Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More from the Land of Splat!

Most of my life I have lived with my family in the Land of Splat! One day we may be able to cross over the border to some other place, but for now, we have developed the survival skills that allow us to be almost comfortable here--and definitely happy.

How can one be happy when popping out from a childhood of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse into an adulthood rife with financial, medical, and career challenges? Easy! One looks for the blessings that are under one's nose. We all have them, no matter how difficult and dark life seems to be at times. Mainly we don't see them because we are covering God's light with our own gloom.

Examples, please? Certainly! I have filled one book (Blest Atheist) with them and am working on a second (Tending God's Sprinklers). Let's take just a couple here.

(1) A friend of mine told me when my daughter-in-law was pregnant with our first grandchild that there is great pleasure in being a grandparent, even more so than in being a parent, and that is because, unlike one's own small children, grandchildren can be sent home. They are not your responsibility, and so you can just have fun with them. That does resonate, but now that I have two grandchildren, I find that the greatest pleasure in being a grandparent lies somewhere else: in watching your own children be good parents (even improving on your parenting). Now the latter (improving) can be quite an achievement when the unthinkable happens, such as your children giving birth to their own handicapped children, as has happened with my son and daughter-in-law, whose son was born with hydronephrosis (eliminated by five surgeries at the University of San Francisco Medical Center) and daughter with a failure-to-close-at-midline defect that involved many of her organs, some aspects of which will be with her all her life. We call these our million-dollar babies because the son's surgery cost more than $1 million and the daughter's to date $3.2 million. Thank God for insurance, for ways in which hospitals and doctors are willing to reduce some costs and take long-term payments on others, and the fact that I earn a good income and can help out. And while we seem to be always scrambling for money to live on, there have been times that money to handle seemingly impossible situations has drifted down onto us like manna from heaven (yep, another possible topic for a post and certainly one covered in Blest Atheist, the book). Those are a few of the blessings: that we can manage these serious problems as a family. The trails through the Land of Splat! may be rocky, but together they are navigable--and God sheds light on our path all the time. Help comes frequently from the most unexpected sources (such as with Maury, the INS overseer who showed up unbidden just when we needed him). I expect that my granchildren, like their aunt and uncle before them, will turn out to be a blessing for other people, too. It has been amazing watching even the most crotchety people turn gentle in their presence, and they have, each according to his/her talents, been able to handle other people in concrete ways, serving as a model for their more physically and mentally capable peers. Good from bad, I think that must be one of God's mottos.

(2) The learning that comes from living in the Land of Splat! is tremendous. The latest proof of learning is my 7-year-old grandson who quizzed a new NICU (newborn intensive care unit) nurse, who was on duty when his sister was discharged after nearly three months at Stanford University Hospital, about an orange light on the monitor of another baby. "Why is the orange light on?" he asked. "The monitor lights tell us when babies need our help," she replied. "No, you don't understand," he answered patiently, "her sp02 level is not low enough to trigger an alarm, so why is the orange light on?" The nurse turned to my son and said, "He's a genius!" "No," answered Shane. "He has just been here too long." Like my grandson, I have learned a lot from being around challenging situations, and I have been able to use that knowledge to save my children's lives at times (yes, really) and to help many other people find the coping mechanisms and medical or educational treatments that they need. Once again, good from bad, the motto that floats around the Land of Splat!

Now, it is your turn. Have you ever spent time in the Land of Splat!? What are your examples?

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