I’m kind of a nervous flyer. Whenever I fly, before take-off, I say a prayer along these lines: “I hope we get where we’re going. If we don’t, I trust that I’ll end up someplace even better. I trust that we’ll all end up someplace even better. But still I hope we fly safely, and I hope that the safe conveyance reminds me that life is limited and I ought to use it well.”
Tuesday night on the plane to Israel, I started to say that prayer, and I had an epiphany:
I don’t, at this moment, have fears for myself. I have fears only for Martin.
That’s not to say that I don’t worry about dying. Or, you know, a horrible disease or coma-inducing accident, or terrorist attack, home intruder, flesh-eating bacteria, mountain-lion bites, impalement. The usual.
I do worry about all those things. But my fears for myself have taken a backseat. A distant backseat. Way back, like at the swaying end of a double-length bus. As I recited my pre-take-off prayer last night, I had a feeling like, “If it’s my time to go, it’s my time.
“But who will take care of Martin?”
Martin is the only grandchild of my mother and stepfather. I know they would step in without hesitation and continue his biomedical recovery. And they’re not alone. My father, my siblings, my parents-in-law, my brother- and sisters-in-law. Any one of them, or all of them. They’d have a lot to learn, but they’d do it.
Then again, deep-down I wonder: How could anyone do what Adrian and I are doing for Martin? More accurately—and I’ve admitted: I’m a control-freak—: How could anyone do it to my exact specifications? The countless pills and liquids, the fifteen HANDLE exercises daily, the RDI, the Track Two doctor visits across the country. The faith and determination.
If something happened to me, would Martin still be able to reach his potential for recovery?
That’s it, then. In my whole life right now, the thing that matters most (maybe the only thing that matters?) is my son’s recovery. My pre-flight prayer now is simply that I stick around to see it through.
To own the truth, I’ve long been a person with a cause. Usually the cause involves animals, like ending the carriage-horse industry, regulating backyard breeding operations, or banning battery cages. But I’ve never been a person who took enough action for her cause. I give money. I speak out when asked. I hope and wish. I don’t do.
At least, not until now. My cause now is Martin, and I’m doing. Damn it, I’m doing.
Okay. The object is my son, and therefore this particular cause is just one step removed from pure selfishness. Moreover, it can (I trust) be accomplished entirely. I can recover my son. I can make him indistinguishable from his neurotypical peers. That fact alone separates Martin’s recovery from, say, world peace, or eradicating poverty and disease.
Still, it’s a cause, and for the first time ever, truly I’m stepping up.
Once Martin is recovered, what’s next? I have a sense that this episode could herald a new chapter in my life, one of doing instead of hoping and wishing. Maybe my cause will be promoting biomedical recovery, or defending practitioners like Dr. Usman who devote themselves to recovering children. Maybe I will stick to animal welfare, with the new perspective of having felt compelled to feed my son meat as part of his recovery.
Some years ago, when I was considering a career change, a friend told me to remember that a life is many decades long, meaning that what seems earth-shattering at one moment may in time reveal itself as only a bump in the road.
Not to be fatalistic (just contemplative), I’ve had four decades already. If I can recover my son, I will consider them well-used—even if, in time, this journey comes to seem only a bump in the road.