Recently, in boarding a small plane, I found myself in seat 11A. (Now, this is, of course, better than the seat I once held on another small plane: 13A. In that case, the odd thing about 13A was that the last row was 11. I had begun to wonder whether my seat was on the wing or in the bathroom, when the stewardess told me to take any open seat; seat 13A is the number used when planes are overbooked, which I find to be an interesting piece of trivia that I will keep in mind the next time I am assigned seat 13A.) As it turned out, seat 11A was a non-reclining seat, located in a row of five seats across the back of the plane. It was almost like riding a bus, but as good fortune would have it, I turned out to be alone, so I had the comfort of four seats. Actually, as a premier executive flyer on United Airlines, I was entitled to much better seats, but somehow my frequent flier number had been missed by the ticket agent and therefore I had been put in with the rank and file, in the rankest position, actually. I eyed passengers with blue tickets as they sat down in better seats than I, with my gold card, had been accorded. Then I thought, someone has to sit in row 11, so why not me? That thought made my flight back much more pleasant than it would have been had I asked the why-me question -- and I really enjoyed the four-seat expanse.
The why-not-me question avoids a lot of stress and angst. For example, when our children (Noelle and Doah) were born with birth defects, I never asked why me. I cannot tell you why that question never crossed my mind; it just never did. Neither did Donnie think of that question. If we were to have asked a question, it would have been why not us.
The next generation is following that same path. Shane and Lemony first had a baby with hydronephrosis. That was Nathaniel, born Christmas day 2001. For a year, his urine was collected externally. Then he had five surgeries, the last of which "took." Every year he returns to San Francisco for an annual check-up. He has four more years to go, after which he will be declared "cured." Yeah! Last year at this time, Nathaniel's sister Nikolina showed up -- disassembled. Readers have followed her progress from unlikely-to-live to cheerful and spunky one-year old, who has met all her intellectual milestones. The physical ones are a little different. Following her August neurosurgery, doctors had been optimistic that she would be able to walk, but it turns out that the optimism was misplaced. Now a year old, Nikolina has not had any desire to stand. Today, at Nathaniel's baseball game, as Nikolina sat in her stroller, paying no attention to her right leg which had somehow ended up propped at an angle against the side of the stroller, Shane confirmed that Nikolina does not have feeling in her legs. So, it looks like she may be paraplegic like her Aunt Noelle, our younger daughter, now 32. It will be interesting to find out how much more doctors will be able to do for Nikolina than they were able to do for Noelle, who was in braces for 21 years and then had to give them up for a wheelchair. And no, neither Shane and Lemony, as the parents, nor Donnie and I, as the grandparents, have any desire to search for an answer to the question, why me? These things happen; they are a combination of genetics, environmental influences, and pure chance. So, why not us? We all love both these kids, and like their Aunt Noelle and Uncle Doah, they are likely to make their own kind of positive contribution to the world around them.
Now Lizzie has decided that, given her 40% chance of having a baby with birth defects, she would prefer to adopt rather than create another handicapped child. Recently she told me that she has encountered a dilemma: whether to adopt a "normal" child or a child with birth defects. She feels that she would cope easier with combining parenting and work if she were to adopt a child with just the average range of health complaints. On the other hand, she feels that she should develop a handicapped child because as sister to two handicapped adults and aunt to two handicapped children, in addition to her background in neuroscience, brain pathology, and biology, she is uniquely qualified to parent a child with nearly any kind of birth defect. I think she has just taken a step beyond her parents and why-not-me thinking! I don't quite know how to name that step but I guess it might be something like, "Send it my way; I'm ready!" Think how many parentless handicapped kids would be adopted if everyone would/could take that step!
(Sorry for the double-posting for those of you who also read Blest Atheist -- it was too difficult to decide whether this was a general interest post [BA] or a family post [Clan of Mahlou], so I avoided the need to decide by posting in both locations although I try not to do that very often.)