“You’re 21, Not 6”

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 30 2012 @ 2:45pm

Buzz Bissinger reflects on raising his severely brain-damaged son, Zach:

It is strange to love someone so much who is still so fundamentally mysterious. “Strange” is a lousy word. It is the most terrible pain of my life. As much as I try to engage Zach, I also run from this challenge. I run out of guilt. I run because he was robbed and I feel I was robbed. I run because of my shame.

But whatever happens with Zach, I know I cannot think in terms of my best interests, even if I think they are also in his best interests. Zach will be where and who he will be.1335633632626 Because he needs to be. Because he wants to be. Because as famed physician Oliver Sacks said, all children, whatever the impairment, are propelled by the need to make themselves whole. They may not get there, and they may need massive guidance, but they must forever try.

Update from a reader:

I've known Zach for about 15 years and now see him once or twice a week. He never fails to say hello and ask me how I am. But he also wants to know whether I have driven my car to work that day or taken the train, and once he finds out that information, he asks either what floor of the garage I'm on, or which of the two train stations near my house I've used. He asked me one time years ago which train station I use, and he remembers. All this information – from the dozens of people he must ask during the course of a day – he seems to be cataloging.

He remembers my birthday every year. He asked me my birthdate once on the day we met and then promptly told me what day of the week that was. And after meeting my daughter four or five years ago, he now sends me an email on her bithday every year. My daughter – elementary school age – delights in seeing Zach a few times a year and reminds me each year when Zach's birthday approaches.