Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not Relationship Material?

People familiar with autism and Asperger Syndrome -- as well as those who aren't -- may enjoy a movie I watched recently.

The title character of Adam is a young man who lives alone in New York, and works as an electronic engineer.

A pretty young teacher-writer named Beth moves into Adam’s apartment building and begins to build a friendship with him -- at least, she wants to. Sometimes it seems he wants to be her friend, too. Most of the time, his actions make no sense.

When Adam tells her he has Asperger Syndrome, she tries to convince herself he’s “not relationship material”. Instead, when she researches AS, she understands a little better how she can relate to him.

And, as you’ve already guessed, Adam and Beth fall in love.

I enjoyed Adam’s sweet, surprising storyline.

Hugh Dancy does a convincing job of playing a man with AS – minimal eye contact, social awkwardness, a rigid adherence to rules and routines, and difficulty picking up social cues.

Beth, played by Rose Byrne, responds to Adam with compassion, along with a genuine desire for him to love her in return. Her gently persistent love for him is a comforting reminder that people who have AS can be deeply treasured by others, and can give care, encouragement and love in return.

I was encouraged by the movie’s messages that people who have AS can overcome social and emotional challenges, form mutually meaningful relationships, and make valued contributions through their work.

Adam will lovingly introduce many people to the challenges of living with Asperger Syndrome, although, unfortunately, some will then be falsely-confident they know everything there is to know about it.

I must also say that, as one expects from Hollywood, this movie doesn't support all of my relational values.

Nevertheless, Adam is worthwhile, heart-warming entertainment for anyone who applauds people who overcome every kind of challenge.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Truth Will Out

Four-and-a-half weeks ago,
when a mild headache suddenly exploded into head-clawing pain,
I called 911,
and earned an ambulance trip to the hospital.

It was the third time in my life,
all in less than a week,
that I’d experienced that kind of pain.

Calling 911 on myself,
and the ambulance ride --
those were brand new.

Both the male and female paramedics seemed competent,
and, as far as I could tell, they did all the “right things”.

But of all the medical professionals I’ve encountered in past weeks,
they weren’t exactly the kindest.
They were somewhat brusque,
dismissive of my pain and fear,
and surprisingly oblivious to the comfort it would have been to have a loved one near.

As we rocketed over bumps and potholes,
I lay writhing on that narrow bed
gripping the bedside as tightly as possible with my IV hand.
The first medications they administered did nothing to relieve the pain.
My eyes covered due to extreme light sensitivity,
I could see nothing but darkness.

When we’d started our trip,
I’d called out,
“Is anyone back here with me?”
The male medic told me he was,
but even with the assurance of his presence,
I felt alone and terrified.

A few moments later,
after carefully considering it,
I asked the medic if he would hold my hand.
He responded with some surprise,
“You want me to hold your hand?”

To his credit,
he took two of my fingers –
the only ones not occupied with IV and monitor and clutching the bed --
and grasped them in his glove-tipped ones.
Only for a second, though,
for he soon excused himself.
“I’m just trying to get some paperwork done.”

So I released my reluctant comforter to do his paperwork.

In due time,
he finished his paperwork,
his driving-partner delivered us safely to the hospital,
and they handed me over to the care of Emergency Room staff.

Days later,
when I was safe at home, recovering,
the memory of the hand-holding incident floated up to me.

I’d been in so much pain.
so distraught,
so desperate for comfort!

The memory of the paramedics' dismissive tone makes me ask myself:
how many times have I,
as I teacher,
dismissed a child's emotional needs
because I had to "get paperwork done"?

Now that I’ve returned to the classroom,
that question is with me every day.

At the same time,
the memory of that night brings laughter,
for it hints at something I thought was long-hidden:

Regardless of my claims that I’m an independent, single woman,
despite the fervency of my assurances
that I’m delightedly content with my single state --
I’ll go to extreme measures to have a man hold my hand. :)

-- Reenie

Monday, May 9, 2011

Words from the Wise

My friend, J, celebrated her 65th birthday last week.

The first 65 years of her life have included living with a spouse who had a long-undiagnosed mental health issue, and who then had a massive stroke that left him with severe disabilities and needing consant care.

About her husband's stroke, J said, "Someone said to me, 'What a tragedy,' but I said to her, 'I prefer to call it a challenge, rather than a tragedy. A tragedy looks back, but a challenge looks forward.' "

Then my brave friend mused, "When I look back, I think the most valuable things in my life were the hard times. Those were the things that enabled me to relate and bring comfort to other people when they're going through their own hard times."

Wise words from a courageous woman. I hope I can speak so boldly when I turn 65.

-- Reenie

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Invisible Mothers
A week from today,
     we’ll send sweet cards,
     make long-distance phone calls
     and buy bunches and bunches of flowers.

Many mothers will be honoured and praised and cheered.
They deserve every bit of that, and a whole lot more.

But there are women among us,
     also mothers,
     who won’t receive cards,
     or phone calls.

These women won’t receive praise or honor.
No one will rise and call them blessed.
They're invisible.

They are women who used to be mothers,
     but lost children -- to death, to marital break-up, to estrangement, to abduction.

They are women who gave their hearts and lives to raising children,
     but received only pain in return.

They are women who tried to become mothers,
     but were stymied by infertility, miscarriage, or failed adoption....or all three.

They are women who gave birth before they were ready to be mothers...
     and placed their children for adoption,
     so their child could have a mother...
     and another woman could have a child.

They are women who were unexpectedly pregnant and chose to abort their babies...
     and have carried guilt and sorrow every day since.

They are women who dreamed, expected, and longed to be married and have children,
     but for whom God had other plans.

They are women who quietly, lovingly, sacrificially mother other people’s children...
     and are called aunt,
     big sister,
     and friend
     but never ever “Mother”.

They are women all around us.

     We see them every day.
     We admire them.
     We laugh with them.
     We benefit from what they do.

But, somehow, on Mother’s Day,
     they slide into the shadows.

They are Invisible Mothers.

This Mother’s Day,
     let's pray God opens our eyes
     to see the longings, sorrows and sacrifices
     of all the mothers...
     even those who are invisible.

-- Reenie