“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

Monday, February 29, 2016

Buzz Bissinger: The Incredible Lessons I Learned From My Son With Brain Damage (Part 2)

He could have gone on forever. At any time. At any age. But when he turned 21, after nearly 15 straight years of doing it, I decided it had to stop. I was ambivalent about giving it up, but I could not stand it anymore. It only reaffirmed our frozenness.

“Zach, you’re 21 now. Not six. This is what six-year-olds do. I can’t do it anymore.”

“Sorry, Dad.”

“There is nothing to be sorry about. You’re just too old. You’re 21. What happens when you are 21?”

“You’re not supposed to do things like that anymore.”

“That’s right. Do you understand why?”

“I’m 21; I’m kinda too old for this now.”

I closed the door to his room.

I stood right outside, then burst back in. “Just don’t say good night.”

It was on again. I knew it was one of the things he loved about being with me. I was scared of losing it.

It is strange to love someone so much who is still so fundamentally mysterious. Strange is a lousy word. It is the most terrible pain of my life. As much as I try to engage Zach, I also run from this challenge. I run out of guilt. I run because he was robbed, and I feel I was robbed. I run because of my shame.

It is strange to love someone so much who is still so fundamentally mysterious.

But whatever happens with Zach, I know I cannot think in terms of my best interests, even if I think they are also in his best interests. Zach will be where and who he will be. Because he needs to be. Because he wants to be. 

Because as famed physician Oliver Sacks said, all children, whatever the impairment, are propelled by the need to make themselves whole. They may not get there, and they may need massive guidance, but they must forever try.

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