MY SON: GOD’S MISTAKE?
OK, I admit: I have a problem with it. It doesn’t seem to bother my wife --- not as much as it bothers me, at any rate. I think women may be more accepting of things like this. Maybe I’m a little closed-minded, but I really don’t think I’m any less tolerant than most men. Or, maybe it upsets me so much because it involves my son. Would it trouble me less if it were my daughter?
Maybe the reason it bothers me more than it does my wife is that we don’t have as many people like that on my side of the family; in fact, I can think of only one of my relatives who’s like that: My Uncle Charlie. But, right off the top of my head, I can name at least five or six of my wife’s relatives who are like that. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why it doesn’t seem to bother her so much.
It bothered Dianne Feinstein’s parents and grandparents. But they were Jews from the Old Country, and I am not. Maybe my attitude is a holdover from that of my grandparents who were, in fact, immigrants. Again, I don’t know if it would bother me so much to have a daughter like that.
“Like that,” I said. DAMN! I can’t even use the word for people like my son.
“Like that.” Maybe if I called him “special”? No, that wouldn’t work; it would imply that he’s retarded --- ooops! I mean “mentally challenged” or “differently abled.” And he’s not --- in fact, he’s exceptionally bright. But I’ve learned that many people like him are mentally gifted, and actual studies by scholars at University College London, Lafayette College, and Johns Hopkins have shown that males like my son are 15% richer than other Western men who attended college, and 26% richer if they graduated. His group has historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. Why? Nobody really knows, but it seems that their brains are structured in a way that widens their range of abilities, and the genes which may determine their condition seem also to be the ones which govern development of the language centers of the brain.
So I should be proud of him, not ashamed, wouldn’t you think? I’m sorry…I can’t help it. I try, but it still bothers me. It bothers the hell out of me.
“The hell”: What a curious term for me to use right now, especially since people down through history --- and in some places even today --- have considered people like my son to be the spawn of the devil. There have been societies in which children were actually killed when it became apparent that they were like that. Into the 18th and 19th centuries, they suffered severe prejudice, and the condition was often “beaten out of” people. As adults, they were shunned by society, which resulted in fewer of them marrying and reproducing. And, as was the case with Senator Feinstein, they were often forced to “switch-hit,” but as prejudice against them declined somewhat during the 20th century, this became less common (although Dory Previn wrote a song in which she related that the nuns in her school “broke her out of it”).
For some unknown reason, the rising age of motherhood seems to have increased the incidence of this condition; statistically, older mothers seem more likely to give birth to children “like that.” And, even though I just referred to “the genes which may determine their condition,” in my heart I do not believe that it is genetic, that they were born that way; God doesn’t make mistakes.
“Honey,” asks my wife, “Tell me again: Exactly when did you sit down with our son and have a heart-to-heart talk with him, tell him he could choose how he wanted to be, and he chose to be like he is? Did your dad have that talk with you and you chose to be the way you are?”
“That’s silly,” I always reply. “Of course not.”
My wife tells me all the time that I should be proud of our son, and accept him as he is. I should, she insists, embrace his differentness. After all, he’s in good company: People such as Bill Clinton, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Forbes, Ronald Reagan, Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria, Paul McCartney, and even Barack Obama. But I wonder if she really wants our son to be a member of the club that also includes James Baldwin and Richard Simmons and Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain and Tiny Tim and George Michael and Tom Cruise --- and such people as John Dillinger, the Boston Strangler, Jack-the-Ripper, and Pat Robertson.
Maybe someday I’ll change. Maybe someday it won’t upset me so much to watch our son write and draw and bat differently from his brothers. Maybe someday it won’t trouble me so much that my son…my son…is like that.
“Like that.” No. I’m going to use the word for it. After all he is my son, and I love him and accept him. I am not ashamed of him.
I accept and embrace and love my little southpaw. My left-handed son.
There: I’ve said it; I’ve used the word.