My friend M. used to be a doctor. After a few babies, M. decided to be a full time mom. OK, segue with me here.... I never really did get a full grasp of the Krebs Cycle and couldn't have drawn you a graphic of meosis if my life depended on it. M,-mother and doctor,on the other hand, probably understood this sentence more completely than I: Down Syndrome is one of the most serious chromosomal genetic diseases. It happens due to errors during the cell division. When meiosis happens....Oh damn! How was I supposed to know in 9th grade Biology that, "Yes, this will all be on the test....The LIFE test!" (Harder tests than paper/pencil tests, I assure you.)
You know what? It doesn't really matter so much what we know to write down on paper. The learning that seems to stick is the one with lessons that reach down into our guts and sort of wring us out. This is just a theory. Well, ok, a true theory. My friend, M., with her last pregnancy, gave birth to a son with Down Syndrome. She has not told me this, but my guess is that even though well-MD'd in mitosis, meiosis, chromosome study--even the Krebs Cycle---my guess is that her heart was torn wide open and maybe charred around the edges. Book learning and heart learning do not go together as neatly as we might expect. Sometimes there are huge chasms to jump. The other day, M. emailed me these words. She said I could share them with you:
I have come to recognize myself discounting people because of their differences from me (however huge or insignificant they might be) by peeling back the layers, over the years, of how often and in how many ways I have discounted and distanced myself from them. My son has taught me that, not by being so high functioning that I come to see the difference as insignificant (or by anything he said - complete sentences are still not the rule, much less abstraction!), but by being his difficult and different self in my face and demanding my love and solidarity 24/7. Because it has been such a struggle for me, and I have failed so many times. And because he has been so forgiving and continues to hang in there and love me just as if I'd done it right. It's almost like a muscle-memory kind of thing. Because of my experience with N., I know what it feels like to discount someone, to make them an object, so I sometimes can notice when I do it with other people as well. Another lesson tucked in there for me is that I don't know how blind I am, until I begin to see. so many times I was sure I was doing it all right, and didn't have a clue! No telling how many more blindspots are waiting for me!
The part I love the most in what M. shared is that her son/my son love us just as though we've done right by them. That is so lovely. Bottom line: It doesn't really matter if we can name all the parts of a cell. It does matter that we hang in there with each other and support one another knowing that we are trying to do this life right---struggles, failings, blindness, and all. Muscle-memory. Which muscle(s) are we each going to work on today? I'll forego Abs--and concentrate on the heart (muscle).