Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Rememberer


Elias getting his Eagle Scout award last week here in Doha. I was tremendously struck as I looked out into that audience in Doha of all the people, visible and not, who helped him get this award. Many communities interlinked in my mind as I thought of all his mentors whom he has loved and love him.

Definition of a "rememberer": Someone who belongs to a community or has been a part of several or many communities. All those people of the past are pressed into the rememberer's heart--bonds they will never let shrivel and die. The simple unraveling of the memories of people, known and connected, bring comfort and elation. The rememberer, above all, is supremely grateful to be a part of a community, a neighborhood, a family because it gives the opportunity to connect and love even more. Every person is important to the rememberer.

Often times people will ask me what it is like to have a child with autism. They are curious and I want to answer their question as succinctly as possible. The autism journey is individual and personal--no child with autism, of course, is like the next one. But for me, if I could say what I have learned most is: I am blessed to live with a "rememberer." Elias absolutely loves people. The mere mention of anyone who is in his memory bank brings him infinite pleasure and joy. He loves without conditions and boundaries.

Relationships and people are his euphorias. It fuels him to the top to see and visit those whom he loves. Furthermore, he knows their birthdays and talks about the impact they have had on his life. He will even ask about your grandfather's birthday and if he fought in WW2 or the Korean War. He is not only curious about you but he wants to know extensive facts about your family. If no one else is interested in your family history, you can depend on him to be. There are hundreds and hundreds of people in his head swirling around whom he has loved, and he never lets them vanish. Never. I know because I hear the reflective unfolding of his memory bank daily.

When you are an expat who has lived in the Middle East for four-plus years, there is a constant flow of people coming and going in your life. It is ever stretching, transforming. As I say, "You never know how long someone will be on your island." In sometimes brief interludes of time, you try to comprehend and grasp what you are supposed to learn from those people who are placed on the island with you. For most people, we relinquish many relationships because of time and distance. But not for him. No matter how long you have been on his island, he will remember and love you.

This past summer we went to St. Louis for a wedding. We raised our children there for many years so I tried to see as many people as possible. We went back to our old neighborhood and gazed at the home where we had all grown up. Elias pleaded to go to various neighbor's homes to visit them. He wanted to knock on every door and greet them. At first, I resisted. We didn't have that much time. There were events to attend and prepare for. But I agreed to let him walk around, knocking on doors, to see the faces from his old community, his old space of feeling loved.

I was a little ashamed of myself that I was initially hesitant about his request. Everyone wanted to see him, his growth, and the pure pleasure he had in seeing them. Again, I was reminded of the importance of the community I had loved and what was actually still very much a part of me. No matter which community I reside in, he teaches me to be an intentional rememberer--to try the best I can to bind and connect all those people I have loved. He is a benediction and a blessing to me every day.

Thanks for all the multitudes of communities in our pocket. Every one of you are remembered . . . and loved.

Some of the workers in our compound from Bangladesh and the Philippines who happened to be here on the day of his award. The Philippine man had been a Boy Scout in the Philippines and had even gone to the Philippine National Jamboree in the 1990's.

Never forget old friends...
Reunions in St. Louis

The old childhood friend who we found at the door in St. Louis. 

We went to visit beloved Dorothy who has loved and supported him all his life.
Janet, a friend, and teacher, who takes the time to teach Elias many things. In this picture, she is teaching him to play the game of Splendor.

At an art barn in the Tetons where Elias and I teach art to teenage boys. I am beyond grateful for the given gifts Elias's communities have given him.

Here in Doha making bubbles for a child here at the school where we teach art 

A community of people who love us and we love them here in Doha--at a school for children with disabilities. They are our people.

And of course, the community of people as in Where the Wild Things Are when "Max the kind of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all." That is the best kind of remembering...