as it may sound (and it truly seems strangest to me), this little book holds some special importance to me. My tale:
During my wife's pregnancy, this book was one of many children's books given to us happy, expecting parents
by well-meaning friends and relatives. I read the book a couple times, and quickly filed it under the "above average to good" category, at least in relation to the other children's books we were receiving (most of which are in the "abysmal" category). Its blatant sentimentality
caused a momentary lump in my throat, from which I quickly recovered; but on with my maudlin
A while later, about a month before my wife's due date, it was discovered that the baby was pointing the wrong way
(mecial term "breech"). To right the way the baby points, a procedure to turn the baby around
(medical term "version") is performed, and this procedure is preceded by an ultrasound
, so the physican providing the service can get a better feel for what she is working on.
This innocent ultrasound revealed a problem in the baby's brain, and a diagnosis of hydrocephalus
(comedians' term "water on the brain"), was issued. This is not a diagnosis to be taken lightly
, as this condition is normally accompanied by all manner of horrible physical and cognitive limitations
. At the best, we were led to believe some brain surgery
would be necessary on our baby to correct the problem. At worst, the baby had some serious genetic disorder
It's not my intention in this piece to go into the details of the emotional distress
such a diagnosis causes. A mental handicap
is probably the worst condition that can be forseen for one's child. It's easy to imagine what one would do in such a circumstance
, but when it happens - when the room is full of doctors and nurses pointing at pictures of your baby's head, and measuring, and whispering; and reassuring you that in many cases things turn out "ok"
, and that this hospital has a wonderful staff of experts
who will be there "with you"; and afterwards you and your wife are driving home, having expected a quick and easy procedure as the pamphlets stated, only now your world has completely changed
, and tears are flowing, and you don't have any idea where or how you will eventually land - when it happens - suffice it to say, none of us can completely prepare ourselves for the finality of Nature's caprices
Shortly thereafter, I found myself staining some unfinished furniture
in my garage, furniture I had bought for the baby's room in a happier time, before the world turned upside down
. As I worked, I was thinking these kinds of thoughts: "I am a failure; I can't even reproduce successfully; why couldn't we have known earlier and not gone through with this; we two could be quite happy childless
; now my life is over, tied to a mentally retarded child...etc.etc.". Yes, I am sorry to admit that these are the selfish, evil thoughts
that were running through my head, as I carefully brushed Minwax
over a pine nightstand.
And then a few lines of poetry came to me. These lines consoled
me, made me realize my selfishness, made me realize what I must and would now do, made me realize how things would stand between me and this child, my son, regardless of the outcome
. Was this the 23rd Psalm
? or Byron
? or Shakespeare
? or Horace
? or cummings
? or any of the other mountain of "serious" literature
I had consumed, or been forced to consume, in my 33 years?
No, the lines that pulled me out of that pit of selfishness and despair
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.