Sunday, November 23, 2014

Myth and Reality

My son Devon Ward never came home from school today. He skipped his last class after lunch, and nobody's heard from him since. Cell phone is going right to voice mail.

The text that ran alongside the picture of Devon gave more information, a description of him, and a number you could call in case you had any information. The date of the Facebook post that shared the picture? April 26, 2013.

Devon Ward was found safe on April 18, 2013, a week before this person shared the picture. Had she not heard the news? Did she not care to investigate further before sharing the picture? Or was it enough for her to be seen appearing to help, whether her Facebook post was of any concrete help or not?
____________________
 
“I’m so sorry daddy, a man is here and he is going to kill us. I’m sorry I will never see you again, tell kate and russ that me loves them and I will never forget my family. I love mummy but I love daddy more, you’re so brave fighting the tumor, I love you so very much. I hope you’re reading this daddy, I love you more than anything in the world … if you don’t make it through your tumor then I’ll see you in heaven, we could maybe meet up for a coffee. Me and Mrs. Maddison are stuck and we’re probably going soon, I love you daddy, mummy an everybody else.”
 
So reads the letter that a Sandy Hook Elementary School student wrote as all hell broke loose around him. Or so we were supposed to believe.
 
This was tweeted many times over in the days after the Sandy Hook tragedy. "This is so sad! RT to show respect." Well... no, I refused to retweet. Out of respect. How did anyone not see through this? Did the rush to appear to be showing the proper emotions concerning the tragedy overwhelm anyone's sense of reason? Could no one see that there is no way this was written by a Sandy Hook student under fire? First of all, unless this child was an exchange student, which is not likely since I don't believe any schools take elementary-age exchange students, there is no way that the student would be using British colloquialisms. "Mummy"? "Meet up for a coffee"? Second, what elementary school student in a time of crisis has the composure to write a note of any length? Third, does anyone really think the police would have let a note from a victim or survivor get out that quickly? It would have been prime evidence.
 
But, of course, Sandy Hook was all just a hoax anyway. Right?
____________________
 
A nation sat riveted to their television sets for seven nights as the story of Alex Haley's family was presented. Kunta Kinte. Kizzy. Chicken George. The names are still fresh in my mind. The reality of the slave's experience in the United States was presented in brutal reality. Certainly a TV miniseries wasn't needed to make the slave's experience real, it certainly was real, but for a good portion of the viewing public slavery was a story, something you stopped at in the history books on your way to the cool World War stories.
 
Slavery was real. Slavery is real. Damned real. And still real.
 
But was Roots real?
 
A 1977 Times of London report, for example, only a year after the publishing of "Roots" called Haley's griot a phony. Haley had credited the West African storyteller with providing the crucial missing link to his African slave ancestor Kunta Kinte. The next year, Haley paid Harold Courlander, author of "The African," and his publisher $650,000 to drop a plagiarism suit.
In 1981 two other historians writing in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography reported that documents show Haley's "Toby," Kunta Kinte's slave name, on his plantation a good five years before the slave ship on which Haley placed him arrived in Annapolis in 1767.
---Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1993, "Alex Haley's Facts Can Be Doubted, But Not His Roots" 
Roots climaxes with Haley discovering the village from which his ancestor, Kunta Kinte, was supposed to have been captured.  Supposedly, a griot from the village of Juffure—Fofana—confirmed the account of Kinte’s abduction that Haley had grown up hearing about from his aunts. 
Professor Donald R. Wright, “a specialist in African pre-history with extensive experience in the collection of Gambian oral traditions,” visited Juffure twice.  What he discovered was that Fofana was a fake.  Fofana “showed no inclination to recite long (or short) genealogies of any families.”  When it came to Kunta Kinte, though, “he was eager…to speak [.]”  Kinte, Wright continues, “was the only individual about whom Fofana provided any specific information.” 
There is a reason for this.  In advance of his exchange with Fofana, Haley relayed to Gambian officials the account of Kunta Kinte’s capture that had supposedly been transmitted to him by his relatives.  He told them as well that it was confirmation of this account that he sought.  Seeing the potentially boundless profits to be reaped from tourism and the like, the officials insured that Haley would hear what he wanted to hear. 
The second time Professor Wright visited Juffure he did not seek out Fofana by name.  Rather, he sought out “the person best versed in the history of the village and its families.” Wright was taken to listen to four people.  Fofana’s name was never even mentioned.   

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/attheintersectionoffaithandculture/2012/03/alex-haleys-fraudulent-roots.html#ixzz3JvpLWkHl

The facts? Or the "truths"? Can one's facts be wrong but still convey a greater truth? If something is presented as fact should it not be able to stand up to inquiry? If the facts crumble under simple questioning can they still convey "truths"?
 
Whether Alex Haley's book is a fraud is not a question I'm prepared to deal with in any serious way. I'm just asking the questions. But how many people even knew that there was any kind of controversy over his book? How many knew that a BBC documentary covered the issue in some depth but has not and likely never will be seen in America? And even if everyone in the United States had been presented with a copy of said documentary, how many would bother to watch it?
 
Why do people prefer the narrative over the reality? Is it that difficult to consult Snopes before you share a missing person story? Is it that important that we be seen "tweeting for respect", even though the information we tweet could be debunked with a modicum of thought? Is anyone's cause really being served by suppressing inquiry? We don't burn books in this country, whether figuratively or literally.
____________________
 
I'm sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

---John Lennon, "Gimme Some Truth"



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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#YesMeToo

40 years ago. 2014 to 1974 doesn't really seem all that long when you have lived through the entirety of it; 1974 to 1934, on the other hand, seems like an eternity, especially when you weren't born until 1966.

40 years ago. We lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan then; my father was in the Coast Guard and that was our current three-year tour. I can picture the surroundings all these years later. Two streets came together in sort of a triangular fashion, and our house was at that corner. Two blocks away was a soda bottling plant from which we stole drinks on occasion. Across the street in the backyard was an abandoned high school. We used to throw rocks at the windows and imagine what it would be like to get in there and play.

One morning I woke up to find fire trucks and police cars congregating in the back. The school was on fire. When all was said and done the place was a total loss. Just a pile of rubble. The front steps were largely intact, and there was a crawl space underneath that we could use as a hideout. Us kids, of course, loved it. One more cool place to play.

I was six, possibly seven years old. Not entirely sure. It's been 40 years. Other things I remember all too well. Like the older boys taking their clothes off. Like the older boys making us take ours off. Like... yeah, maybe you should just use your imagination on this one. Mouths, and genitals, and no permission granted. I was six. Maybe seven. I didn't know what oral sex was. I did know that I didn't want to get my ass kicked by a neighbor boy who was bigger than me. So... yeah. Just use your imagination.
____________________________


It was abuse, all right, but it was 40 years ago. The consciousness of people regarding sexual abuse was not the same as it is today. You didn't talk about it. I sure didn't talk about it. I didn't want to get in trouble. Yeah, I said it. Kid makes me put my mouth on him and I'm the one worried about getting in trouble.

The years went by. We moved, and we moved again, and we moved again. Sault Ste. Marie was a distant memory. I let what happened fade off into the distance. Never brought it up with anyone, until I started becoming friends with women who had been sexually abused. Then I began to wonder. Was I abused too? I quickly stomped such thoughts into the mudholes of my mind. It didn't happen to boys. Boy on boy abuse was just some bully neighbor kid being an asshole. So I let it go.

Life becomes much more complicated when you become an adult. At a certain point I started seeing a therapist. I was suicidal, depressed, and my marriage was collapsing. The therapist and I got along. I had been seeing her for a few years when I brought up Sault Ste. Marie. I wanted to get a professional opinion. Did what happened to me "count"?

She listened, we talked, she spoke. Did you give your permission? Well hell, I was six, I had no concept of permission. Were you coerced? Well... yeah. I didn't want to get my ass kicked. I was timid. I couldn't defend myself. Hell, I was six. Then yes, she said. It "counts".
____________________________
 
 
In 40 years I have only talked about this with two people. It wasn't as severe as some women I am very good friends with. It didn't seem like I should bring it up for fear of being accused of hijacking someone else's story. This doesn't happen to guys. Keep quiet, let women tell their story. Which I do.
 
But yeah, it does happen to guys. Please remember that.
 
Because it happened to me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

#YesAllWomen

Really? You don't like the hashtag #YesAllWomen , huh? Doesn't seem fair? Seems like they are blaming all men for their problems?

Got a full tank and some chips
 It was me and a gun
 And a man on my back
 And I sang "holy holy" as he buttoned down his pants
 You can laugh
 It's kind of funny things you think
 at times like these
 Like I haven't seen Barbados
 So I must get out of this

---"Me and a Gun"

Little ten-year-old girl gets enrolled in a private Christian school about 40 minutes from her home. A long-time family friend is the principal. He built the house that her parents bought when they got married. To save the family some time and effort, he offers to drive the little girl to school. Didn't take long for him to stick his hand down the front of her underwear while he was driving. And so it began.

Yes I wore a slinky red thing
 Does that mean I should spread
 For you, your friends, your father, Mr. Ed

---"Me and a Gun"

A 17-year-old girl is admitted to the hospital for attempting suicide. A hospital is a place for healing, a place to get your troubles resolved. A male orderly is in charge of taking her to her next group therapy appointment. Instead he takes her into an unused examination room, drugs her, binds her in the stirrups and rapes her. And the next day. And the next day. She is put on suicide watch. Whenever she has the chance, she attempts to kill herself. Death would feel a whole lot better than this.

Cause what if I'm a mermaid
 In these jeans of his
 With her name still on it
 Hey but I don't care
 Cause sometimes
 I said sometimes
 I hear my voice
 And it's been here
 Silent all these years....

---"Silent All These Years"

A young woman is in her second year in college. Her friends begin to have a "can you top this?" session, with alcohol as the topic du jour. "Remember when we partied with those guys at Cedar Point that one weekend? Man, I got so wasted!" "I remember when I went to my first party- dude kept giving me shots... damn, I don't remember anything after the fifth one...." The young woman keeps quiet. Her first memory of alcohol certainly wasn't her first exposure to it, just the first one she remembers. It was of her rocking on her bed, door locked, as her father went on a drunken rampage with her mother as the target.

walking home in her wrapped up world
 she survived but she's feeling old
 cuz she found all things cold
 strange little girl
 where are you going?
 do you know where you could be going?

---"Strange Little Girl"

Really? You don't like the hashtag #YesAllWomen , huh? Doesn't seem fair? Does it seem fair that these women that I love have endured the most horrid bullshit from men in their lives? Is it fair that a girl who knows nothing about sex has sex forced upon her, and then isn't believed by her family?

How about we come up with a hashtag a little more palatable for you, then.
#FuckYouAsshole
#DealWithItBastard
#YourePartOfTheProblem

Because ultimately, you're right. We shouldn't need hashtags such as this. Women should be able to just tell their stories. Women shouldn't have to worry about whether their partner is going to give them a black eye or a broken arm that day. Women shouldn't have to worry about whether they are going to be used and discarded at the end of the night.

IT ISN'T FUCKING FAIR.

So here's a thought- just shut up and listen.

And do you know Carolina
 Where the biscuits are soft and sweet
 These things go through you head
 When there's a man on your back
 And you're pushed flat on your stomach
 It's not a classic cadillac

 Me and a gun
 and a man
 On my back
 But I haven't seen Barbados
 So I must get out of this

---"Me and a Gun"

(song lyrics by Tori Amos. Stories are true; names have been left out.)





Friday, May 23, 2014

That peculiar institution

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove...
---The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

So why do people get married?

When I was younger I didn't think two thoughts about marriage. That's just what people do. As I got older, of course, and became more educated and interested in the ways of life, I knew what marriage was for.

Sex, of course. And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

Never occurred to me that people were having sex without being married. In my limited worldview you got married, then had sex.

And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

"Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you. The right person is still going to think the sun shines out of your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with."
---Mac MacGuff, Juno

The winter of my discontent turned into the spring of my discontent... and then the summer of my discontent. I was having a hard time connecting with someone. Junior High was horrible. I realized at that time that something's happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear. But I wanted in. So to speak.

Problem was, no one wanted to open the door.

I liked girls. Oh did I like girls. I liked them so much that I would write dirty stories about them and shove them in their locker. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Yeah, that will impress them. But I just couldn't talk to them. I froze big time. So I thought... hmm, how can I make them notice me? With 35 years of hindsight I realize that I just didn't know how. Certain things that should be obvious in dealing with people weren't that obvious to me. High School was more of the same. Only this time my literary career got me suspended several times.

But wait... there's more.

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it's privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it's humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”
― Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

I became a born-again Christian when I was in high school. It helped me as far as my debilitating shyness goes; I was finally able to speak before a group, I became one of the first teenage lectors that our parish ever had, I even gave talks to young people on retreats. The shyness issue was fading into the background.

But me and girls still didn't hit it off. And it depressed the hell out of me.

I was still pursuing the golden ring, the holy grail, my eyes firmly fixed on the prize. In my eyes at that time a relationship with the opposite sex could only lead to dating, the altar, and... well, use your imagination. I was horrendously naïve. In high school I finally started to be able to talk to girls. I took a speech class which had most of the popular girls in the high school in it. And I found that I could talk with them. Didn't get me any dates, mind you; but I had my foot in the door.

I entered college still not ever having had my first girlfriend. Heck, I hadn't even had my first date yet. I started attending a lot of Bible studies, as a good born-again Christian is prone to do, and I met women there. And I finally learned how to be friends with women there, without trying to make every relationship with a women proceed to something more. (Women, not "girls".)

I fell in love in college, two times. And I fell hard. When I received the "just friends" talk, it was time to pull out "The Wall" by Pink Floyd and lose myself in the haze. I was first diagnosed as clinically depressed when I was in college.

My naivete about Christians and sex took a beating in college. Christians were having sex! Huh? How could this be? And getting pregnant? Everyone knows that you always wear a raincoat when you go out in the rain!

My friends were now getting married, some of whom out of love, some of whom out of necessity. And as is common when people get married, they tend to go off the grid for a time, and you don't have the same kind of friendship you had during the single years. So I continued to make relationships and marriage my goal. My idol. My golden calf, if you will.

“I have to wonder at what point the people fighting to protect marriage will realize that traditional couples haven’t exactly been doing too good a job of it so far.”
― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

I finally had my first date when I was 29 years old. Met a woman through a classified ad. We stayed out at a bar until 2AM. And 8 days later, on our second date, we had sex.

Some Christian I was turning out to be. The whole experience wracked me with guilt. No more waiting until marriage, huh? Yeah, that ship finally sailed, although I had pulled the anchor on that one a long time ago. We didn't stay together long, maybe a couple of months. Just long enough for her to pull a fake pregnancy angle on me. When I figured out that was false, we were done. I ended up in a hospital for three days. Just wanted to opt out at that point.

I was done. Through. I wasn't going to pursue dating anymore. I was tired of the whole game, and a game it really was, because people were playing each other to get what they wanted with little concern about caring for the other person. At least from my observation.

And there's no one there to dry your tears. I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love.
Bob Dylan, "To Make You Feel My Love"

So why do people get married?

In 1997 I met a woman named Laura Rose. We got along. We became friends. We quickly became boyfriend and girlfriend. And on August 16, 1997, I knelt in the dusty gravel outside of her father's office and asked her to marry me.

(SPOILER ALERT: She said yes.)

So let's step back from the personal story for a moment and ask ourselves a few questions.

Why did you ask Laura to marry you?
Because I loved her. I still do.

If you hadn't asked her to marry you, does that mean that you didn't really love her?
No, because I loved her before I asked her.

Did you have a wedding?
Yes, on August 8, 1998, in a Baptist church in Medina, OH.

If you already loved her, and everyone knew that you loved her, then why did you have a wedding?
Because.... umm....
________________________________________

Where there is love, there is life.
Mahatma Gandhi

So why do people get married?

My belief for a long time is that people get married to have sex. You ain't got a thing if you ain't got that ring. It was a trick question, of course. First of all, people do have sex outside of marriage. Second, you may start off a marriage having sex four times a week, 2AM sex, afternoon-in-between-appointments sex, cancel-the-appointment-and-pay-the-penalty-fee sex.... But ask people who have been married for more than ten years how much sex they are having. Go ahead, I'll wait.


Yeah, I thought as much. People don't really get married to have sex. Married people stop having sex after awhile. Go ahead, deny it.

So why do people get married?

"Out of love", some will say. "We love each other, we want to commit ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. We have a wedding to proclaim our love and demonstrate our commitment to each other amidst a gathering of our family and friends."

You can't commit yourself to a person without getting married? You can't love them deeply and fully without exchanging vows, rings, shoving cake in their face and having your automobile vandalized by people who if they had done that in another context would be up on charges? Obviously you can. People do. But where else are you going to get to wear formal clothes and have a hell of a party? And get showered with toasters and money? And be the center of attention?

A related question is "why do people get a marriage license?" I mean, if you are together out of love, why the need of a piece of paper? Why the need of that legal recognition?

Wait, I'm going somewhere with this.

If ever a man had it all
It would have to be me
I love you

Climax Blues Band, "I Love You"

The topic of allowing a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, has been bandied about a lot in the past few years, and everyone has an angle. On one side are people who defend marriage as "a sacred institution", although they get divorced at the same rate as other couples do. On the other side are those who want "marriage equality". It shouldn't matter who you love! You should be able to marry the one that you love!

Yet they both have something in common.

If God is the one who sanctifies a relationship via marriage, then why the need to have the state recognize it? I have the feeling that God hasn't recognized a lot of "official" marriages, and has blessed a lot of couples who are doing their own thing.

If all that matters is that you want to celebrate your love, then why the need to have the state recognize it? If a man loves a man, or a woman loves a woman, then be together! Have a party if you want, exchange gifts, celebrate however you like. No one is stopping women and men from loving other women and men.

The one thing both sides have in common are the benefits. Social Security. Visitation rights at hospitals. The government recognizes marriages and extends certain benefits to those entering that state of life.

People say they get married out of love, but ultimately they want to get married out of what they can get from the union. At the core of the issue seems to be those federal and state benefits.

Men and women can love who they want. In that there is equality. I didn't have to get married to love my wife. I already did. But if the government is extending benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be men and women, and they aren't extending those benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be two men together or two women together? Then that government is in the wrong.

A lot of people are complaining that gay and lesbian couples can already have civil unions. "Isn't that enough?" Well, let me ask those people something. Isn't that enough for you? Why do you pursue legal recognition of your relationship? Isn't it enough that God recognizes it? And if they are being totally honest, the answer would have to be "No". They want that legal recognition for the benefits it provides. And if our government is extending that legal recognition to them, they should also extend it to gay and lesbian couples who are every bit as committed to each other. There is really no legitimate reason not to do that.

The exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, accordingly, is not a small and tangential inconvenience resulting from a few surviving relics of societal prejudice destined to evaporate like the morning dew. It represents a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples.
Justice Albie Sachs, Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another, 1 December 2005

So why did you get married?


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Now that I have your attention...

I stumbled upon a blog recently, one which was written by women and apparently geared toward women, and I saw a letter from "Dear Amy" being discussed. The letter-writer was offended that her partner knew that they had sex 76 times last year. And he was grading her. I would hate to see that report card.

But it started me thinking. Sex. No, nothing lewd, nothing pornographic, but I've always been fascinated; by the act, most certainly, but also by the attitudes people carry towards it. Sex can be good, and really damn good; it can be evil, and pretty damned evil. It's a noun, a verb, probably an adverb too if I could remember what an adverb was. One singer wants your sex, another wants to sex you up. It can be a weapon, it can be a reward, it can be a punishment. You can think about it too much, or not enough, or both at the same time, depending on your perspective. One gender stereotypically only has their mind on "one thing"; another gender stereotypically pretends that they are above that kind of talk but over glasses of wine and "chick flicks" they can embarrass a sailor.

My wife attended a wedding a few years ago. I got out of going by the fact that we were told that no kids were invited, although the bride's family was apparently an exception to that rule. Her father is the pastor of the church. Anyway, being a man who is prone to uttering inappropriate comments, every 20 minutes after my wife came home I wondered aloud, "Hmm... I wonder what she and her husband are doing now?", knowing very well what they were likely doing, but wanting to embarrass my wife just the same.

But seriously, folks. How do a woman and a man who have been brought up believing that sex is off limits, having abstinence instilled in them from the very beginning- how do they go about suddenly flipping the switch? Now they're allowed to see each other naked? Now they're allowed to grope and moan? Sex is just not talked about in fundamental Baptist circles. They obviously have it- the plethora of kids running around at the end of every service testifies to that- but do they enjoy it or just tolerate it? Maybe Baptists have sex with their clothes on.

Stay with me here- there's a point to be made. I spent several years as part of a couple of fundamental Baptist churches, and the point was hammered home every other Sunday- we do not live by our experience, we live by the Word of God. Quite often people who enjoyed certain experiences were talked about as if possessed by Lucifer himself. No guitars or drums- can't have that sensual beat enticing our senses. So how do they turn the page when the tie comes off and the bodies go horizontal? Do they know that it isn't JUST about procreation, that they're allowed to like it, that it's a good thing?

Experience is woven into the fabric of life. Roses have color and scent. Anchovies have taste. (Oh, do they!) And sex is not merely functional. If it was merely for procreation, then a man could just fill some test tubes and keep them in the freezer. Procreation is obviously a function of sex. But oh, is it so much more. The experience. When you don't have the experience you consider yourself to have failed at it. Men who don't have "the experience" take drugs. Women who don't have "the experience" read magazines, get therapy and talk to their girlfriends about their dissatisfaction. "The experience" is part of the package, thereby proving that God approves of pleasure and excitement- He created them.

And yet... is that all there is to it? "Getting yours"? Seems like if that was your whole perspective than you could accomplish the same thing by going into the can with a magazine. A large part of it, it most certainly is... but not IT.

I'm not naïve. IT isn't always some metaphysical, ethereal thing. Someone falls asleep, someone farts, someone remembers that the garbage didn't go out yet; the cell phone rings, the bed collapses, little Johnny or Susie walks in and sees Mommy and Daddy "wrestling". Sometimes you just realize that you're just not that into it and stop.

But let's not pretend here. We all think about IT, we all talk about IT. Hopefully with our partners. I certainly hope with our partners. If you are complaining to your friends or your blog audience that your husband wants IT all the time, then you probably need to talk to your husband first. If you are sharing "locker room talk" over some cold ones with the guys, perhaps talking about how your wife won't "give you any" because you insulted her mother or something, then the person you need to be talking to is your wife, not your buddies.

And I haven't even scratched the surface of the subject. Other people with vaster vocabularies and more varied experiences have written about IT. I am only speaking from one corner of the universe here, and my vision is limited.

Now let's get back to the beginning. Was the guy who kept track of the number of times he and his wife had sex wrong to do so? Well... I would definitely say that he was kind of crass in putting out report cards. That certainly isn't helping matters. Throw the report cards away, dude. Wash the dishes, cook every once in awhile, take a shower and change your undies more than once a week- there are a whole plethora of things that you can do to build up capital in the love bank. But geez, report cards? Your bank account is overdrawn, dude.

And to the wife? Well, I'm not a wife, am I? So I really can't speak to the subject. I would suggest, though, that if the wife isn't at least trying to talk with her husband about this, if she is just writing to advice columnists or bloggers about it, than she also needs to back up and communicate with her husband. Her husband isn't wrong for wanting it, but she also isn't wrong for not wanting to reward crassness with concupiscence.

Gotta talk with each other before you can do other things with each other.

Monday, May 12, 2014

And so it begins....

4/22/2004

Matthew was seen for neurologic follow-up and was accompanied by his mother. He is a 4-year-old boy with significant developmental delays. Testing today has not provided a clear identifiable etiology. He continues making nonspecific noises. He has not had much interest in peers. He still finger feeds. He puts carpet strings in his mouth. He has hand regard behavior. He likes watching computer screen showing the image of a certain level of a game for up to half an hour. He sleeps about seven to eight hours and smears stool. He gets speech therapy twice a week and attends school four days weekly for 3-1/2 hours per day. He has an attendant.
Today’s exam finds a weight of 18 kg, height of 105 cm and head circumference of 54.5 cm. He makes nonspecific noises while jumping and pacing around the room. Eye contact is inconsistent. Overall tone is unchanged. No words are heard. He has no focal neurologic deficit.
Matthew continues to have significant developmental impairments. I agree with his father that he clearly shows some features within the autistic spectrum. This label can be useful for identifying his areas of need. He has had some other lab tests, results of which will be checked. He will continue with his school programming. Family will call if there are problems, otherwise follow-up will be in one year.
Max Wiznitzer, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology
 
(Amazing how something can be so concisely worded but not even come close to the depth of what we would experience in the 10 years following. Here's how it should have read:)
 
4/22/2004
Mr. and Mrs. MacNair;
I believe that your son exhibits characteristics consistent with those on the autism spectrum.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You had ideas, goals and dreams for your son? Toss them in the crapper my good friends. Your new life begins today, a life filled with ambiguity and unknowing. What causes autism? We don't know for sure. How should it be treated? There are various and manifold ways, not all working the same for every child. Is there anyone who can help you navigate the waters? Sure, there are several people with various areas of expertise, and they will all tell you something different. Then there are the people with no expertise- amazingly they seem to have more to say than the educated ones. It's a jungle out there, Mr. and Mrs. MacNair, and I've just handed you a butter knife. Have fun navigating the forest.
Welcome to the wonderful world of autism, my friends! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Max Wiznitzer, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology