes, but she's growing up to be an amazing young woman.

Erin said...

Oh. I have no words. That is powerful and something to think about.

Lisa Milton said...

Thank you. I needed this today.