A dilemma seeking resolution

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.

About Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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10 Responses to A dilemma seeking resolution

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

  2. Do you have support from an extended family? Grandparents and siblings who might live near by?
    Ask mercy to see what provisions can be made for a good life for you and your family.
    I will pray. The Blessed Mother of Christ our God just loves cases like this!

  3. marcusjosephus says:

    Gary, It is a hard dilemma. I have dear friends from Maine who adopted a Down Syndrome child from Estonia through Reece’s Rainbow. http://reecesrainbow.org/ They have four of their own and then took in Andreas. http://www.crawfamblog.blogspot.com/ There was little question for them as to “should they”, simply “how could they”. They were truly called to do so. Andreas is so happy and has a real family now.

    You are already asking yourself the hard questions. Keep doing so, and keep praying. Ask the big question. Are you being called by God to Father this boy and to continue to father this boy? I am still fathering my boys and they are in their mid 20s.

    More later as I think and pray more on this myself.

  4. aviendha1979 says:

    To care for someone like this is a calling. Some people are given it when they naturally conceive (like my father’s aunt) and some people choose it. (I know a couple Orthodox families who have adopted special needs children and teens.) I can’t really say what I would do if I were you. I think if one is given this situation, one has to find a way to endure it and does. But if you are choosing it… wow, that’s a really hard thing to decide to do. I do know that how my dad’s aunt care for her daughter was beautiful (she had Down Syndrome), and not easy. (Imagine caring for someone with this capacity through a bloody twenty year civil war!) So she’s pretty much the family saint.

    But things maybe to consider? If you are unable to do your job, if you are unable to do your duty to your wife and daughter, then ultimately you won’t help him anyways. Eventually there will be a break and he will feel it. With respect to your wife loving him, I might point out that there are many things I have wanted to do that my husband does not. And I find that trying to drag him into these things makes them awful experiences anyhow and I wish I hadn’t tried in the first place. These big decisions have to be entered in together.

    I only give these thoughts because you asked. I don’t know you or your family well yet, so I hope I have not offended or overstepped.

  5. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Khouria, you have not offended at all. I greatly appreciate them. You have no idea. Thanks.

  6. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Alice, as always, thank you for your prayers.

  7. Mick says:

    For what it’s worth, acknowledging a limitation (in helping someone) is not the same thing as rejection (of that someone). Also, when considering the future, I think it’s fairer to ask not whether the current stress will lift as you assimilate, but whether the current weight is one you can take up daily.

    I hope those don’t sound like worthless platitudes. I often find, when facing a difficult decision, I don’t need a new insight, I just need to figure out which of the thoughts I’ve mulled over a thousand times I should latch on to. Whatever you do, may it be done without fear. I pray for the peace of all involved.

  8. marcusjosephus says:

    Cyril,
    I can add little to the wisdom of others posted above. Few can never separate my own experience and point of view from advice to others, I am not that sanctified. Tolkien believed this and notes it in the careful advice to Frodo in the Woody End on the Road to Rivendell. The Elves are slow to give counsel.

    My friends mentioned above and several old monastics I have spoken with have this in common. They had a strong inner drive to live as they do. The monks or my friends who adopted seemed to do so with much Faith, more than I have. They had little to no real doubt and were as serious in their pursuit of the goal even after many years.

    My continued prayers are offered up for all.

  9. landsperson says:

    An incredibly personal post, and one that is difficult for me to respond to without relying on well worn cliches. You will be in my prayers and may God grant you the ability to discern what is best in this situation.

  10. Joshua says:

    This reminds me of an assignment I had for one of my psychology classes. I truly sympathize with the child, but there is going to come a time when you will not be able to take care of him. I don’t mean not able because you have other things to do, but not physically or perhaps mentally able. I would do what your wife wants. Happy wife, happy life. You probably will not feel right about either action you take in this situation. when you get older you will simply not be able to do it. No one wants to put Grandma in a nursing home either.

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