Friday, September 14, 2012

The sun, the moon and the stars

Yesterday on the drive home from work I was thinking about writing a book. The Sun, The Moon and The Stars, I thought.

The stars were an image I used in a story I wrote about Ben's birth.

When I was pregnant with him he woke me with kicks at about 4 a.m. each morning.

It was dark outside and I would walk to the window and look up at the blinking stars and wonder who he was and where he came from.

The stars represented the mystery and majesty of my son and my longing for him.

Later they tracked our drive to the hospital on the cold, clear night Ben was born.

There was a light snowfall, and the snowflakes twinkled, seemingly suspended in the golden street lights.

Less than 24 hours later we walked back out of the hospital, without our baby boy, hollow.

The stars that had guided us were hidden. The diamonds of snow floating in the sky had turned to dirty brown slush under our boots.

The sun and the moon represent my Dad, who died three years ago at age 88. A true British gentleman who grew up in a time of black top hats and horse-drawn carriages, he never lost his sense of wonder at the natural world.

Whenever I feel the warmth of a brilliant sun or see a full, low-hanging moon, I believe it's my Dad, giving me front-row seats to the beauty that still exists in the world.

I went to our local book shop last night. I wanted to get a book I saw reviewed last weekend in the New York Times—called The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. It's about a stay-at-home dad who loses his children in a freak accident and becomes a caregiver, working with a teenage boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

But before I found that book, I spotted an author I'd read before: Junot Diaz. He won the Pulitzer in 2008 for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the table was a new collection of his short stories called This Is How You Lose Her.

I opened it up and my eyes fell on the first chapter: The Sun, The Moon, The Stars.

My thoughts had appeared in black type on the page!

And then I found my book by Evison, and read this excerpt on the inside:

Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you've ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you've ever hatched, every conceit or endeavour you've ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant. Soon or later it will happen. So prepare yourself. Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust. Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact: nothing is indestructible.

Which I thought was a perfect description of how it feels to learn your child is broken in a way that threatens to keep him on the margins of life.


Powerful. Thank you for writing this.

Wow, that's a chilling quote. Chilling because it is so true. I just ordered the Evison book a couple of days ago and am looking forward to delving into it...thanks, Louise.

I agree with the quote that nothing is indestructive but I'm having difficulty understanding how one can refer to a child as "broken" in the closing paragraph.

Hi Anonymous -- thanks for your comment.

I believe we are all broken -- we are all mortal and we are all imperfect. My son is simply broken in ways that are more visible to others.

Being different in those ways threatens his acceptance by people who can pretend they're perfect.

Beautifully written, Louise! I am going to order this book immediately. Thank you for sharing and I love the metaphor of stars, sun and moon.... drawing the generations together and finding connectedness in our lives is something that I think about every day.

I think it's sad that perfection (or the illusion of perfection) is something that some people strive for. In a way, imperfection should be seen as the norm since we are all unique. I think it's our differences --physical or otherwise --that make us interesting. At the same time, it's our vulnerability that makes us worry about what other people think. This is a very personal conversation in that it hits some raw nerves in me so maybe I need to think on it more.

Dear Anonymous -- I agree that imperfection and vulnerability and fragility is what makes us human -- it is the norm. And that's a good thing because it enables us to be empathetic and compassionate.

But many people are able to walk through life presenting an image of invulnerability to the world -- that's where the pretending comes in. Our culture rewards people who appear to have it "all together."

After reading your post I thought about how while I believe we are all broken in terms of being vulnerable and fragile, there is also a wholeness in that state because it's our natural state.

Look forward to your further thoughts!

A beautiful post. Thank you.

I just finished "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving" -- I found it poignant and very funny but not as powerful as I'd imagined. Junot Diaz, on the other hand, is one of my favorites -- I think his writing is incredibly good -- painful, hilarious, irreverent.

Tittles usually come to mind during the writing process or when one has finished. However, you always felt that Ben lives within himself --in some way.

And, in addition to this, you are a woman of intellect, compassion, and vision.

Thus, a couple of ideas come to mind:

1) The Boy From Within

2) Taking A Second Look


Thanks for the ideas Matt. I appreciate them! I like the idea of number 2 -- most people don't take the time in life to get to know people who are different. I like the idea that things are not as they appear initially. Thanks again!

Elizabeth -- I'm reading Evison's book right now and am somewhat disappointed given the fanfare in the Times. Did you read Diaz' new book?