The Power of Wishing

“The wish for healing has always been half of health.” –Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Tonight as Edgar rode up and down our street more times than I can count, I couldn’t help but stare at his helmet.  It’s the helmet he was required to wear last year–at school during recess and physical education–for his safety while he was actively having and later in danger of having seizures.  This summer, Edgar’s neurologist, with discernible glee, removed the requirement; so, now it’s the helmet that protects him as he instinctively and doggedly works to rebuild his strength, his stamina, and his balance.  Tomorrow marks seven months since Edgar’s last seizure.  And our wish for Edgar’s healing and his for himself marches on unabated.  If the wish for healing is half of health, then this half of his health remains one hundred percent within our control.

“I’m August! I’m Three!”

“No, I wanna do it.”

Perched on the edge of the middle row looking down intently at the parking lot pavement, August rejects my hand to help him make this one-foot jump from the car.

As his kids’ size 11 Dr. Martens thump on the ground, he reaches for my hand and says, “I only hold your hand because it’s the rule.”

We walk for what feels like mere seconds before we reach the sidewalk and he lets go again; and I find myself thinking, “Here it is.  My baby.  My youngest.  Letting go.  Oh, boy . . . I’m not one hundred percent ready for this.”

He shouts, “Expelliarmus!” and marvels how the automatic door seems to open at his disarming command.  Leaving me in what I think he must perceive as his dust, he runs through the mall–twenty feet or so–and suddenly stops.

A man to his left, sitting on a bench, slumped over and staring down at the floor–a man I would have simply walked by en route to my next destination without much thought–catches his attention.  August turns to me and says, “I talk to that man?  He looks sad.”  I quickly survey the situation, thinking of all the dire admonishments about not letting children talk to strangers, and am nevertheless compelled to nod my assent.

August walks over to him–tentatively but clearly on a mission.

“What’s your name?” the emphasis on your.

He is startled but looks up.  “John.  What’s your name?”

“I’m August!  I’m three!”

My son turns to me and beams as the man smiles; and undoubtedly thinking he can make his day even better, asks me, “I hug him?”

Completely under the spell of this moment, I look at the man and say, “It’s okay with me if it’s okay with you.”

And it is. And August does.  And the man’s demeanor is now 180 degrees from where it was a moment before, his smile beyond compare.  He says to me, “Ma’am, you are aware you have someone special here.”

And I say–and know with all my heart–“I sure am.”

Saving His Potential

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” –Dalai Lama

As a teacher, I have given much thought to this word.  Much.  And I believe many of my colleagues join me in the frustration that arises when a student is not working to his/her potential.
Oscar, my soon-to-be third-grader, has already started thinking about grades.  He has asked on several occasions “what would happen if” he were to earn a “C” or a “D.”  My response is always the same:  “If it’s the best you can do, then it’s the best you can do.  But if it’s not, well, then we’d have to talk about why you’re not doing your best work.”
Recently The Boston Globe featured a segment on epilepsy that included an accompanying interview with Dr. Steven E. Hyman, a neuroscientist and Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute.  His focus is on treatments for an array of conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, and autism, which he called “the great destroyers of human potential.”
And he’s right.  They are.  Left untreated or mistreated, conditions such as these and epilepsy, too, destroy human potential.  The idea that we might never know the contributions of scores and scores of human beings is sobering, overwhelming.
As Edgar’s mother, I know what epilepsy has done to my son’s potential this last year.  And as grateful–truly, truly grateful–as I am for the myriad medications that have helped him to become seizure-free, I am equally grateful that as the medications are lessened, the side effects mitigating, he is becoming increasingly able to access his potential.
Yesterday Edgar was able to get through an entire day without napping, a mile-long walk without a stroller; and this morning memories that he hasn’t been able to activate–including the names of all of the characters in his beloved Harry Potter–were there, so much so that he was able to teach his younger brother everything he knows.
Today he was able to unlock his potential, bask in the glow of self-confidence, and build a better world for his younger brother–a seemingly small moment that was anything but.

Remembering What Childhood Is For

Recently while on vacation in Florida, we had the opportunity to visit with family members in St. Augustine.  We agreed to meet at a local eatery–one that was purportedly kid-friendly–as five children under eight would be sharing the table.  After hugs and kisses and hellos, we sat down to lunch.  It was wonderful to spend time with family we don’t see nearly enough, and it was especially poignant to note how well the children were getting along.  After lunch, August, the youngest of the bunch, went into what is now being seen as his legendary post-meal show.  To know August is to know joy–a grin that spreads beyond his face, a laugh that comes from the recesses of his belly, a love of humankind that is unequaled.  He is robust, and he is loud, and he loves to make people laugh.

So that’s what he did for roughly five minutes–made the table (and much of the restaurant) laugh.  However, when my husband took August outside while the older kids visited the gumball machine, one of the men in the restaurant applauded–sarcastically, as if to say, “It’s about time someone took him out of here.”  He then uttered as he shook his head, “Thank God.”

I looked at him–really looked at him–and thought about going over and sharing a word or two or three with him.  He was with two young boys, maybe ten or twelve years old, perhaps his sons.  He was not much older than I.

As I resisted a very strong urge to respond to him, I thought about myself ten years from now–when my children are much older and (a bit) less boisterous.  And instead of staying angry at this man,  I sincerely wished that as the years go by I never forget what it is like to have young children, that a child’s happy laughs and silly faces would never irritate me instead of bringing me joy.

Today we visited a small violin shop in Providence.  As I worked very hard to keep August and Edgar’s curious hands away from the violins, bows, and all things breakable, the kind proprietor simply smiled at me–and them–and said, “This is what I love to see–curious children.  This means they are smart; they want to explore.  I hate seeing kids being forced to sit still.”  The shop’s proprietor is 85 years old.

Childhood is really the only time in our lives for unabashed expression and exploration–a lesson from a gentle and wise octogenarian to us all.