Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Old scans--"Andy"

[continued from yesterday]

Then, when he was about sixteen, it was over. He never fought. He never had any more attacks. He rarely even came in the restaurant any more. He never talked to us. He only went to school.

His eyelids barely moved all day. He walked slowly. He stumbled down steps in the old brick, three story high school. His head dropped down, his neck loose, he seemed always to be nearly sleeping. And it was safe for us. Rarely did he explode into a frantic rage. Rarely did we find him sprawling on the floor in some contorted and horrifying fit. And it was all so safe. The answer was dope. No, he never bought it off the street; he never had to. It came from the doctor, and it changed his life. He stopped playing in the band. I don't even remember him as a senior.

And then I left to go to college. Occasionally my mother would speak of him when I visited. "Andy's in Memorial Hospital," she'd say. "Mental ward." Several years later: "Andy's at the County Hospital; you know they don't put them there unless they don't think they'll come back." Sometime later: "Andy's at Pine Rest-Ben Vander Aa was in Grand Rapids and he thought he'd try to talk to him. Said he was really bad, couldn't even understand a word."

So Andy's not been in my mind for many years. And Andy's not had his own mind either for many years. Our Andys are so pleasant to forget, because our Andys are an inconvenience in our lives and even make us miserable. They disturb our order. They sprawl out in our beautiful suburban lives like horrid nightmares, like very unwanted guests. Our Andys are dried blood on a clean white shirt. And when they die we say that we remember them because a memory is sometimes a rather safe place for us to hide.

And it's easy to come up with some Pharisaical way of dealing with our Andys and their slow but often inevitable ends. "There but for the grace of God ... " is a favorite. “Andys teach us to be thankful for what we are." "Andys humble us." "Andys are God-given symbols of our own sin and misery."

But Andy wasn't a symbol; he wasn't an object lesson for my pride. Andy was a human being. He looked like all the rest of us when he pulled on his suit for swimming lessons. And often I saw him cry. I heard him laugh. I heard him swear. I heard him pray when it was his turn. I saw blood squirt from his lips. And he was always so embarrassed after a seizure, and angry because he never really knew it had happened himself. It was something outside of him, something that possessed him--something that finally killed the spirit in him.

Sometimes easy answers aren't sufficient. Sometimes we can't dismiss our Andys with some kind of cheap theology. Sometimes it's wrong to see our Andys in a kind of concentric world where everybody else exists only to teach us some truth. That kind of world is built on something called pride.

I don't know what to do with Andy today. I don't know where he fits in my neat little catechism; I don't know if it's even right for me to think that I'm supposed to learn something from Andy's life. Maybe it's good for us to be awed by the sheer complexity of this world God has created, the world we have messed.

Sometimes there's little we can do but work and pray.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I grew up with Andy too. At about the same time, a younger lad from the community, I will call SW, was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome. On top of that, my own father was diagnosed with Grand Mal seizures.

Andy, SW and my father all had a severe disorder. Each in their own way were very misunderstood, even by well-intentioned Christians.

During one seizure a well intended friend told Andy not to "go to sleep on us." SW was repeatedly disciplined [corporal punishment] by the Christian school principal for swearing, and my Dad was treated like a leper... times have changed in a positive direction and societal awareness has too.

Thank the good Lord... Even though this story was written years ago, the message needs to continue to be heard.

A grand mal seizure — also known as a generalized tonic-clonic seizure — features a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.

Tou·rette's syn·drome--a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations and often the compulsive utterance of obscenities.