My troubled son Aidan has become a hermit. He is a very young 17 and disabled with cerebral palsy. He thinks it ain’t cool to be disabled in Britain these days (and his world certainly confirms this to him), and so he has withdrawn to his bedroom, except when he has to go to school. From his room emerges not a squeak. His self imposed hermitry of course has locked him away from all harm, but also any human help. Many teenagers adopt this life strategy.
There is only one thing that can break this blockade of his: His mother’s cooking.
Aidan’s bedroom is on the second floor of our tall thin house. Cooking smells convect themselves effortlessly up to his level, and unfailingly reach his nostrils. There then follows the rumble like elephants on the rampage as he comes limping down the stairs at speed to see what’s on the menu.
As he wolfs down his calories, he becomes almost gregarious, answering queries about his welfare, or laughing at tableside wit. Sadly for us, when the food is consumed, he quickly returns to his cell.
The sense of smell is the oldest sense (we share it with amoebae) and is therefore deeply linked to memory and emotion, our more primitive faculties. A scent we first smelt as an toddler can still transport us back to that moment when we first experienced it, and the emotions we felt then. I am thinking of my mother’s perfume, or the smell of fireworks as examples.
The Church uses incense as an osmic and visual sign of Holiness. The beautiful fragrance of frankincense and the roiling coils of vapour from the censer, represent our heartfelt prayers rising to Heaven. The Church’s ritual is full of outward signs of invisible things, including inward Grace
Getting back to Aidan, I’m hoping that he is learning that the safety and cold comfort of his hermitage comes at the price of loneliness and boredom which will cost him far greater if held on to, than joining his brothers and sisters in Christ around the table for a life-giving meal.
I am praying hard that he will be given a way to swap his tedium for a Te Deum. What he needs is an unexpected party, like that which Bilbo Baggins had to endure:
Of your kindness, please pray for my son. Thank you.
I prayed for your son. My brother is a bit of a hermit too, but it’s not the end of the world.
Thank you and God bless you “Razza”!
Please tell Aidan that we follow his life on this blog and think about him and hope/wish/pray good things for him. Aidan’s gift – can I call it that without sounding condescending? – prompts me to mention my children’s gifts: son with a cerebral thrombosis last year and a newly diagnosed pulmonary embolism this year , daughter with possible/likely multiple sclerosis and newly diagnosed pericarditis. He working as a teacher, she as a financial advisor, both of them knowing that life has thrown them some real curve balls, but both of them also knowing, as should Aidan, that they are surrounded by the love, the most powerful force in the universe, of their family and friends – even mere cyber friends whose prayers God also hears – and they will never walk alone.
Yes, JH, call them Gifts.
The other day I was called to establish intravenous access for a patient on Children’s Ward, so that the Xray people could pump contrast into him during a CT scan. Every other doctor so far had failed in their attempts. As I went to see the patient, my heart was sinking at the prospect: upset child, needles, difficulty.
I arrived to find my child patient was in fact 18 years old, had severe cerebral palsy, and weighed about 50 pounds. He was totally unable to communicate and had fixed flexion deformities in all his limbs.
All of his limb veins had been ruined by previous attempts at venepuncture.
I began to despair, and would have continued to until I met the eyes of his mother and father, and the smile of their lad. This man and woman had struggled to keep him alive for 18 years without any evident great wealth. The boy had endured incredible suffering to have got this old. Surely I could help him?
The paediatricians and nurses had retreated, and so I enrolled the parent’s help. We examined every feasible visible vein on their son’s body and finally found an external jugular vein unscathed by prior attempts. I gained access to it, thanks be to God! Mum and Dad thanked my little effort profusely, and I left with moistened eyes, and severely chastened.
Whenever I think of my son’s disability, and perhaps am tempted to self pity, I now also think of this boy and his parents. Their example leaves mine in the shade.
I knew a boy like that – of Aidan’s age – who did the same. His problem was very bad acne. He eventually got over it. Being young is hard enough, anyway.
I’m sure you’ve already considered this, but what abut a dog for Aidan?
I couldn’t stay indoors on a bet, with my gang. And loneliness and boredom are not options.
Plus prayers, of course.
I am very sorry to hear of these difficulties.
The suggestion of a dog is actually a very good one I think. There is the love exchanged between person and dog, and the need to be outside with the animal for walks.
I don’t wish to seem simplistic about this, but would agree with the idea of a dog.
I know that faith and prayer are already established.
… To put it another way: It’s not so much that Aidan needs a dog to care for (although I think it might be a good idea) – but that, down at your local stray dog pound, (no need for fancy pet stores,) there is a small, frightened, possibly a bit traumatised, dog right now that needs Aidan to care for.
And he (or she) and Aidan will both know it when they see one another.
Because it works both ways.
…Or I’m a Dutchman.
(“Now looick here Mynheer Toad…)
Aw Toad, you do have a heart.
I didn’t want to admit it, but my eyes were also “moist” when I read your post this morning. Knowing well how the suffering of one’s children is magnified many times in their parents’ hearts, I can deeply sympathise in your concern and distress over Aidan’s situation.
Hopefully, the promised prayers coming in an immense flow from all of us reading your article will soothe your family’s pain. Perhaps soon you will be informing us of a brighter happier outlook for Aidan…. with or without Toad’s brilliant idea of acquiring a good old canine addition to the family! 😉
Toad do indeed have a heart, and it’s growing softer by the day.
…And it will be the death of him at a stroke, with any luck.
Because I don’t fancy Senile Dementia, however much that condition will heap heavenly benefits on the overburdened custodians of the decaying Temple Of My Soul.
And …when I read stories like this from Burro, I feel profoundly guilty that I have sauntered blithely and thoughtlessly through life for 72 chaotic years without barely a hiccup – (except when drunk, of course,) – and so have all of my own children and grandchildren (so far, and more soberly.)
God must have a sense of humour and irony keen enough to match Toad’s own – to lavish such vast good fortune on one so utterly unmeriting – is all he can think.
Or maybe it’s all just a galactic crap shoot.
I don’t know.
Ah Toad, the “Hound of Heaven” will catch up with you in the end! 😉
One never know, do one?
If so, Toad will do what he does with every dog – pat it on the head, and give it a biscuit.
The “Hound” I’m referring to is never outdone by generosity. He’ll be giving you all the “pats” and ‘biscuits”, and a whole lot more than you could ever imagine.