Today's special guest is a regular visitor around here, and someone who has a lot of fun in life and in his writing. When he's not saving lives or out for a long run, you can find him as a regular contributor over at the CalorieLab website. Please help me welcome Dr. J, as he shares a very special story about his sister, and what her presence has meant in his life.
A little bit about Dr. J, in his own words:
I am a Florida surgeon and fitness freak with a black belt in karate. I run 50 miles a week and fly a Cherokee Arrow 200. Of course it wasn’t always like this. I once had a carefree life, riding my bike, playing with my dog, but then school educated me and there was no turning back.
Eventually I had more letters after my name than in my name, a mortgage and a job at a major university with a lizard as its mascot and known better for it’s football team than most any other accomplishment. In my spare time I have added some skills which are both useful and fun, became a runner and found the Internet. Thanks to CalorieLab, I have been lucky enough to have been writing the Dr. J will see you now column for almost two and a half years. This has allowed me to go beyond the surgical arena and offer my irreverent, slightly irrelevant, but possibly useful opinions on life, health, and fitness.
A Brother's Story
“Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” ~ Michael Jordan
I don’t think anything can ever surpass the joy parents feel with the birth of a child! I know it was a special day for my parents when the J-Sister was born. My mom had several miscarriages prior to that blessed day as my folks wanted a girl to complete and balance their family vision, already having two driving-them-crazy growing young boys! Mom however was not able to conceive again. Because of this situation, there was a difference with this child, because unlike the random chance of my brother and I, the J-Sister was a chosen child.
Yes, she was adopted, although for all of us, this is merely a description, not an emotion. She was a lovely child, and unlike with my brother and I, those first few years were an effortless voyage for my happy parents. Then small differences began to arise. She was not talking as soon as my brother and I had, but then we were very early talkers. She was not responding as quickly to external stimuli as my brother and I had, but then we were boys. She was not the same as my brother and I, but then she was adopted and we were not. Eventually, however, the differences became too great, and the rationalizations became less comforting and answers needed to be found.
When my sister was four years old she underwent a very comprehensive evaluation of her situation and the result of this was that she was deemed mentally retarded, hopeless, and the recommendation was made to be prepared to institutionalize her for life because of her deficiencies and inability of be a normal person.
Whether retarded, or handicapped, or developmentally delayed, or any other politically or non-politically termed phrase is used, I can’t imagine it being any less devastating to a parent to hear that their child will never be normal.
I’m sure for my parents, that moment felt like a car going full speed and suddenly running into the side of a mountain! The thing was, my parents, with dreams shattered, faced this moment with a courage almost beyond what I can imagine. Rather than sit feeling sorry for themselves in that car wreck and settle for this diagnosis of hopelessness, they decided that it was their chosen mission to raise this child. My parents began at that moment, using every skill and facility that they could summon to aid in this unimaginable endeavor, to dig a tunnel through that mountain, though there was no light in sight in that slow moving burrow, yet they persisted with a consistent strong determination to get to that other side, that imagined better place.
So the process began, one vowel and consonant at a time, one button and button hole at a time, one shoe lace and one grommet at a time. I’m sure when Velcro came along my parents felt it was one of the greatest of humankind’s inventions!
With this magnificent effort, my sister began to show progress, albeit very slowly, but it was enough of a reward to help keep the process going.
As my sister's abilities grew, she ventured out onto the street where we lived. I can sadly recall her running home, tears on her cheeks yelling with her limited vocabulary, “Yeve me ayone” to the neighborhood children who had noticed her difference, and she was different, as they picked on her without mercy. My brother and I had probably contributed previously, as any older brothers might, though not with cruelty, to her practice with that useful defensive phrase.
My parents stayed steady with that mission, spending every available moment working with my sister, finding schools and outreach programs that specialized for children with these obstacles. She eventually attended a special high school established by the Kennedy family in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, and went on to be married in Salinas, California, after meeting a young man in Oakland while attending a special program there. My wedding present for the happy couple was a honeymoon in Carmel, which I chaperoned for them. (very discretely I might add)
Today my sister is a completely self sufficient, fully employed, socially exceptional individual with numerous friends and accomplishments. Yes, she is still different, that can not be hidden, but it does not deter her. On a family vacation not that long ago, I personally witnessed her walk into a room with fifty people, and within 15 minutes every one of them knew her, and liked her! She has not let her differences keep her from being all the person she could be. When we talk, I may mention some challenge or difficulty I am facing and it is not uncommon for her to say, “You can do it, J!” This coming from someone who certainly knows what it is to do it when only a select few believed in her.
So if you are thinking that, perhaps with your weight and fitness, or any other challenge that is in your path, that this mountain in front of you is insurmountable, think of that mountain that my sister climbed, and is still successfully climbing, and if you feel that you just can’t, remember her words to me, “You can do it,” because you know, like her, you really can!