Thursday, March 02, 2006


Wise words from Tom McMahon.

What I Have Learned In 15 Years

It was 15 years ago today that our 8-year-old son Ryan suffered a severe brain injury that left him unable to walk or talk or feed himself. He was in the hospital (in two hospitals, actually) for over six months, and ever since has lived with us at home. I thought I would share some of the lessons I've learned in these past 15 years:

* Some Run Away

I thought I'd start out with the most unpleasant reality first. That in times of real trouble, some people you thought were your true-blue friends or close family members you thought were of solid character can turn out to have the proverbial feet of clay. For whatever reason, they're never around anymore. Why? I don't know. But you have to get to the point where you worry about this about as much as you worry that your pet ferret can't do fractions, which is to say not at all. Yeah, it hurts. But your not the first to stumble upon this disappointing fact by any means.

* Big Companies Don't Help

These days the really big global companies have organizations for just about every group imaginable this side of white males of European heritage. If you're black, if you're Asian, if you're a woman, if you're gay, or even if you're a cancer survivor, there's a group for you. But have a crippled kid and son, you're on your own.

* Muddle through

I've never seen a self-help book with this advice, but really it's some of the best advice I can give somebody going through a difficult stretch. Sometimes the absolute best you can do isn't that pretty, or elegant, or graceful, or frankly all that inspiring. When you're in one of those stretches, stop worrying about it. Nobody else could do that much better in your position either.

* Some doors close, some doors open

I've had one vacation away from home in the past 15 years, not counting the summer I had off when I had my heart surgery. Since I couldn't get away, I started this blog. SeewhatImean?

* People are such wusses to-day

Take that last item. Some folks would be horrified not to take an airplane trip vacation at least twice a year. While that's very nice, it's not a Minimum Daily Requirement for a Happy Life. People re-define extravagant luxuries as the bare necessities of life, and whine like a two-year-old when they don't have every last one of them. Keep the two categories straight and you'll be much happier.

* You gotta play out the season

Every year baseball teams start spring training with visions of the World Series in their heads. And every year about May or June it's obvious to several of those teams that it ain't gonna happen. But they still play out the season. Your Big Lifetime Dream smashed to bits? You still gotta play out the season. Try to set the base-stealing record, or the record for triples, or the record for pinch-hit singles with two men out and runners in scoring position. Find the game within the Game, and play that.

* Let us brace ourselves to do our duty

From Winston Churhill, it's my favorite sound bit from Charlie Sykes. It sounds a bit odd to our Modern Ear, but whose fault is that?

* Let people help you

Gals, you don't have to remove your own gall bladders. Guys, you don't have to perform your own vasectomies. Being self-sufficient means being self-sufficient overall, not all the time. Let people help you when you need it.

* You never anticipate the really bad stuff

Think of all the old Twilight Zone episodes that had a post-World War III theme. Now think of all the episodes with a big-jetliner-smashing-into-a-skyscraper theme. We tend to worry about a lot of things that never happen, and let ourselves get blindsided by reality.

* If all you look for is the bad and ugly, you'll never see the good

If you search for The Stupid, you'll find The Stupid. If you search for The Worthwhile, you'll find The Worthwhile. If you don't get that, then it means that I've found The Stupid while looking for The Worthwhile. But you're The Exception, Bucko.

* Time marches on. Relentlessly.

When Ryan was injured, he was in the 3rd grade. I wanted time to stop in some sort of magic fashion, so that he could get better and return to the 3rd grade. But his classmates moved on to the 4th, and 5th, and 6th, and 7th, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I mention this because nobody really talks about it.

* On the other hand, sometimes Time doesn't move at all.

Oh, if I could just become forgetful
When night seems endless
Does the extinguished candle care
About the darkness?

I used to think that the ultimate in slow time were those Midnight-to-4AM watches in the Navy. I had no idea.

* Everybody will have a story. And Yours is not the worst story.

I used to think I was the only one with a Sad Story. I was wrong.

* Trouble comes in clusters

When it does, muddle through!

* The social safety net can be odd at times.

Let's say parents of crippled kids are eligible for a $3000 home improvement grant every year. Now let's say to install a home elevator to go down to the basement would cost $9000. You say, why not just save those grants for 3 years and install the elevator? You a funny guy, you know that, Joe?

* Beyond The Blue Horizon

Beyond the blue horizon
Waits a beautiful day
Goodbye to things that bore me
Joy is waiting for me

I see a new horizon
My life has only begun
Beyond the blue horizon
Lies a rising sun

Memorize this song. It's simple enough that when you're in real trouble, you'll still be able to remember it. If you're a Christian, you can substitute "Rising Son" for "rising sun" and nobody will know the difference when you sing it.

* Do you know who holds your hand?

I learned these words from a friend of mine who was dying of cancer:

I don't know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don't borrow from the sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don't worry o'er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I'll walk beside him
For he knows what lies ahead

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

Every step is getting brighter
As the Golden Stairs I climb
Every burden's getting brighter
Every cloud is silver-lined
There the sun is always shining
There no tear shall bend the eye
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

* Everybody wants to help Save The Earth, but nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.

When Ryan was in the hospitals for those 6 months, I was working in a group of 18 people at UltraGlobalMegaCorp. Guess how many cards I got from my group in those 6 months? Approximately? All of a sudden, don't you remember somebody you need to send a card to? Or make a phone call to? Or visit? You don't need to be brilliant, or wonderful, you just have to be there. You can do this. Off you go now!


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