Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Birth (infancy) (08/20/09)
TITLE: Kim, An Infancy Well Lived
By Kathy Warnes
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Since Kim was child number five, my mom knew the procedure pretty well by the time his birthday came. She orchestrated everything perfectly until he decided to take a different turn before he greeted the world outside. In keeping with the times, the doctors used forceps to help Kim arrive and during the long and drawn out process, his brain didn’t get enough oxygen. The doctors told my mom and dad that he was retarded, but that he could be taught to function at an advanced infantile level. All of them added carefully that he would never function at a fully adult level.
Kim had a life-long birth and infancy, one that lasted for forty three years. The first years of his infancy were not easy for my mom and dad or his brothers and sisters. Kim could and did learn to walk, talk, bathe and feed himself and lead a fairly normal existence at home. The rest of us got used to his unusual habits like rocking back and forth and singing and humming to himself and we quickly beat up the few kids on the block who dared to make fun of him because he was different. We weren’t above yelling at him ourselves and asking mom why he couldn’t be like the rest of us, but we presented a united “defense of Kim” front to the world.
As Kim didn’t grow emotionally or intellectually older and we did, we asked more questions and didn’t get many answers. Mom tried to enroll Kim at the school the rest of us attended but in these pre-mainstreaming days, the school system could not handle children with special needs. The doctors advised mom and dad to send him to a special residential school or put him in an institution. They didn’t listen to the doctors. Finally, as he reached the later stages of his growth, Mom found a school for him that helped him progress from birth to intellectual and emotional infancy. He also learned how to do in the words of one of his school reports, “simple, repetitive tasks.” He happily used the skills that took him years to learn to work hard, take pride in his work, and earn money which he promptly spent on other people. He also learned to weave rugs and solve many a mean jig-saw puzzle. When he especially enjoyed something he would say, “That’s cool!”
The jobs that Kim could do provided drama in our family life. Dad and Kim would tend the coal furnace in our old farmhouse together and the walls shook with their discussions about the care and feeding of that furnace. Mom enlisted Kim to help in the kitchen and he commandeered the nurturing of the dishwasher. The rest of us were banned from using the dishwasher and only occasionally would he allow a uniquely privileged brother or sister to unload it for him.
Life with Kim was not always positive. He didn’t understand many of the things that developmentally normal people took for granted. Like many infants, he had temper tantrums and bouts of uncontrolled emotion. He could get angry as quickly as a finger snap, and recover from that anger just as quickly. He found wonder and humor and contentment in things like caterpillars and worms and washing cars and riding a bicycle. Despite what doctors and many ordinary people would call Kim’s infantile level of understanding, he instinctively comprehended the secret of living a good life. He trusted God and he knew how to live in the second and enjoy that second to overflowing.
The last years of Kim’s life were the highpoint of his infancy. He fished, he steered the boat, and he worked. He loved his girlfriend and he loved going out to dinner. He loved God and with his child-like faith, he knew that he and God would have a good time working together in heaven. He is working hard there now and enjoying every eternal minute.
Kim’s birth and long infancy are an example of learning and living with God and opening our minds and hearts to life and the experiences that God gives us. Kim didn’t set out to teach anyone profound faith lessons. The fact that he taught many profound lessons by the way he lived every day demonstrates that God does work in every life and in every misfortunate. I can hear Kim saying, “that‘s cool!”
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