Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Hilary and I have the joy and privilege of looking after him. His main home is with his mum and dad, two disabled brothers and three able sisters. As respite for his main family Daniel spends part of every week, and most or all of some weeks with us. The arrangement is supervised, monitored and supported by our local Children's Services department. It's called Shared Care.
Daniel has lissencephaly (lissencephaly, we say, we shall say this only once.) His brain is smooth when it shouldn't be. A smooth brain can lead to a jerky life. In Daniel's case jerky episodes can turn into prolonged epileptic fits. Daniel can neither walk nor talk, though he can get about and make very meaningful sounds and gestures.
We think of Daniel as ours - but not ours.
We didn't choose him. He was given to us. We were vetted and selected - but we didn't select him.
We don't know how long we've got him for - or how long he's got - or how long we've got.
He'll never be able to repay us - or disappoint us. Our pleasure and rewards are of the simplest kind.
Every moment matters - is all there is.
Wherever Daniel goes he takes a very big cushion (bigger than him) and a Sky TV remote control - and that's when he's travelling light.
His rule for life is: If you want the full attention of someone, sit on his head.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Part of it was the story of a man who kept an orphanage for Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto. When they were transported to their deaths in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, he insisted on going with them to protect them as much as he could, even though this meant he would have to die too.
I thought of Daniel and the others we care for. I felt, as if praying, that unless I am that man in relation to them, my life has no meaning.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
He is commonly regarded as one of Africa's most ruthless tyrants, unleashing persecution and violence on anyone who dares challenge his iron rule.
So it came as a surprise to Zimbabwe's main opposition when they discovered that President Robert Mugabe has the manners of a Victorian English gentleman.
Why it should be regarded as a matter of surprise, let alone comment, is beyond me. We already know this, OK - people can be charming and also brutal, cultured and cruel. We know it, big time. After a day in the death camps presiding over the most revolting cruelties, men crossed the wire to be with their families - 'decent' men at home, who loved their children, refined men who listened to Bach and Beethoven.
The thing with Mugabe was never, like, 'Oh, how uncouth he is, what a boor; he swears in company, he belches at the table'. Politically, he's a criminal, that's all.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Many of those who have late-term abortions are the most vulnerable: teenagers who didn't realise that they were pregnant until five months' gestation; women with learning disabilities; those using methadone in drug rehabilitation programmes, which puts a halt to your periods. Women like the one I read of recently, whose partner started beating her up when she became pregnant, and who feared she would never be able to escape him if she had his baby. (In more than 30% of domestic violence cases, the abuse started during pregnancy.) Women who have suffered a severely traumatic episode - the death of a partner, or a child, for instance - who fear that the stress might affect foetal development. The BPAS has just published a 28-day audit of late-term abortion requests, to be distributed to MPs. The stories include that of a woman with two small daughters from a previous marriage, who had an unplanned pregnancy with her current partner, which he urged her to continue. She then found out that he was abusing her daughters. As Ann Furedi of BPAS says, the stories "provide a really stark contrast to the abstract, philosophical and rather sterile discussion about viability and not viability. What this does is to take it woman by woman. The challenge that we're putting to MPs is to look at this and think about it - what makes you think that the lives of these women would have been better if they'd had to continue their pregnancy? We're talking about women who, by their own admission, are saying, 'I cannot cope with having this child'."