“Some People Even Take Them Home” is now ready for a proper introduction

There have been some electronic stumbles out of the self-publishing gate but the Amazon paperback and electronic versions of “Some People Even Take Them Home:” A Disabled Dad, A Down syndrome Son and Our Journey to Acceptance are now available. Other electronic versions such as iBooks will come online in the next week or two. If you want the paperback copy in your bookstores you will probably have to ask for it.

The book has been a long time in preparation, like 20 years. I first started putting together thoughts and notes in the early 90’s. I revisited it every few years until I got serious in the spring of 2013 when I took a sabbatical from my professor position at The Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Rewrites, bouts with agents, prospective publishers and the decision to self-publish in today’s chaotic book atmosphere have brought us to today. The book will have to explain itself but I have had several questions about the title.

Astute observers will note the title is in quotes: “Some People Even Take Them Home.” On April 7, 1979 a shamefully remote professional descendant of Hippocrates actually uttered those words. In his horribly misguided attempt to be humane the doctor telling us that Jason had Down syndrome, informed us that we could put Jason in a foster home or an institution. The tone of his voice indicated, in fact, that was the preferred decision. Then he uttered those incredibly insensitive words which shaped our conversations since that day: “But, some people even take them home.” That word “even” sounded as if it was in capital letters and over the years the type has gotten much larger.

Later we found out there was a philosophical battle raging among pediatricians, especially in the central Florida area, over whether keeping a Down syndrome child at home was advisable. Doctors hesitated to subject their patients to what they felt might be “undue influence” to persuade them to take the children home. I thought our pediatrician bent over too far the other way and left us with the impression we would be more than a little nuts if we took Jason home.

That ugly story juxtaposes with the fact that when I was born badly crippled in 1949, (yes, that was the word in 1949) many of my Dad’s friends urged him to immediately commit me to the State Mental Institution which happened to be in our home town. Thankfully my parents resisted and my wife, Jean, and I took Jason home.

This book is the result of those two momentous decisions. I hope you will order a copy. I pray you will like it. I ask that if you do, you ll write positive reviews and then send the book and the review to a friend. I will need your help to make the book go viral.

Some people handle life’s quirks with resiliency and some don’t

I was talking to a high school classmate the other day and the subject turned to people from high school who have thrived and those who haven’t.

I will never forget the high school counselor who, in a conversation about my daughter, told my late wife Jean, “Mrs. McGuire, High School has NOTHING to do with real life.” Absolutely true but sometimes life seems so arbitrary about who excels and who doesn’t.

Navigating the challenges of adulthood looks different to every person and academic intelligence or high school success isn’t always a good indicator.

Surviving high school is usually about wearing, saying and doing the right thing and academic success usually goes to the students who do what they are told, when they are told and how they are told.

That’s not the way real life works. Real life depends on performance, savvy, self-starting ambition and compassion.

I occasionally meet young people who are so self-absorbed it is actually mind boggling. They really do believe the world revolves around them and are stunned when you don’t agree with their assessment.

Let’s face it, “me” is the organizing principle for all of us. Yet, most people who make life work for them understand that there is an interdependence among all of us that prompts us to be kind, thoughtful and accommodating.

So many of the folks who can’t “handle life’s quirks” are people who see their frame and lens as the only possible lens from which to view life. When things don’t go their way, they get angry, sad, frustrated and often just surrender. I guess the word I am searching for is resilience. The people who make life work for them have that special gift that allows them to bounce back from adversity called resilience.

I hope that when you order your copy of Some People Even Take Them Home: A Disabled Dad, A Down syndrome Son and our Journey to Acceptance you will find a story of resilience. Obstacles rise up in front of all of us but resiliency separates us.

Looking at the world from two sides

The woman  settled into the seat next to me on the airplane with a friendly greeting and a big smile. “I just love the holidays,” she said, “everybody is so friendly.” My first thought was, of course everybody is friendly with you, you’re a happiness carrier.

We exchanged small talk with each other on the flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas where she lives until she blurted out, “Why does anyone go to Las Vegas  for Thanksgiving?” I explained that my wife had died in June and my son and I were meeting there to avoid past traditions. I mentioned that my son was going to be about three hours late. The news of the death of my wife made her pensive and she vowed she would give her husband a much bigger hug when she landed in the airport.

By that point I knew her name was Gretchen and we shared more details of our lives. Suddenly she reached for her purse and pulled out a business card. “Now if your son doesn’t make it tonight, you call me and come over for Thanksgiving dinner. One more hungry mouth won’t hurt a thing.”

Gretchen’s invitation was sincere and moving. I did not take advantage of it but I will remember her kindness for a very long time.

On Thanksgiving, Jeff and I had a nice Turkey dinner and we grabbed a cab to the show we were attending that night. The cab driver was a grizzled veteran and immediately launched into a schtick about being married seven times. He had a well-practiced repertoire of misogynistic jokes about wives and women that would make some passengers laugh but they were cringe-worthy and totally unworthy of reprinting.

Jeff and I agreed after the ride that the monologue may well be false but it really does not matter. The cabbie’s cynicism and bitterness is an indisputable fact even if he hasn’t been married seven times. If he hasn’t, his belief that his schtick is going to get him more tips is an even sadder commentary.

Gretchen has chosen a path of kindness, joy and generosity for her life and the cabbie follows a far more cynical path. We all face a similar choice. How do we want to be remembered from our chance encounters?