Loving expression of profound gratitude to the author’s severely disabled son, from whom he has learned unexpected lessons about life.
Never scanting the heartaches and medical emergencies, never maudlin or under any illusions about outcome, Crane nonetheless finds affirmation and comfort in accepting what good can be gleaned from his family’s heartbreak. Aidan appeared normal when he was born in western Massachusetts. But ten days later, he developed seizures that affected his breathing, was rushed to hospital and placed in the pediatric ICU, the first of the countless anguished medical emergencies. A CAT scan revealed that his brain was malformed; although outwardly normal, he would never speak, see, or walk. Sam, a professor of Asian Studies at a nearby university, and Maureen, a trained nurse, learned how to medicate their son’s seizures, exercise his limbs, and give him as many rewarding experiences as they could. They decided to have another child despite the risks, but shortly after Margaret was born healthy and normal, Aidan suffered a massive grand mal seizure so damaging that he will always have to be fed by a tube and can no longer kick or coo as he once did. While Aidan endured these endless traumas, Sam began studying anew the Chinese classics he taught, looking for wisdom that might apply to their situation. The philosopher Chuang Tzu offered him the most persuasive solace: “all lives are contingent and limited . . . we never find all that we are looking for [and] cannot escape death.” Comforted, Sam began to appreciate all that Aidan would not have to experience in his life and to acknowledge that, although his son’s existence had curtailed his travel, it had led him to write and to enter local politics while seeking more funds for the school Aidan now attends.
One of those rare stories about family tragedy: both remarkably perceptive and lacking in self-pity.