I made a bold move today.
I sent a bold email to one of my idols, which is stunning considering the fact that today I feel shaken and stirred and spit out by the world. I feel like crying the kind of cry that fills the house with that horrible sound your car makes when a belt breaks. So, I cried a little because my life is kind of messy right now, and then I emailed Andrew Solomon.
For those of you unfamiliar, Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology. But this doesn’t tell you much. What I want you to know is that he spent over ten years interviewing the parents of kids who were deaf, dwarfs, geniuses, sociopaths or disabled. His idea was that we expect our children to be like us. We expect them to look like us, to think somewhat like us, to have intelligences that remind us of ourselves. Far From the Tree is a tome that talks about those children. It’s a book that helped me understand my son.
Cassius has Down Syndrome. Because of this, he was born with a brain that is different from my own. His intelligence is different. His heart and capacity for guile are different. I’m beyond lucky to call him my boy. And he’s the one that inspired me to start writing the book that I’m halfway done with. It’s called Dear Little Fish and while it’s about him, it’s also about me.
So, I decided to write Andrew. I gushed an email gush. I told him that, while I know that he’s beyond busy with his writing and lectures, I wanted him to read my book. I also told him that one of my high dreams was to give a Ted Talk with him. Maybe in London. We could go back to his flat for tea or beer. We could hang out. (Well, I didn’t say that, but the dream is there.)
So, here’s to bold moves. Here’s to high dreams. And I told Andrew to check out the following poem on my website. It’s for Cassius and everything that he teaches me. Here’s to the blessings that surprise us in this life.
Mint Leaf for David Foster Wallace
Often there are times when I am staring off
into the skim line of horizon, where the soft peach
of sky folds into the earth’s body,
and I find myself comparing my son
to David Foster Wallace.
I remember reading about Mr. Wallace’s suicide,
about his parents knowing that there was something wrong
with their bright boy, about his starry rise
amongst the intellectual literati
and his depression so debilitating that, like Kafka,
the disease that tormented was life itself.
And I couldn’t help feeling sad that in my love
of Wallace’s brilliant articulations,
and my appreciation for his infinite, witty jests
I too had jumped up to clap my soft hands,
and did not see his overwhelming sadness.
And today, as I watch my two year-old son,
diagnosed with Down Syndrome at just five days old,
I can’t help but wonder at the quality of his intelligence
and what he might have passed
on to Mr. Wallace? Because there are days
when I feel a particular loneliness
and I am tempted to recline into the cynic’s
tattered and yellow-stained armchair to cast dispersions at life’s
false pageantry, and to mutter perhaps, a diatribe or two about the state
of the world.
And on these days, I come home to my son,
who greets me just as he does on every other day,
lifting his small arms into the hallelujah air
and clapping fervently, as if I’d scored yet
another touchdown in our touchdown of days.
And when he crawls forward, stopping briefly
to thumb a mint leaf or to laugh himself to tears,
I bend, grateful for his arms around my neck,
grateful for the reminder that some forms of intelligence break
the world into pieces of beautiful ugliness,
and some do not break the world at all.