Thursday, April 12, 2012

How We Do It: Part X of a Series


Sophie had a seizure as Oliver, she and I sat eating barbecue ribs and woody asparagus with bread-crumbs. It wasn't so much a big seizure, the kind that go on and on that necessitate serious action. She jerked, violently, and her sippee cup flew out of her hand, bounced on the floor and rolled, hard, under the half-moon of the cabinet. Oliver and I were discussing our lives, how difficult things can be. I had asked him how he copes, how he feels about living with the stress of Sophie and her seizures. I don't know. I just know that my friends couldn't ever do it. They'd cry all the time. I asked like who? and he named three or four of his closest buddies. He said, I mean they sit and have breakfast and dinner and don't have to deal with interruptions like seizures. They have a nice breakfast. I nodded, gave Sophie a bite and chewed my own food. Oliver got up and spit out a wad of asparagus into the garbage can, and when he sat down, I told him that while his life was indeed difficult, and I was sorry for that, there was always something going on in every family. I also told him that some people might have easier lives but some people might have more difficult ones. There's always someone who's got it worse, Oliver, I said. Like what? Oliver asked, and I said something about a girl like Sophie who possibly lived with her mother and brother in Iraq and had to endure bombs and all kind of mayhem in addition to the seizures. I cringed, though, reciting this, as it sounded like our family's version of Poor starving people in Africa might have killed for that woody piece of asparagus you just spit into the garbage can. Sophie had her seizure, then, exactly on cue. The cup flew under the half-moon of the cabinet and lodged on the back wall, a pool of juice and water just out of reach. Both Oliver and I went at it with a broom and then the broomstick. What about the last worst person? Oliver said, his voice muffled as he lay on his stomach on the floor with the broom, and I told him that I didn't know what he meant. What last person? I said. You know, he said, the last person who has it the worst, when there's no one else to have it worse. And he jabbed the cup a few times so that it rolled out of the moon and he picked it up and put it in front of Sophie, and then I told him that his question was one of the most amazing ones I'd ever heard but that I didn't have an answer.

26 comments:

  1. Brilliant question. Reminded me of how my daughter used to see the world when she was that age. They smack you right between the eyes with their ability to see beyond the veil.
    We so need children in our lives - they make us so much more human.

    Your Oliver is just plain wonderful!

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  2. What an amazing boy you have. I just love your blog -- it lifts me up! Thanks

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  3. Very sweet.

    Hopefully that person doesn't know they are last.

    And it's ok that this is your version of kids starving in Africa, because we all need to be reminded of that from time to time, no matter what the circumstances

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  4. I had a brain blip with that question. Wow. Imagine being THE person in the world that had it worse than anyone else IN THE WORLD.

    Was kinda feeling sorry for myself this morning, but his question woke me up. I got schooled by your son.

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  5. That's a good question, Oliver. Something for us to think about.

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  6. Wisdom & humility, served up in 6 words. Your son is brilliant.

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  7. Oliver is brilliant - an amazing question. And if it helps, I have my own "starving kids in Africa" routine too.

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  8. There is no doubt that Oliver is exceptional. There is no doubt that he is going to take lessons and knowledge from his life with Sophie that will serve him well forever.

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  9. Never in a million years has that question popped in to my mind. amazed.

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  10. yup - what a thinker you have

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  11. Ack. That question made me cry. Instantly cry.

    I'd like to hop a plane just to hug that kid.

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  12. Love this snapshot. In my classroom/life - that question would be Quot of the Day. Perhaps of the Year. Brilliant kid

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  13. As you well know, that Oliver is awesome. And I wish the answer wasn't: there's never a last worst person.

    maybe it isn't. I'd like to think that.

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  14. Simply amazing. You have an old, old soul on your hands.

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  15. Your writing is amazing. I love this post, it couldn't have been more expressive and economical. And Oliver, bless him. Wonderful boy.

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  16. Elizabeth, I love the way you write. Weaving that asparagus in there -- genius.

    Can there ever really be a "last person"? I'm afraid that difficulties, fluid and arising and receding as they are, stretch into infinity. (For that matter, so does happiness.)

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  17. I've got to believe that no one is last all the time. But if there is such a person, I want to believe that they are equipped with something extraordinary that allows beauty, love, and courage to find their way to them. I recommend a song by Grace Pettis, "Love is There".

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  18. I think this might be my favorite post ever. That Oliver.

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  19. I am so struck by the way these posts make me feel. You write in this lyrical way that encapsulates an entire scene into one paragraph, complete with emotion and action and implication that stretches on beautifully.

    I love Oliver's question (and his bold rejection of the asparagus) and it really made me think. In my head, I believe that we all have our own 'worst' scenarios such that what might be 'worst' for one person isn't necessarily horrible to contemplate for another. I think I'd say that there is no universal Worst, in that sense. But I love that you two had that conversation.

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  20. What a philosophical young man. There is no last person, or at least that's what i think. because it's all too subjective about what's "worse"... everytime i hear of the worse thing ever, something else tops it and what's worse to one of us may not be the worst to another. i don't know... sometimes you just can't compare things, you just have to be grateful that "someone" has it worse bc it reminds you of your blessings not bc you really have to do a direct contrast, ya know?

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  21. Sorry I'm late here, Elizabeth, but I read this the other day and I thought it was just perfection.

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  22. WOW... glad i scrolled down the page to find the "how we do it's", What about that "last worst person"?- unfortunately there is a lot of competition for that spot in this world of ours. I shall be pondering Oliver's perspective for awhile.... I think your mothering will be a great gift to Oliver as he matures.

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  23. He is a beautiful, deep, insightful young man, and I'm so glad that you didn't try to answer him or (heaven forbid) fake an answer (not that you would). It is just one of those mysteries, and I admire how his mind works.

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  24. I agree with the folks that said there is no worst. But I love that he asked the question.

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  25. That is a brilliant question (I'm new to your blog and catching up a bit). Also, props to Oliver for posing that it is hard to have sisters seizing through breakfast. I know that as I seized through omelets, chocolate croissants, and bowls of cereal, my brother felt those feelings, too. But at times when he was a young kid, it was hard for him to express that, when his sister asked who he was in the midst of a hallucination reminiscent of an acid trip at Woodstock, it sent pain down his body because he had spent his whole life being an incredible brother and invaluable support. (He's more recently been able to acknowledge these feelings and wrote a kick-ass college essay about them). Regardless, your son is awesome.
    ~Julianna

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