Over the past several months, particularly once the school year began, my blood pressure began to rise. I have not helped it by putting on about 10 pounds and getting my exercise regimen messed up: over the summer I was putting in 3-5 hours a week of fairly strenuous exercise or physical activity. But something else other than my normal university schedule has also interposed itself into my life, and so I covet your prayers, and even your advice about the matter, namely the future course of my family.
As most of you know, my wife and I have been considering adoption, and at the beginning of June we brought a young man to our home. I was hesitant, as I was growing skeptical about his abilities and potential, but my beloved said that we would not know his potential until he lived with us. So he came to our home in early June. It has been the hurly-burly ever since of meetings, appointments, doctor’s visits, etc. This, in conjunction with our daughter’s peculiarities and appointments, has made life, especially with the school year, one fraught moment after another.
As for our young man’s potential, we learned the day of his placement that he is of diminished mental capacity, which means that he will never really progress beyond where he is now, which is an emotional and maturity level commensurate with a boy of 10 (he is biologically 17). What I needed to learn about him I did when one Saturday evening he came to me holding a paper towel to the tip of his thumb. It was soaked with blood. I had told him to shave, and when he looked at his razor he saw it was dirty, so he decided to wipe it off. I asked him did he not make the connection that something so sharp as to cut the hair off his face would cut the skin off his thumb? He said no. Since then I have constantly seen this replayed: he has no clear conception that bad effects could arise from his uninformed but often impetuous causes. He has consistently pushed too many wrong buttons. So far they haven’t been anything that would produce disaster (though two hours in the ER on Saturday night is no fun), but as time passes I can see that he is increasingly confident about his ability to do things, and thus he will undertake tasks without asking.
He is eager to please, especially to please my beloved, but normalcy has set in, and his biggest ambitions revolve around watching TV and sitting in front of his computer. In short, he is no trouble, if you are willing to keep an eye on him, and this is the problem. I cannot see myself doing this for the next 30 years, finding myself 80 with a 47-year-old ten-year old. I find myself distracted constantly (as can be seen in the decrease in posts on this blog) from my reading, my writing, my work with students. I want to do my Christian duty by this boy, that is, to love him. But is doing that then, if not abandoning, then certainly slighting my obligations to my daughter, my parish, my wife, my students, and my research? I am persistently approached by people wanting to talk about rather large and important matters: even though I would love to do this, I am completely without the time to do so. At this point my wife and I have been going round about it (she is completely smitten with the boy), and he knows nothing yet of this.
At one point in my life I had applied for an administrative post, one which a number of people implored me to seek. But at least three of my former students, one now a lecturer at a university, another an associate pastor of a large presbyterian church, and a third who runs his own business, were quite adamant that were I to do this it would take me out of the classroom, and my pursuit would be, in their mind, a net loss for my school, and certainly to the detriment of my students. Mercifully, as I now believe, I was spared getting the post: I know the fellow who did, a capital man, and I don’t regret that I did not get it. I love the classroom. But this same scenario I now see in front of me: more stress on my teaching. I already feel that I am not able to give the attention I would like to my classes. I am feeling drawn, indeed, really thin: to use a Bilbo Bagginsesque analogy, like too little butter over too much bread.
I realize I persistently push myself, and end up biting off, if not more than I can chew, at least more than I should reasonably be able swallow without suffering some real indigestion over it. All the people I have asked about this situation have given a rather uniform response. They have all stressed a number of different things, and my Fr. confessor, Fr. Tom, who for some thirty years while he was a priest was also a social worker, has given me some tremendous help. I guess I am just wondering if there are any other thoughts out there. Just to know that some of you are praying is help enough.