Friday, April 24, 2009

An Impeded Life

Retard. I have always been a bit sensitive to the word. The definition for retard is to make slow; delay the development or progress of an action, process, etc.; hinder or impede; or disparaging slang for a mentally retarded person. I suppose it’s an innocent enough word compared to some, but hardly ever used in proper context or without being malicious, it's a word that causes me to cringe. I’m sure my disdain for the word was influenced by my dad’s little brother, Roger, who is mentally retarded. Anytime I heard the word I took it as a personal attack against him - somehow against me. My uncle's retardation was just part of life, no explanation needed, you looked out for him, found humor in what you couldn’t control and loved him for it.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him, but I can vividly picture him, over 20 years my senior, wishing everyone he met a "Happy Birthday" and how he would say "Yes, dear", with his eyes tightly closed and his head cocked so far to the left, his ear almost rested on his shoulder. He was always praising God with a "P.T.L. Praise the Lord" or a "Happy Birthday Jesus." I can imagine him gently rocking as he built with Legos stacking bricks on top of one another, just so my Pappy could take them apart again. He had a fondness for toilet paper, pens, and toothbrushes. Before leaving our house my mom and grandmother would have to check his pockets so that in the morning we didn’t have to make it through the day with tarter encrusted teeth and so my grandmother didn’t launder the five Bics he had stashed. The toilet paper, a parting gift of sorts. There was the time he shut my sister's cat in my dresser drawer and we didn’t find it until several days later (yes my room was that messy, scary huh?). He was more than funny stories, he participated in the Special Olympics, he had a job, he went to church, he loved bowling, he had friends. He had a life, not like yours and mine, not typical, but he had one.

You may wonder why I’m using past tense. Well, my Uncle is now lying in a hospital bed battling cancer, from what I am told, he is a shell of who he once was. He has fought this battle before and won, but it has returned and now he is weakened and most likely won’t pull through. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fly back for the funeral. I won’t visit him in the hospital much to my dismay. I could find solace in the fact that he wouldn’t know me anyway, like I said it’s been years, but then again his memory would often surprise me. I could comfort myself with thinking that at least I can remember him the way he was, but that would be selfish and ridiculous. The fact that Roger is lying in a hospital has made me see myself as being somewhat retarded, as well as a retarder. Retarded, in the fact that I have the tendency to disengage myself from home and my family in a way that only allows me to remember people as they once were and not how they are now. Good or bad, I’ve done it with everyone, not just Roger. I pick and choose what I want to remember, what I choose to involve myself with back home. The things that may hurt I tend to stand-off from. I don’t see life for what it really is sometimes, I hinder the truth with blindness so that I don’t have to deal with what I don’t want to handle. You see if I went to that hospital bed and I saw Roger lying there with an ashen face, the rosy-cheeked-man just a glimmer, I may not like what I’m seeing but the truth of the matter is I should be rejoicing. I shouldn’t retard the process, delay the progress, of what he is going through because in weeks possibly days my uncle will no longer be considered what some call a retard, but he will finally reach his completion. He will finally get to be whole in the presence of the one he loves so much. Nothing will be hindered; no more seizures just dancing before his God, no more body laden with cancer he will be covered in righteousness, no more limited understanding for God will reveal his ways to him, and no more building with Legos for God has built him a mansion. And all I can say is P.T.L.

8 comments:

Thoughts of "FAITH" said...

I am tearing up again reading this even though you read it to me earlier. I still have to smile when I think of him coming out of the bathroom with toilet paper hanging from his pockets and then when grandmom would check them before they would leave. It would seem like her pulling stuff out of his pockets would never end.

granni said...

Yes, Roger did some funny things and he still makes you laugh when you think about them. What you wrote was just beautiful.

Tonya said...

It is easy to avoid/forget realities or memories when we are away. So sorry that you cannot make it back to visit with your uncle - or go to his funeral.

After Katie died, I read an incredible book "The Power of the Powerless". You really should read it. It explains how powerful the lives are of people like Katie and Roger.

Bonita said...

Wow! That was very touching. I'm sorry for your uncle and I am praying for him right now. I'm amazed at your insight in this situation.

Natalia said...

What a lovely honouring post. Prayers for your dear uncle. :(
I'm sorry you won't be able to visit, but I bet he knows he's loved. ((((Hugs))))

Karin @ 6ByHisDesign said...

thinking of you...hope you are feeling appropriately cruddy, but not too much so!

~Karin

Halfmoon Girl said...

Wow, you made me cry with this post, and gave me something to think about. What a lovely tribute to your uncle.

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