Monday, July 30, 2007

George

This past week reminds me of a tunnel. My focus was to emerge, alive, at the other end and to not worry about the journey. Yet, I am full of things to write. It might take another week to do so. The week was too full, and caffeine pumps through my veins to keep me going.

This past week, my brother, George, nine years my junior, came to stay with me for his vacation. George was born with hydrocephalus and not expected to live beyond a few days. But live he did, and was one of the first babies to receive a shunt to drain fluid from his brain. Unfortunately, this left him with a multitude of physical and mental disablities.

There are so many things to learn from George, so many lessons for those of us who come to know him. Often, I'll hear a well meaning person say that God will heal you if only you ask and believe, that God always answers prayers. Sometimes, someone will link an affliction to God's wrath and disappointment at our behaviors. Yet, I look at George and realize that sometimes, afflictions are a sign of God's love. That may sound strange, for certainly, George has had a most difficult life. His disabilites were certainly difficult for my parents and our family.

I think God doesn't always send the answer that we think we need, rather the lesson that He thinks we need. Perhaps not even a lesson, George gives people the opportunity to demonstrate their humanity. He smiles at strangers, gets in their faces with a bleating "Helloooooo..." They'll either respond with a tentative hello, a confused and wary hello, or in on man's case, the readiness to fight if necessary (for George on first glance appears normal). "What's your name?" he'll ask. When they respond, he'll hold his hand over his heart and smile. "I'm George." After about the twentieth introduction, a quick exit from Stuff Mart was in order.

For a week, I had a chance to see kindness in people that I might not have otherwise seen. Strangers looked at me and smiled, collaborators in making George happy for a moment. And I could not help wondering, what if we all were "normal" and had no one to remind us how fortunate we all are?

Never again will I be aggravated that my five year old asks me to help him in the bathroom. It pales in comparison with a man who need similar help but has medicines that make it even worse (you don't want to know). Never again will I think brushing my little ones teeth is a chore, as I've brushed the teeth of a man on meds that make the gums bleed and teeth bad. Going to the store is easy now, despite my son's shenanigans, and getting to the car for an errand is speedy after waiting ten minutes for George to negotiate the steps.

Many times this week, someone has said to me how they admire me for taking him for the week. Yet, see, he's given me a gift. He's made me see how soft and easy my life is on a normal day. I never knew. He gave me the opportunity to model compassion and patience to my children. He taught my son that sometimes, he didn't come first even as the youngest in the house.

I won't say I'm not relieved that the week is completed, for I'd be lying. It was hard. But it was good. I had many a revelation, a few laughs, and sense of accomplishment. My right eye is twitching hard, but I think that might be temporary. I'm off now to set my house to rights and to try to get back to my regularly scheduled life, but perhaps, with a little different outlook. I love you, George!

6 comments:

whitetr6 said...

That smile alone speaks volumes about George. Beautifully written

Camflock said...

Watching you with George, you were amazing. I am humbled by the way you worked with him and the gifts you received from his presence.

pita-woman said...

Not that I'm comparing dogs to people, but I know how much patience it took (takes) to work with (as in teach) and live with. My experience with Kelsey & Olivia has given me a great appreciation of what parents of disabled children must contend with.
But you've written a great tribute to George!

Mary said...

Your post about your brother reminds me that I am learning humility every single day I spend with our son Alan. While he does not have physical deficits, I still brush teeth along side him to model, help him figure out how to negotiate in public and have yet to successfully teach him how to relate to strangers. Nowadays we have both real and artifical fart sounds (like many boys, but he is way too old to be doing this in public and so it creates a problem) and shooting sounds coming from his mouth, accompanied by hand gestures. Getting these behaviors under control is very important for his well-being. Because he looks "normal" people think he and I can control his behaviors better than we do. Other people clearly wish we weren't in their vicinity. Learning not to yell at him at home is still something I struggle with. More often than not, I manage to keep a civil voice but it is still hard for me.
Like you, I consider Alan a gift in my life. He is likely to be a daily part of my life for many years yet, if not as long as I live. We are constantly working toward giving him independent living skills so he can have a high quality of life.

blue thistle books said...

I worked with people with developmental disabilities for years and some days were no doubt harder than I wanted, but the gifts I received were worth every effort and pain.

I always received a smile, a hug and acceptance, no matter my mood or situation.

What a blessing that you are able to see God's hand in George's situation.

Hallie
Mycrazylife

Becky said...

Cathy, what a blessing to read your post about George! I am reminded of my time with Al (a dear elderly friend who was in our lives intesely for three years, and who passed last summer. I miss him very much).

I am so glad the girls and I got to meet George last week when we 'ran into' you guys at Kroger. I won't forget holding his hand almost the entire time we talked, and how truly God does gift us with precious ones who humble and disarm us by their very presence........

George really IS a gift from God in your life, just as Al was in ours/mine.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reminding me once again, not to forget....... :)

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