Thursday, May 23, 2013

Far From the Tree

I’ve written about this book before when I was reading it a few weeks ago. I had to take it back to the library and wait for my turn again – It weighs in at just over 700 pages PLUS 200 pages of notes and bibliography.

But by far it is the most interesting and thought provoking book I’ve read in a long time. (Must admit I’m re-reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis right now and it belongs in the same strata.)

Not everyone will be interested in this book and I confess I did not read every chapter. Andrew Solomon writes about a wide variety of people who have some form of difference; in many cases what we call a disability. Some of those I could just not relate to, but others …

As the parent of a child with Asperger’s and more, I struggle daily with my role as a parent, how to cope but more importantly how do I help prepare her for the future as a adult; especially for the time when I may not be around.

Solomon addresses labels, how society lumps people under those labels for good and bad. But those labels are not who we are, they are just part of what we might be. And if I might add some interpretation to his words, what we can be.

The last chapter is simply called “Father” and in it he begins the story of his own path to fatherhood (far from traditional in our usual definitions) and many passages resonated with me.

Just a few:

“People want to get better, but they don’t want to change.”

“Any of us can be a better version of himself, but none of us can be someone else.”

And finally this one, which pretty much sums up a lots of things: 

“Incorporating exceptional people into the social fabric is expensive and time-consuming. The emotional and logistical calisthenics can be draining (emphasis mine!) Yet if parents often end up grateful for their problematical children, then so, in the end, can we all be grateful for the courage such people may embody, the generosity they may teach us, even the ways they complicate the world.”

Made me feel a little better!

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