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Thursday, March 24, 2005


Eli is very proud that he can now get a cup from the cupboard on his own, and reach the water dispenser on our refrigerator door with only minimal chance of dousing himself. I know he is proud of this new ability not because he says so, but because right now there are about fifteen little plastic cups sitting precariously on various tables and counters throughout my house, each half full of water. Some have bits of Goldfish cracker on their rims, other have colorful twirly straws protruding from them; I even found one with half a cookie in the bottom. The other night I watched him use three different cups in a span of five minutes.

And talk about pride going before a fall -- every one of these cups is no more than three centimeters from the edge of its respective perch.

A few weeks ago Eli gave the wife some instruction about how potty time will work from now on: "Mom, when I say 'I'm done,' don't say 'just a minute' -- come wipe me!"

I suppose I would be impatient too. There is nothing so humbling as waiting for someone to wipe your behind.

Come to think of it, there is. It's being in the middle of a serious conversation on a spiritual matter with friends who respect you, and having a bit of wisdom on the tip of your tongue, and opening your mouth to impart that wisdom to your friends, only to be interrupted by a command bellowed from the bathroom down the hall:

"WIPE MEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!"

Yeah, you're suddenly not so smart when that happens.

posted by Woodlief | link | (8) comments

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Wounded

On its surface, the Terri Schiavo battle is a tangle of conflicting histories, medical opinions, legal opinions, religious opinions. Beneath the surface, it is the latest skirmish between those who want to stop our practice of terminating inconvenient life, and those who want to sustain the right to do so. It is also a tribal conflict, and some are engaged not because they care deeply about the outcome, but because they see an opportunity to spew vitriol at the other tribe.

I'm not a neurologist, I don't know her husband. I can't claim any legal expertise that would allow me to discern whether this is a bad case that could make bad law, as Molly Ivins writes (which presumably means someone else wrote it first). I don't think I'm "incapable of making moral distinctions," as Ivins paints some opposed to the slow starvation of Terri Schiavo. It's a good line, to be sure, especially funny coming from a plagiarizing hack who would denounce the Almighty himself if she thought it would help her tribe at the polls. Perhaps her accusation is true of some on the Hysterical Right, but I don't think it's true of me, or many others who believe that what's happening in Florida is a shame and a tragedy.

The shame stems from the fact that Michael Schiavo betrayed his wife years ago. That's an ugly truth, and I don't say it with self-righteousness, because many men far better than me have fallen away from their wives, under far less stressful conditions. But that truth remains, and it is relevant, because the entire case for starving Terri Schiavo hinges on the post-abandonment remembrance by this man that his wife -- the same woman on whose behalf he sued to secure money for long-term care -- actually doesn't care to live in such a state after all. The heady willingness of many on the Left to embrace this contention unquestioned, simply because it serves their end of thwarting nefarious pro-life forces, redounds to their shame.

I'm struck by how cavalierly we throw about this notion that death is so easily chosen. Perhaps it's an easy choice in abstract, and so it becomes simple to project such a choice onto others. I suspect that many of us who bravely declare the many conditions under which we'd rather be put out of our misery, however, would in fact cling more desperately to life than we realize.

The unshakeable fact is that we'll all get to find out for ourselves one day, no? If you were to be Terri Schiavo's place, on which side would you like the world to err?

The tragedy is that Terri's parents simply want their daughter back from the man who promised to care for her, but who backed away from his promise. It appears that they can't have her.

It must be horrible, it must be maddening, and everyone who approaches this debate should keep that fact fixed firmly in his mind. Neither this, nor any case of euthanasia, nor any abortion, is directly about any of us onlookers. It is first about the life that is deliberately extinguished, and second about the wounded who are left behind. It is only about us in the indirect sense, insofar as our action -- or more likely inaction -- contributes to the state in which we find ourselves.

There will be many tears when Terri Schiavo breathes her last. Some will be genuine, some will be fake, some will be hysterically generated by people who have overly invested their emotions in someone else's tragedy. Then most of us will move on. You and I will go back to our lives, Michael Schiavo will go back to his new woman and kids, his attorneys back to their other clients. But Bob and Mary Schindler will be left without a daughter, and they will know that it might have been different.

posted by Woodlief | link | (23) comments

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Little Boy's Love

Sometimes when you are responsible for three little boys day in and day out, you just need a quick nap. So thought my wife as she stretched out on the bed. But after a moment she heard Eli's voice just outside our bedroom. "I love you. I love you so so so so much." Her mother's heart filled with tenderness, and she rose from the bed and went into the hallway to give her thoughtful little boy a hug.

And there she found him, sitting on the floor, gazing with great affection at . . . his little blue blanket. "I love you, blankie. Mmmmmmmm-unnnh. Hug. Kiss. I love you." He hugged it tight and rubbed his cheek against it.

Then he noticed the woman who had labored for twelve grueling hours to bring him into the world, the woman who had nursed him for eighteen months, the woman who changed his diapers and tended his scrapes and cared for him during illnesses.

"Oh, hi Mom."

We're not sure whether to be honored when we get some shadow of the great love this boy has for his precious blankie, or offended.

posted by Woodlief | link | (7) comments

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Least of These

A helpless woman lay starving on a bed in Florida, upon the court-supported request of her adulterous husband. There is some evidence that she remains sentient, yet the putative champions of helpless women maintained their silence. As President Bush this morning signed a bill giving Terri Schiavo's parents the ability to resume feeding her, commentators normally unconcerned by questions of constitutional authority voiced fears of federal overreach.

Thus have people who fashion themselves protectors of the downtrodden subjugated all stated principles to the overriding one, which is that the right to terminate inconvenient life must be defended at all costs, even if it be the slow starvation of an innocent woman. Plenty of people have and will continue to dissect this case, which certainly isn't over. I encourage you to inform yourself and take action, because in reading these words you can no longer remain in the safe camp of the unknowing.

I've encountered experts before who are willing to let someone die by means of starvation and dehydration. I wonder how many of them have ever really been hungry, or thirsty. I wonder how many of those who acted to delay the House vote have missed a meal recently. As they cracked open bottles of spring water and anxiously scanned the national news, did they tell themselves that Terri Schiavo wouldn't feel anything as her throat dried out? Did they bother to find out for sure?

The husband, thwarted, pouted that "Congress has more important things to discuss."

Thankfully, on this day at least, they did not.

posted by Woodlief | link | (14) comments