Sunday, March 08, 2015

Dr. Arthur Stanley MacNair, Jr., M.Div., D.D.

March 13th is the first of a triumvirate of sad death anniversaries for me- the 19th anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, known to some as Dr. Arthur Stanley MacNair, MDiv, DD, known to others as Stan, known to me simply as Grandpa Mac. Never Grandpa MacNair, never Grandpa Stan, just Grandpa Mac.

I have stared at this screen for the past ten minutes, a myriad of thoughts filling my head, none of which seem a good starting place for my thoughts. How do you summarize the life of an 82-year-old man who is simply the one person you most respect out of any you have known in your life? Well... you don't. You can't. There aren't enough books in the world to explain the unexplainable.

There is a story about three blind men who come across an elephant in the forest. One of the men feels the tusk and believes he has found a sword; another feels the legs of the elephant and believes he has come across a tree; the third feels the trunk and proclaims he has discovered a sword. The truth is that to attempt to define someone or something as the sole properties of just one of their parts is to do an injustice to that person or that thing. My Aunt Barb would have one view of her father; my friend Barbara would have another view of her pastor, teacher and mentor; as his grandson I only knew him for 30 of his 82 years, but my view of Grandpa Mac would differ entirely. All of these views, of course, would not be the final definition of the man but would be him all the same.

I am confident that friends of mine reading this would have loved the man, as he would have loved them. Lisa, you would have met a man committed to women's rights, equality, inclusiveness, and justice. Kate and Jason, you would have met a man whose answer to the problems of autism wouldn't have been an answer but an embrace and a willingness to be a support for you, as well as a willingness to shake the trees to find others to continue that support. Skip, my grandfather would have looked at your efforts to deal with bullying, smiled, and encouraged you to never give up. Melissa and Bill, my grandfather would have wept with you, laughed with you, and I would bet he even would have been willing to put on that pink wig for a quick picture. He was that kind of man.

In 1993 my father and I took a Greyhound bus out west to visit my grandparents in California. My grandmother, in typical fashion, had the whole week planned out for us- Alcatraz one day, Chinatown another day, and family dinners all around. Chinatown didn't happen because my father was sick, so I went to Berkeley by myself for a day, and my experiences in encountering different types of people blew my mind.

One night, after my father and grandmother retired for the evening, my grandfather sat in his chair and I sat in one opposite him, and we talked, not grandfather to child, but man to man. We discussed the Reformation, we discussed my frustration with the organization called "church", we discussed... well, a lot of everything. And as we got on the bus to return to real life, he put a hand on my shoulder and said "You came a boy, you're returning a man." Meaning, at least to me, that my relationship with my grandfather, and by extension my grandmother and aunts, was no longer higher and lower but eye to eye.

In 1995 my battles with mental health issues got the better of me and I was admitted to the hospital for three days. That year I wasn't real enthused about writing the annual Christmas thank-you notes; beyond "thank you" I never knew what to write to pad out the prose to make an acceptable letter. So I postponed them, and postponed them, and soon it was the end of January and I knew if I didn't get those thank-you notes out right quick then I would find myself shamed in the annual newsletter next year. So I thanked them for gifts whose identities are long since lost to the sands of time, told them that 1995 included a stay in the hospital for my depression, and sent them off.

At the time my grandfather was sick and didn't talk much. But when my grandparents received my letter Grandpa Mac got on the phone to me, and in a halting voice which still carried a certain authority he told me that he loved me.

And that was the last time I talked to him.

One morning he woke up unable to walk, so he was taken to the hospital, and then to the assisted medical wing of the complex my grandparents were living in. Three weeks later he decided that was it, he had lived a full life but it was time to move on. He refused food, and on March 13th he died.

March 13, 1996. April 6, 2001. May 4, 2004. The whole family dynamic changed after those three dates.

And yet, when a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit. Grandpa Mac is gone, yet the ideals he lived for are ideals many still strive for.

Goodbye, Grandpa Mac. I came into this life a boy; hopefully when it is my time I leave a better man.

Thank you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Miracle (of Matthew MacNair)

I was chasing down the days of fear
Chasing down a dream before it disappeared
I was aching to be somewhere new
Your voice was all I heard


It was April of 1999 when it started, the call. The call to riches and glory. The call to something greater than myself. The call to be the official father of the new millennium.

I'm a numbers guy, so I did the math. I knew that the first baby born in the year 2000 was going to have publicity (and free stuff) thrust upon them, and by golly I wanted a piece of that action. The end of March-beginning of April 1999 was when things would have to begin. So... my wife went off the pill, and, well, just use your imagination. Or maybe not. It could get ugly.

God saw through my materialistic desires, however, and conception did not take place in March. Or April. Maybe May? Because at the beginning of June, when my wife's body behaved as a broken typewriter would, we went to the drugstore. Not having any experience with such things, my wife asked the female employee who asked us how she could help us which one she would buy. After a short discussion about the merits of various devices designed to be, well, you know... we walked out with two of them, went home, and underwent the process.

Plus sign. Yeah, we were pregnant all right.

I was young, not dumb
Just wishing to be blinded
By you, brand new
And we were pilgrims on our way


Laura is a small woman, but man, was this baby getting big. I thought it would be cool if the baby was 10 pounds when it was born. I mean, bragging rights, man! 10-pound baby! Not many people are awarded this honor! My wife did not see things my way, however, and let me know in no uncertain terms that a 10-pound baby was not passing through, well, "there".

On January 31, 2000, the ob-gyn decided that enough was enough, and that this baby was coming out now. My wife was admitted to the hospital, and the next morning was administered a drug designed to speed up the process.

Speed up the process. Yeah. Famous last words. February 1st came and went... the first day.

(By the way, ladies, I tip my hat to you. This process is not designed to spare any shred of dignity. Get in bed- undressed- wear a robe that was designed for someone three sizes smaller than you- have it all hanging out while total strangers come and go and poke and prod, I mean. Good God, man, if guys had to give birth the human race would be dead. I thought my colonoscopy was bad....)

February 2nd came, and still, 3cm, that's it. Finally the doctor said the words both scary and magic- "C-Section". The baby was coming that afternoon. It's getting real up in this hiz-ouse.

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense out of the world
Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.


I was going to miss having the baby be born the old-fashioned way, but coming through a window instead of the door? Cool, man! They had her spread out in what amounted to a crucifix position, a curtain blocking her view, and her belly cut open all the way across with the flap of skin stretched up. I saw her guts, man! You think you know your spouse, but you don't really know her until you see her guts.

And with a little pulling, a miracle occurred. There was a human being in there, a little purple thing bleating like a sheep. The most beautiful sound I ever heard. Matthew Stanley MacNair, the fourth of five generations of MacNair men to have the name Stanley, named after my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my dad.

Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

We can hear you
We can hear you
We can hear you


That day seems so far away now, but the anniversary of that day approaches for the 15th time on February 2nd, a Monday this year, so he'll get the big celebration at school. Not that it matters that much. He doesn't understand birthdays, he doesn't understand celebrations such as these. Autism has robbed us of so many things parents get to enjoy.

But fatherhood has given me oh, so much.

He likely doesn't even understand what I mean when I say "I love you, son."

I say it anyway. I love you, son. Happy Birthday. And many, many more.

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
I get so many things I don’t deserve
All the stolen voices will someday be returned
The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard

Your voices will be heard
Your voices will be heard



all song lyrics from The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) by U2









Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guest Blogger: Stanley MacNair

My grandfather was a minister with the American Baptist denomination from 1939 until his death in 1996. One of his practices in his various pastorates was to write a column for the church's bulletin, which he titled "Monday Morning Minister's Musings". After his death my uncle, Mark Leibenow, put together a compilation of the "4 M's", giving one per calendar day, and distributed copies to the family.

Except for a few. This particular one wasn't in the book; Uncle Mark typed it out and gave it to me. It didn't have a title, he just named it "Sean" because, well, it mentioned me. It wasn't about me, it was more about the unity of the family and the unity of God's family, the oneness amidst many unique parts.

And away we go.
_______________________________________
Sean

In the eight generations that Sean's ancestors (that's what he calls us all!) have lived in this country he can lay claim to 256 grand-parents. Blood lines and genes of 250 people are a part of his makeup. His features are half MacNair, half Finch, but along what pathway came each of those attributes? Why is heinterested in spelling and his brother all wrapped up in dinosaurs? Rhinos I could understand, but why the allosaurus? Something of all that mob of progenitors continues in my grandchildren, and I have no way of knowing who contributed what. But I do know my grandson. He is Sean Lawrence and there is not another like him anywhere. He has, as do you and l, a sense of self as utterly differentiated from any other self.

I, the mob, but I the person. I, eating the bread of communion last week in concert with all of you because we are a part of all whom we have met, of all who contributed to our selves. I, taking the cup alone last week because it is in my solitariness that I meet my Maker, who is my Judge and my Lover. To be the one I know myself to be is to exist as an integer, a whole number, a one. Regardless of what lines meet and cross in me from the ancestors, they do cross in me and I stand by myself.

But I can never escape, nor do I want to, the sense of the presence of all the others, and the workings of the processes of living. I am accompanied along my road by those I never knew and those I did. From my mother who is dead, and from my father who still lives, I am never wholly apart. Absent, they are present. And not these alone. Though I walk through the valley of the dark shadow, fear does not conquer me, because Another walks by my side. There is, as the two mountaineers said after a harrowing climb, a third man on the rope.

A. Stanley MacNair
 est. late 1970s 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Dear Sophie

Dear Sophie;

This is your friend Sean here. Not sure how much you get on the Internet, or if you get on at all; but sometimes you can meet some really nice people on the Internet. I met some really nice people that are good friends, ladies like Kate and Lisa and Skip and your mom.

Even though I've never met you, we have some things in common. You live in Ohio, and I live in Ohio. Sad things make me cry, and sad things make you cry. It's OK to cry, Sophie. Sometimes when I just don't know the words to tell people how I feel inside, I cry. Sometimes when I'm afraid, I cry. When there are a lot of bad things happening at once, and it feels like it is just too much, I cry.

I've had people tell me that boys don't cry, but you know what? I don't believe that. I don't know if your mom and dad talk to you about God, or if you even understand about God, but let me tell you something. I believe God made us to feel things on the inside. Sometimes we feel really happy, and we laugh, or we just jump up and down and smile. Sometimes we get afraid, or we get sad, and we have this feeling inside like we don't want to do anything. And we cry. But it doesn't last; pretty soon I listen to the Beatles or you watch Frozen and we are happy again. God made us this way. We are allowed to feel things inside.

I'm your friend, and I don't want your mom or your dad or you to be sad. But sometimes things happen that make us really sad, or really mad, and we don't know why they happen. They just happen. And it really stinks, Sophie, it really does. But when those times happen, Sophie, here's what you should try to do. Go ahead and cry. But when you're done, go up to your mom and dad and tell them that you love them, and give them hugs, and then give them more hugs. And they will tell you that they love you, and they will give you hugs, and then they'll give you more hugs.

Because let me tell you, Sophie, you might not believe it, but moms and dads get scared too. And moms and dads cry. But there is always something about smiles and hugs from their children that can help them get up and keep on going until the next time.

You can do this, Sophie, I know you can.

I hope someday I can come to where you live and meet you. Save a hug for me and I'll save one for you. Until then, Sophie, remember: you got this.

Peace and love,
your friend,
Sean

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bang your head, mental health will drive you mad

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

Yesterday was Christmas. We were awoken at 7AM to the sound of my daughter crying and my son headbanging in his room. My wife and I put the battleplan into action- I tended to my son, she tended to my daughter. I wiped his butt and changed his diaper. While my daughter was now laughing and kissing my wife, my son kicked me and threw himself down on the floor, screaming and crying.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

8AM rolls around, and my son has plastered psoriasis cream all over his head. Bath time. I start up the water and tell him to get into the tub. He bangs his head on the wall and kicks me. Then hits me. Then kicks me again. I finally get him into the tub and wash the cream from his hair.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

While parents were watching their kids laugh with glee at the arrival of the Lego set they desperately pleaded with Paul Blart, Mall Santa for, I watched my son start to move towards his bedroom, stop abruptly, and then move just as quickly towards my wife in order to rain blows upon her head. I was reclining in the easy chair at the time, so in the time it took me to get my fat ass out of that chair my wife took ten shots to the head. He was sent to his room. 9:30AM.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

After my son administered my fourth beating of the day, I crashed into the recliner and wept hard. Is this life? Is this all that I have to look forward to? When will it be our turn to see our children enjoy Christmas morning, with the smiles and hugs that accompany such an event for families all over the country? Will it ever be our turn? Will this ever end? Or will the end only come when my son is sent to a group home, or I just die?

11AM.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

"You need to get some help. You can't go on like this."

Well no shit, Sherlock. I'm not at the end of my rope, I'm hanging from a frayed loose end that is hanging from the end of the rope. I sat in my chair, and wept hard. What can I do? I can't go on like this... but I have to keep going on. I have no choice. There are waiting lists for group homes, and they barely move. To get an emergency exemption isn't as easy as saying "here, look at my bruises". There are forms, and committees, and assessments, and excuses. A group home isn't happening any time soon.

How about therapy? I am ahead of you on that one. I have been seeing a therapist for 9 years. She recently moved on, so I have been assigned to another therapist in the same organization. He already cancelled and rescheduled on me once. Not real excited about switching. Really not excited about seeing a guy.

"Sexist much?" Yeah, it sure looks that way. I will confess to you one thing that will either make me look sexist, or sensitive, or just a guy on the make. As a rule I prefer the company of women to men. I don't like talking to guys. Women tend to have more conversations of substance than men. The majority of my Twitter friends are women, women whom I refer to as my "Twitter sisters" because I feel that strongly about the relationships we have established. Canadian Mom, Tel Aviv Mom, Boston Mom, Washington Mom, Ciarra the UK Gamer, LL Cool Reverend whose state I can never remember, and others whose names I won't give but whose presence is just as strong. You read my last blog entry, did you not? (If you didn't, go do so.) When Eminem told me she had breast cancer it crushed me harder than it probably should have. But what can I say? These people mean a lot to me.

They probably mean more to me than they should, I realize that. They all have lives that include husbands and children with various special needs. (Except for one, who is autistic herself). When I have a crisis I can't expect anyone to drop whatever she or he is doing and dig me out of my latest hole. I need to take my medicine, and keep my psychiatrist appointments, and talk to my wife, and pray, and listen to AC/DC loudly.... And being a man, I usually can expect to hear "buck up and be a man!" from someone.

And all of these things I do. I pray... although usually much more for others than myself. I take my medicine, even when it seems to be doing no damn good. I even take extra when I think I should. Yeah, not cool. I keep the psychiatry appointments... which can only take place once a month, otherwise insurance won't cover them. I listen to AC/DC... oh hell yeah I listen to AC/DC, Back In Black is a rock classic. I talk to my wife...

Let's unpack that last one a little, shall we? I will try not to be crass, I will respect the privacy of our relationship, but I will be honest. You go into marriage with certain expectations and dare I say fantasies, and often those expectations are derailed. By the third year and/or the first kid there are no more long conversations about the meaning of love and life over wine and a nighttime fire; there is no hot romance three times a week, or once a week, or even once a month for that matter; special needs children relegate the weekly date night to the "Gee, remember when...?" file of our brains. I love my wife and I am devoted to her. We've been married for 16 years. But let's be honest, our relationship often takes the form of two people who can barely keep their heads above the water. Who can make time for... well, you know,.. when fighting for survival takes all the time and energy you have?

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

And so, Twitter sisters (who will likely be the only ones who read this), this is where my life is now. In order to survive somehow I have to admit honestly that I am no fatherhood superhero, I am often not a "great guy", I am not a traditional strong male, I hate that shit. I am a mess who is currently fighting for survival. This is where the life of an autism father has left me- proud of my children, fiercely protective of my children, loving my children with an incredible love that I never thought I was capable of... but dying on the vine at the same time.

So every once in awhile, could someone just message me to make sure I'm not doing something stupid? I promise, I won't become a life-draining leech. I also promise that when the tough time comes I will have your back.

OK?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Luxury of Death

What the fuck am I gonna do? We can't die. We don't have that option.

Twitter is a funny beast, isn't it? On one hand you can communicate with celebrities, get as it happens news and connect with others who have similar interests and life situations. On the other hand you can get obsessed with the details of the lives of celebrities, get invented news stories that serve to muck up a landscape already crowded with people who have "the truth" and "a balanced perspective", and become so close to those who have similar interests and life situations that when something serious happens in one of their lives, even though you have never met that person, you feel broken and sad, and weep.

Special needs parents, although being part of a world which has many inhabitants, often feel like an astronaut without a tether, endlessly floating in space, alone. I don't get out unless it involves a necessary grocery trip or a medical appointment for one of my children. I don't get to celebrate holidays, I don't get to have a drink with "the guys"... I missed out on a chance to meet KISS, for crying out loud! A lot of sacrifices made in the name of love, the love of a father for his son and daughter, a love that willingly makes sacrifice after sacrifice but feels the loss of them all the same.

In cases such as this social media becomes that tether, connected to the lives of those who can honestly say "I know how you feel", a tether that often provides the life you need to get up in the morning one more day, clean poop off of the walls and get kicked in the kneecap as you navigate the process of school preparation. I wake up, I turn on the computer, and I check my Twitter feed to see who actually got to go out on a date with their spouse the night before, whose child had a meltdown-free day and whose child had to be medicated that night because they just wouldn't calm down.

We can't die. We don't have that option.

Who is going to take care of our children when we pass from the scene? Sure, some of those children will grow to be adults who can maneuver the daily routines of life, with assistance, perhaps, but maneuver they do. Others require a level of care that leaves their parents exhausted, with no one they know who they could trust with the care of their children, or even someone who would be willing to take on such a burden. Those parents do not have the luxury of dying. The irony is, the stress of their situation may bring on such an end before they normally would reach it. Kind of hurts to get kicked in the kneecap over and over again, you know.

I have breast cancer.

And those words acted as a metaphorical kick to the balls, rendering me unable to give a shit about The Interview or Rajan Rondo or whoever hates the Duggars that day. What the hell, Lord? Do I have that many friends that you think you could hit one of them with a hell of a disease and think I wouldn't notice?

Good God, that sounds selfish, doesn't it? A close friend gets a diagnosis that overturns her world and I'm concerned about how it affects my life? Who the hell am I? It isn't my story! I should be concerned about her husband, her daughter, her future, and yet I am weeping because my close friend's illness is going to overturn the applecart of my life? I mean, WTF?

But you know, I've always been one who looks the issues of life in the face and say "Let's cut the crap". I cannot pretend that the illness of a close friend whom I have never met, and whom I may never get to meet, has not hit me hard. Harder than it should? Well, I'm not taking on that cause today. Tomorrow isn't looking good either.

Find Christ again. I need you to.

Well that leaves me in a bit of a quandary. My friend needs as many sources of strength as she can muster, for her and her family. Yet I want to tell Jesus Christ to fuck off. What to do? Do I stand my philosophical ground and not give Jesus Christ the time of day? Or do I stand with my friend who needs all the friends she can get to stand with her and for her, put away my lingering doubts about the presence of God in our lives, and beseech God to spare her the pain and heartache that cancer usually brings?

Find Christ again. I need you to.

I am not strong. Let's say that again. I am not strong. I am tired. I can't listen to my son hurt himself day after day after day with the doctors that could help him scheduling us for a month off. I can't bear to hear my daughter cry when my son screams, which causes my daughter to cry even harder. I can only get 4 hours of sleep so many days in a row before I emotionally collapse. This life is not easy and I am not Superman.

Find Christ again. I need you to.

Hey, Jesus? It's me. We need to talk....




Friday, October 17, 2014

3,833

This weekend is a three-day weekend for our kids. "Teacher Inservice Day." If I hadn't taught Excel to some administrative assistants on an inservice day seven years ago, I would suggest that maybe the teachers were playing poker and smoking stogies, or something more potent. Alas, I know better, and knowing is half the battle.

My 14-year-old son Matthew came home from school yesterday, and after pacing the hallway for 20 minutes, headbutt me in the chest. Then kicked me. And kicked me again. And again. I am accustomed to getting assaulted on a daily basis, and "assaulted" really isn't too strong of a word; yesterday in particular I took fists to the head, headbutts to the back of the head, and kicks all around. One kick to the kneecap and another to the village preacher were particularly painful.

If a 14-year-old from the block were to kick me in the weathermen and beat me in the head I would take the opportunity to defend myself. But in this case I have to take it. I have to just let him do it, and I can't hit him back. I cannot hit him back and I have not. I will not. He is my son. Mind you, I don't stand there forever, I do retreat, I do keep him at arm's length when I can. But my perpetually bruised legs and arms testify to the fact that when I have to change his diaper, I get beaten; when I get his dinner, I get beaten; when I have to give him his meds, the meds get thrown across the room and I get beaten.

We have been to the ER again and again. And again. And again. I won't be going back there barring some serious emergency that they won't be able to blame on his autism. 9 hours... 10 hours... 17 hours.... Some of the nurses know us by name now. But every time it has been a useless endeavor. They give him a shot, they keep us there, they send a representative from the Nord Center to give him a pointless psych evaluation with questions that do not apply, they call around to see if anyone would be willing to admit him this time, and then... "Sorry, but we are just going to have to send you home." On the way home I usually get belted in the back of the head repeatedly. Five-minute drive, not so bad. Driving from Cleveland back home- yeah, bad.

My son is in pain. Let me repeat that. MY SON IS IN PAIN. I have been around him long enough to know. But no one is willing to do any more than the bare minimum to find out why. I am currently listening to my son beating his head against the wall and wailing. That hurts me more than any beating I could possibly take.

I speak of my son so much that I often fail to mention that I have a beautiful daughter named Rebecca. I don't get to spend as much time as I would like with her, to my detriment. She is funny. When she smiles she drives away the clouds if only for a moment. But she is afraid of Matthew, for good reason. Matthew hits her. When Matthew is headbutting and wailing Rebecca is afraid, and she cries. Which causes Matthew to headbang more. Which causes Rebecca to cry louder. And on and on and on.

Oh Rebecca, you are such a beautiful girl, so funny, so spirited, and I love you so much. My heart hurts that I can't spend the time with you that I ought. One day I hope you will understand. Maybe. Odds are that you won't. Just don't hate me. Please. I already have one child who would rather hit me than hug me, I don't need another.

I have to go now. I have to prepare myself for my next beating.

Day number 3,833 of our life with autism has just begun.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Down

Manic Depression's touching my soul,
I know what I want,
but I just don't know how to go about getting it.

Feeling, sweet feeling
drops from my finger, fingers
Manic Depression's captured my soul.
---Jimi Hendrix, "Manic Depression"


Swept chunks of wall from my son's bedroom floor this afternoon. Last night was another rough night in a string of many rough nights, more than I care to count, more than I want to remember. Last night he kicked the wall, and headbutt the wall, and made a hole in the wall. When I went to check on him he kicked me, and headbutt me, and may have made a hole in me if I had let him. He widened the hole in my heart, in any event.

No sooner do I fall asleep again than I am awakened by the pleas of my wife. "Sean... Sean... wake up! Matthew's beating me up!" I clear the fog, open my eyes, and see the shadowy figure of my son standing over my wife. But this doesn't make any sense. I have his room secured, by necessity. To let him wander overnight would be an invitation for all of us to receive assaults. I guided him back to his room where I was able to put two and two together. The hole he made led to a closet in my daughter's room. He widened it, he crawled through, he escaped.

Oh Lord, how long?

I'm losing ground
you know how this world can beat you down
I'm made of clay
I fear I'm the only one who thinks this way

---Nine Inch Nails, "I Do Not Want This"

People began to disappear, as if in a horror movie. Slowly, one by one. You returned from your break and their station would be empty. The rumors began to fly. They're letting people go.

And then they call for you.

Michelle Markel and Bob Gray sit in the HR office, Bob never saying a word. We're restructuring, Michelle says. It is now time to yank the rug out from under everything you hold dear. Get the hell out. Do not talk to anyone. Just go.

Yeah, like I'm going to let you touch any of my stuff, Michelle. I'm getting it, I'm saying goodbye to a few people, and then I'm gone.

Maybe you didn't hear me, numbnuts? Go. We have people you won't get past.

Oh, what the hell are you going to do, send Bob Gray after me? Running three miles an hour in his motorized scooter? Yeah, let him try.

I get up to go. They get up to make me stay. We face off. Oh, did I forget to tell you, Michelle? You don't get to win.

I got my stuff, I said goodbye, and on my way out I slammed the door. Surely that made me feel better.

Well, not really.

Two months after my beloved son was born, my tenure at NACSCORP came to an end, and with it my tiny social circle. And any kind of financial security I thought I ever had.

Jesus, Jesus help me
I'm alone in this world
And a fucked up world it is too
Tell me, tell me the story
The one about eternity
And the way it's all gonna be

Wake up, wake up dead man

---U2, "Wake Up Dead Man"

It's a girl! And what a girl she was. Nine pounds, 5 ounces. One more week and we would have hit ten pounds, I know it. Evelyn would be proud to have my daughter bear her name.

Rebecca Evelyn MacNair was born on September 25, 2002.

Evelyn Jean MacNair died on April 6, 2001.

Evelyn was a special education teacher.

When her namesake was diagnosed with autism, I shook my fist at God. And cried.

Sure could have used my friend Evelyn about now.

Just when everyday
Seemed to greet
Me with a smile
Sunspots have faded
And now I'm doing time
Cause I fell on
Black days
---Soundgarden, "Fell On Black Days"


Men deal with it too.

And that's all I got to say about that.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why ask why?

Why?
---every little kid in the world

Because I said so, that's why!
---every parent in response


I started this blog in 2005 mainly to write about issues of faith and my response to them. I took the title "The Pardoner's Tale" as a reference to the Pardoner in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: a man who gives the appearance of a righteous preacher, but behind the scenes cares nothing for the people, he just wants their money. The insinuation being that although I like to call myself a man of faith who has been down many roads along the search for truth, there is always something (or someone) hiding behind the mask that makes it clear- the things we believe aren't always as solid as they appear.

In the course of writing this blog I've had many responses. The one I've received more than others, at least from religious people, is "when are you going to settle on one thing?" The second response is like it: "You know, there are no perfect churches." You can substitute any type of organization, political party, or person for the word "churches", but the gist is the same- you are expecting perfection, Sean, where perfection doesn't exist. Don't ask why. Don't expect change. In the popular parlance, "it is what it is."

But the question "Why?", and the related question "Why not?", are ultimately at the root of everything- all art, all literature, all scientific discovery, and yes, all theological and philosophical reflection as well. Why keep trying to invent a light bulb, or an airplane, or a radio, when previous experiments have ended in failure? Why not? Should we investigate why some children are born disabled? Why not?

Someone asked themselves why women should get to vote; someone else asked, "Why not?" Someone thought to themselves, hey, why not kidnap Africans and make them work the fields? The refusal of generations to ask "Why?" led to one of the greatest tragedies in American history. Why do I go to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and see young children in wheelchairs? Why will one young man have the same frozen expression on his face every day of his life? Why are there children bald from chemotherapy instead of out playing soccer? Why did Avonte Oquendo die?

Damn it, isn't anyone going to ask why?

Why do the babies starve
When there's enough food to feed the world
Why when there're so many of us
Are there people still alone

Why are the missiles called peace keepers
When they're aimed to kill
Why is a woman still not safe
When she's in her home

---Tracy Chapman, "Why"

I don't expect perfection. I'm not that naïve. But I do believe that the failure to ask ourselves "Why?" can lead to imperfections that could be avoided. "Because we've always done it this way" is not an answer! If there is a reason you've always done something a certain way, then it shouldn't be that hard to give it. If there isn't a reason, hey, that's great, do it however you want. Just don't insist that it's the only way to do it... yeah, you would be wrong on that one.

And the answer to "Why?" isn't always cut-and-dried. "Why does that magazine cost $11.99?" is simple enough- paper costs X dollars, ink costs Y, labor costs Z, the profit margin has to be such-and-so to maintain the ability to continue to produce the magazine... all that is simple. "Why do people criticize what they can't understand?"- a little more ethereal, a little more complex. "Why can tolerant people often be the most intolerant of them all?"- yeah, y'all need to get back to me with an answer on that one, 'cause I'd like to know.

There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.
-Mario Savio

The answer to the question "Why?" will often demand a response on our part. "Why can't women vote?" "Well, because the powers-that-be have decided that they should continue to fulfill antiquated roles in the life of the family and the nation, and let the big boys play." Should the suffrage movement at that point have said "Oh, well, OK, I like being pregnant all the time, having inadequate medical care and dying when I'm 35 while in the throes of childbirth, so you take care of the important stuff so I don't have to think"? No! Oh hell no! The question was asked, the response was given, and the resulting actions based on that response have led to greater freedoms for more than half of the population.

You aren't always going to get a good response to the question "Why?" At that point you need to make a decision- is this issue not worth the effort to effect change, or is the action of the machine so odious that you have to make it stop whatever the cost? "Why do Democrats and Republicans often act like (orifices)?" There may be an answer to that question, but I'm not so naïve that I believe I can change it- indeed, that it will ever be changed. It isn't worth the time and energy to me to try to effect change. "Why does my son injure himself and try to hurt me?" That's a question that I ask myself; I know there is an answer, I haven't found it yet, but the answer to that question is of such value to me that I am willing to sell all I have to buy the field in which that answer lies.

The answers to everyday life lie somewhere in between.

Choose your battles. Let things go when you can. But do not stop asking "Why?"

"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
---REM, "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"


Darlin' you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

---The Clash, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"

Why don't we do it in the road? No one will be watching us...
---The Beatles, "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?"

Who are you? Who-who, who-who
---The Who, "Who Are You?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#JusticeForIssy

I was going to write on this subject, but a Twitter friend did a much better job than I (The Connor Chronicles). Intending to limit my discussion on the subject to my response, I liked it so much I'm using my response for my own blog entry :)


My son is 14, my daughter almost 12; both are on the spectrum. My son in particular has grown increasingly violent over the past year and a half. He attacks me, mainly me, because I step in to prevent my wife and daughter from injury. He also self-injures, mostly by head-butting.

As his behavior has spiraled out of control recently I have had to take him to the ER numerous times. Same situation plays out every time. Because my son was taking psych meds for his behavior, medical floors won't admit him, "it's a psych issue". Because my son's meds were prescribed by a neurologist, not a psychiatrist, psychiatric floors won't take him, suggesting that it's a medical issue. He was admitted twice for some tests but only because I got a little intense and called a couple of doctors on the carpet for their condescension. At discharge both times we were urged to contact a slew of social services for help. I was given a sheaf of papers toward that end.

We have had Children's Services involved in our lives because our house occasionally gets a bit out of control. Pretty easy to do, actually, when you are getting beaten on a regular basis and have no time or energy for cleaning. "Children's Services does not exist to take your children away but connect you with the appropriate services you need." Umm, yeah. That's why after one home visit I haven't heard from them again. And likely won't, unless someone else complains who has seen our house one time without any attention paid to context.

My emotions have been at the brink of collapse many times. I end each day wondering how the hell I can keep going on. I get desperate. How does a person like me get help to handle the desperation? Is it from counselling? Children's Services? Respite? A group home for my child? How would someone tell counselling that their emotions are stretched tighter than a rat's ass over a barrel? They are required to report anything that smacks of the possibility of child endangerment to Children's Services. At that point, Children's Services will definitely exist to take your child away, and appropriate services be damned. The service agencies listed on the manifold sheets of paper, if they are not location-specific, require intake forms, and committee meetings, and home visits, all of which require weeks, and at any time these services can be revoked if someone decides that the funds would better be spent on midnight basketball for city council members and their families. Where are the people that exist to help a family navigate through the maze? And are their services available without the clerical equivalent of rolling the rock of Sisyphus up the mountain of paperwork, only to have the rock roll back down again when you didn't dot an I or cross a T right?

The point of my diarrhea of the keyboard rant is this: it isn't always as easy as people think to get help. I need help for my son right now, not a week from now, not a month from now, not when he turns 18, RIGHT NOW. But the only way to get it would be to sign away parental rights to the county. Yeah, not gonna happen. I have to watch what I say with my counsellor. A statement as benign as "I get angry when my son kicks me in the knees" could be misinterpreted a hundred ways. Certain therapies aren't covered by Medicaid, and without insurance coverage, they can be godawful expensive. I have not been able to work for several years because the needs of my children require my presence at home; my wife could not handle things by herself.

The answer is never to harm your child. But what is the answer apart from that? Is the answer in pithy 140-character hashtag Twitter wars? What is the best way to get #JusticeForIssy? Is it to lock Kelli Stapleton behind bars making license plates for the rest of her life, until the next incident actually occurs and the focus goes away from #JusticeForIssy to the next hashtag du jour?  Could the answer be preventing the next incident of someone harming their special needs child, by more readily-available services or intervention?

Tell me, what is the answer?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

We're off to see the Wiz(nitzer)

Kathy;

As of this writing we have an appointment to see you tomorrow at 3:20PM. I am only writing this now because sometimes it helps me to write my thoughts out first instead of going on the fly. I just wanted you, and by extension Dr. Wiznitzer, to know where I am coming from headed into this appointment.

The meds are not working. You already know that Matt was admitted to Rainbow twice in the past month. Last night we went to the ER again here in Elyria because of Matt's constant violence and aggression. And by constant I mean all day, every day. I'll show you a video. I'll show you some pictures of damage he has done with his head. And the few pictures I took only show the tip of the iceberg. He attacks my wife. He attacks my daughter. He attacks me most of all because I intervene with the other two. He will kick his bedroom door and headbang until 1AM and wake up at 5AM and keep doing it.

And the response from the two admissions to the hospital have both been the same. Increase one of his meds by some small increment, and send him home. The process begins again, and when the constant damage and noise bores a hole into our psyches we take him back to the ER, where they see that he is a danger to himself and others, they have to restrain him in order to give him a sedative, but after 12 hours (yesterday it was 17) they send him home because no one will take him. Because Dr. Wiznitzer isn't a psychiatrist, they won't admit him to psych, they say "this is just part of his autism" and send us on our way. And because Matt is on antidepressants instead of some "regular" med, the medical floors say "this is a psych issue" and send us on our way. And the wheels go round and round again.

The current behaviors have been going on since last year. I know that Dr. Wiznitzer believes that Matthew is bipolar. I also understand that psych meds don't work right away. I take three myself, I get it. But we should be able to see some small improvement at this point, some tiny ray of light through the pinhole that says to us "yeah, you are on the right track"? Instead, the aggression is worse. And I don't mean steadily worse over the past year, I mean exponentially worse over the past two months. It's as if the bike trail we've been on has risen higher and higher and then BOOM! Mt. Everest is in the way. The behaviors have gone from two or three times a day to all day for hours.

I believe Matt is in pain somehow. Carmen Hansford, Matthew's pediatrician, believes the same. This is why I pressed hard for an MRI to be done. This is why, when a condescending ER doctor says "oh, your pediatrician must not REALLY think he's in pain, otherwise she would have prescribed something", I get indignant. This is why, when an ER doctor at Rainbow says "we are going to have to send him home", even after they have seen the behaviors he is capable of, I say, "umm, yeah, maybe we should revisit this decision". Do they want me to wait until he puts his hand through a window for us to come back? Because he's giving it the old college try.

I do not believe that we have done all we can do in this area, to definitively rule out the possibility of pain. Yes, CT-scans and the MRI do not show any brain damage. An ultrasound of his kidneys show no kidney stones. He had a chest X-ray a couple of months ago, that showed nothing. And the constant lab work has shown nothing abnormal. But what I don't know is whether a CT-scan can tell us if he is having seizures. Can it show whether someone suffers migraines (my theory and that of Dr. Hansford as well)? Could he have some sort of inner ear problem? Could he be having stomach aches? Intestinal issues? Heart problems? None of these issues have really been addressed, the train of thought has been stuck at the bipolar station.

(sorry, I was interrupted. Matthew has almost kicked a door down.)

Yes, there are social services available. Yes, there is respite out there, and tent-beds we can keep him confined in at night, and many other things; I was handed a sheaf of photocopies as we walked out the door the last time he was admitted. But these things have to run through channels. These things take time. And time is something my family doesn't have. What we do have is many thousands of dollars in house damages that we will never be able to pay, a mom who hasn't been able to hug her son in over a year, a daughter who is scared all the time, and a father who carries the weight of all these worlds upon weary shoulders that are ready to break.

OK, this letter has gotten longer than the textbooks you teach out of. The nub of the gist is that I would like to at least phase out the Lithium and the Latuda. Abilify has shown some results in the past, and Ativan has shown results in the hospital, albeit in a much larger dose at one time than we give him (2 or 3 MG vs the 0.5 MG tablets he is prescribed). I would also love to see some sort of pain relief prescribed, something stronger than over-the-counter, although I am aware that it would likely require other tests to be done in order for insurance to deem it necessary.

I appreciate your help for us so very much; you have treated Matthew well, even when he kicks you, and that's something a parent never forgets. You have gone to bat for us with the insurance companies and gotten results. But I'm at bat now, and I'm swinging for the fences, because a base on balls isn't winning this game. My family has too much at stake.

---Sean MacNair

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dear Matthew


Dear Matthew;
I’m glad you are finally out of the hospital and that the MRI showed that nothing was wrong with you. It is one of a parent’s biggest fears, to have something deathly wrong with one of their children. I fear for you often.

I remember when we took you home in 2000. You were about 5 days old, and wearing clothes for the first time… and you sure weren’t enjoying it! You practically swam in that snowsuit that made you look like a starfish. But this was the beginning- a permanent separator between life “before” and life “now”. I was a dad now. I had been looking forward to this occasion for many years, often in the fear that Jesus would come back before I had the chance to initiate the process.
That very night you woke up crying. Mama and I both woke up, and we stumbled around getting the bottle, the formula, making sure the thing was shaken well and warm enough. A parenting class at the hospital can’t prepare you for the reality of knowing that this little person, that came out of the window instead of the door, was entirely our responsibility now. No hospital, no nurses, just you and me, kid.

I lost my job two months after you were born. It was something I wasn’t expecting, and punctured my spirit. When I got home, your mama held out the only thing that was going to make me feel better- you. Little two-month-old Matthew, smiling with that toothless smile all your own. You restored my spirit then and you have continued to do it.
We anxiously awaited your first time crawling, your first steps, your first words. Still waiting on that last one; probably should give up on that one by now, but I can’t. I know you can’t help it, if you can’t talk you can’t talk, it isn’t your fault. But parents have dreams. They dream of big things, like seeing their daughter sink a winning basketball shot, or seeing their son score the touchdown that wins the championship; a daughter who graduates at the head of her class, a son who gets a scholarship; a daughter to lead down the aisle, a son who will start his own family and likely do things the same way his dad did them, for better or for worse. But they also dream of small things. The first time they see their child ride a bike alone. The first time they can make their own choices about what they like or dislike, developing their own personality. Saying “Daddy” for the first time.

Just once. That’s all I would like, Lord.
My love for you has never ended and never will. This life has been difficult, for your mama and I, and also for you. I don’t often think about how hard things are for you, and that is to my detriment. You’re the one who can’t tell me when he is in pain, or needs to use the bathroom, or wants something to eat. You’re the one with autism, not me. But your daddy is a little thick in the head sometimes, and he can’t see past the end of his own nose.

The older I get, the less certain about things I seem to be. I don’t know why you have autism. I don’t know why your sister has it. Certainly one of many questions on my list for the Lord when I get up there to see him, but that won’t be for another 50 years, 35 if I don’t quit drinking Mountain Dew. In the meantime, my stock answer for all the mysteries of life is “I don’t know.” But I’m supposed to know. Daddy is supposed to know everything. He is supposed to be able to tell you why the sky is blue, and why the grass is green, and why your nose faces down instead of up. Daddy is the one who is supposed to be able to give you a reason why you can’t jump your skateboard off the rocks at the river, a reason that doesn’t include the words “Because I told you so.”
I don’t know why you can’t talk. I don’t know why you hurt yourself. I don’t know why you hurt your mama, or your sister, or me. I know you aren’t doing it spitefully, I would just like to know why you are doing it. Because maybe then I can help you stop. For your sake, not mine. Hit me all you want, I can take that. But when you hurt yourself, why that I cannot take.

Autism has robbed us of a good part of what fathers and sons across the generations have been able to enjoy. But it can’t, and it won’t, rob us of the core, the center, the axis around which the whole of our relationship turns. I love you, Matthew. No matter how many times you hit me, no matter how many holes you put in the walls, if you never say a word to me, my love for you will not change. I’ll stand up for you, I’ll fight for you, I’ll even die for you and then resurrect myself so I can get back in the game for you.

Because I love you.
 
 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Incident at Convenient Food Mart store #702

To whom it may concern;

This message is in regards to an incident that happened tonight at store #702, on East Ave. in Elyria, and why I won't be shopping at that particular store anymore.

My children are both autistic. They are non-verbal and have severe developmental delays. They don't understand situations sometimes. My son in particular is prone to outbursts. I do my best to keep him under control, and if his behavior becomes very bad in public, I escort him out. I have the safety of others in mind. However, he is still my son. I'm not going to shut him up at home and pretend like he's invisible.

Tonight my son and I went to Convenient store #702 to pick up some soda and milk, and some candy for the kids. We loaded our basket with no problem. Standing in line waiting our turn, I rubbed my son's back and told him that we had to wait our turn. Suddenly out of nowhere, he kicked and headbutted me. I wasn't going to stay in line any longer. I backed him up to an open space and attempted to calm him down out of reach of others.

When I thought I succeeded, I wanted to explain the situation to the security guard that store #702 employs, and let him know that my son isn't a delinquent, just a boy with severe developmental delays and disabilities, and that if people were calm I would be able to get my son out of the store easier. At that moment my son kicked the security guard. The man looked at him, and my son kicked him again. At that moment the man said "Do you want me to take you to jail?"

Really? Really? The guy knows that my son doesn't understand his own behavior and he threatens to take him to jail? I looked at the security guard with a dumbfounded look on my face and asked him if he really was thinking about sending an autistic, disabled teen to jail. My son kicked him again; he just looked angrily at my son and at me, and then said "I think you two should just leave." Which we were attempting to do anyway.

I respect the need for security guards, especially at that location. But I think the gentleman in question, indeed any security guard employed by Convenient Food Mart #702, needs to educate themselves a bit on developmental disabilities and how to deal with such situations. Spoiler: angrily threatening to send a non-verbal autistic to jail isn't the best approach.

So I have bought my last Mountain Dew and gallon of milk at that store. I won't go in under any circumstances. I understand my responsibility in this situation, that things need to be taken care of with my son. Believe me, I have been pursuing that zealously. But someone threatening to send my son to jail? Yeah, that isn't happening.

Sincerely,
Sean L. MacNair

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Fair View of Fairview

Left this message on the Facebook page of Fairview Hospital :
__________

Yeah, let's talk about my experience with Fairview Hospital this past Sunday, shall we?

I have two autistic kids, and my son in particular gets violent. Not so hard to control when he was 10, but he's 14 now, and he can be dangerous. On the advice of his pediatrician we went to the ER on Sunday morning to seek psychiatric evaluation and admission.

First, the positives. Great looking facility, spacious waiting room, ER staff for pediatric patients was great. Tests were ordered, tests were done in a timely fashion.

The physician's assistant recognized the severity of the situation, as did the nurses as they saw my son trying to hurt himself and those around him. It took two nurses and myself to calm him and give him a shot to calm him down. The PA went to bat for us with the higher-ups. The psychiatrist refused to admit him, saying basically that this was a chronic condition, and after all, he responded to the shot, didn't he? So he should just go home and keep taking his meds. After 7 hours and a lot of effort by the PA, he was discharged. When he got home it didn't take more than 5 minutes for him to put his head through a wall.

Dr. Psychiatrist, we have been giving him his meds. FOR TWO YEARS. And no cocktail of behavioral meds has worked so far. Had you talked to me personally you would have known that. My bruises and the spiderweb crack in my windshield testify to the fact that we needed help immediately.

So, Fairview Hospital, thanks for nothing. You have done well for a lot of people, but you failed my son. If I could give you a negative star I would.
 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Talkin' Baseball

I resurrect this one every once in awhile. The arrival of the 1973 Strat-o-Matic cards as well as the inclusion of the 1973 card design in Topps Archives set have me waxing nostalgic for the early days of my love for baseball.



I have the 1971 All-Star game on the telly this afternoon, sat down at the laptop with my Strat-o-Matic 1973 cards, and I was immediately trapped in a time warp. The years started melting away...2004- the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years...2001- Barry Bonds hits 73 home runs and the Seattle Mariners win 116 games...1998- McGwire and Sosa... the years are flying by faster now, and so are the players...1995- Cleveland Indians in the World Series...1980- will George Brett hit .400?.... The time machine is slowing down now- 1979, 1977, 1975...

1971. The year before the Oakland A's three-year run as the champions of the world began. On this particular day a 58-year-old gentleman is sitting in the grandstand, his 28-year-old son beside him, and his 5 and 3-year-old grandsons along as well. It was batting helmet day, or t-shirt day, or some such promotion; the batting helmet would have shattered with one of Vida Blue's slowest pitches, but that didn't matter to the five-year-old; all he cared about was that he was there, at the ballpark, eating peanuts from a giant bag and dropping the shells gleefully on the concrete. Were we allowed to do that? he wondered. But it didn't matter- his grandpa was doing it, his father was doing it, so he did it too. The names of the players were magical- Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers. He laughed every time he saw Rollie's handlebar moustache. The field looked enormous and the players looked small from the nosebleed seats. The green and yellow uniforms may look hideous to those looking back from a vantage point of forty-three years, but to that five-year-old, they were a fashion statement. He wore his souvenir helmet and t-shirt with pride.

Fast forward four years. In 1975 our protagonist was now nine years old and living in Ohio, as far away from the Oakland A's as they were from their next appearance in the World Series. The Milwaukee Brewers were in town, and that meant a chance to see Hank Aaron, the newly crowned home run king. This nine-year-old boy thought it would be a simple thing to walk onto the field, present Mr. Aaron with a paper and pencil and get him to sign. Get used to disappointment, kid. Whether Hank Aaron hit a home run that day or not is a fact lost to the sands of time, but to the nine year old, it didn't matter; he was there.

Have you guessed? That boy was me. I have been to many ballgames in the 39 years since I ground those peanut shells into the concrete in Oakland. I've lived through great Oakland teams, mediocre Detroit teams, and great Cleveland teams (although I had to swim through a lot of mediocrity to get there). Classic moments- George Brett's .390, my brother waking me up to tell me that Len Barker had pitched a perfect game, Jack Morris pitching a no-hitter in 1984, and the Detroit Tigers winning it all that year. And calling the action, whether he did so in real-life or not, is the late, great Ernie Harwell, a man who personified class, a man who took time out of his day to write a letter to a friend simply because I wrote to him and asked.

I am a baseball fan. I have seen a lot of teams and a whole lot of players pass through real-life on the way to my memories, some for a cup of coffee, some for a full-course meal plus seconds. For every Joe Charboneau there's a George Brett; for every Marvin Freeman there's a Clayton Kershaw. Well, maybe for every 100 Marvin Freemans :) There are good players and bad players, good times and bad times. When the players went on strike in 1981 I was heartbroken, but I stayed a fan, playing Strat-O-Matic and APBA baseball day after day, and several times on Saturdays. When the players went on strike in 1994 I wanted to turn away from the game completely. Then the Indians had to go and play their way into the Wold Series in 1995. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

And you want to tell me Barry Bonds brought the game to the brink of ruin? I think the game has been on the brink of ruin for the past... well.... how many years has professional baseball been around? Let's say 143 years, since the National Association in 1871. The baseball cranks of the nineteenth century lived through the National Association, the American Association, the Union Association, the Player's League; they saw the National League expand to twelve teams and shrink to eight; they saw the arrival of the rebel Western League as it morphed into the American League and challenged the Senior Circuit for the best players. The twentieth-century fan saw some of the best players in the game denied admission to the dance because of their heritage, the defiling of the sacrosanct World Series in 1919, the blossoming of a portly pitcher and slugger from Baltimore, Maryland whom veterans like Tyrus Raymond Cobb looked upon with disdain. "He has ruined the sport!" he cried, when in fact he helped to save it. The ball has been juiced more times than a mother's breast and spat on more times than a bartender's spittoon; the game has been proclaimed dead more times than Paul McCartney, yet it staggers on and even thrives.

I know, it's only baseball, but I like it.

The players haven't ruined the game. They can't. If a steroid-influenced ballplayer hit a juiced ball into the upper deck and no one was there to hear it, would it still leave an asterisk? The players may play the game, but the fans make it live. If the fans hadn't taken a shine to Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, then a 56-game hitting streak would mean about as much as a three-dollar bill. Babe Ruth? Without a legend behind him people would just as likely remember Grover Cleveland's daughter more. When Kirby Puckett died, his legal troubles were relegated to a sentence or two, because he was so well liked. When Marge Schott died, her racism was still a story, because she wasn't well liked.

The game will live because of Dan Okrent. The game will live because of Topps. The game will live because of Ethan Allen and Richard Seitz, because of Hal Richman and Pete Ventura, because of men like Ernie Harwell and Red Barber, because whenever three or more children get together the candy wrapper can still be first base, the bookbag can still be second, the leaves can still be third and the tree stump can still be home. Mom may have been more powerful than Kenesaw Mountain Landis, but there was always tomorrow, always one more chance to be Gorman Thomas or Albert Pujols or Ken Griffey Jr or Hank Aaron.

If you love it, they will come.