Tuesday, May 17, 2016
The saddest questions are the ones you already know the answers to, without having to ask.
“Awb oar!” the little boy said – all aboard! – but he was too big to speak that small. Except of course he wasn’t.
“His name is Christian.” Joe said that to me, a few months ago. He was speaking of his great-grandson, who was flailing his way onto the Coal Tender car of the Arrowhead mall choo-choo train, the open car just behind the faux locomotive.
I nodded. “And so is yours.”
I met Joe and Christian and Martha, Joe’s wife, just after New Year’s Day, the very first Saturday of a brand new year. I had just started driving the train, but they were old hands, and Christian has been a train fanatic forever.
How long is forever? That’s one of the questions I don’t ask. At a guess, I’d say Christian is eight years old, but I’m an easy sell on six or ten.
I haven’t asked what’s wrong with him, either, but it’s a lot: Random and unreliable muscle control coupled with a significant mental disability. Christian can want as well as any Toddler, and as stridently. He can intend for his muscles, but they will not cooperate for him, not well and not for long. He does almost everything he can do with help from Martha. He can verbalize, again like a Toddler – making sounds that are less than abstract ideas but still more than mere grunts – but he cannot conceptualize, as far as I’ve seen, and it’s plausible to me that he never will.
And I haven’t asked what Christian’s deal is, either, but this is what I know for sure: Christian’s deal is Joe and Martha. Your kid’s kid’s kid is your kin, and even if no one else stepped up to take care of Christian, Joe and Martha did.
And that’s saying something, because they’re no kids themselves. Joe was an Army Chaplain in Vietnam, and he has (more…)