April 13, 2012

Larry talks about ... dealing with adversity

Why do I write about children dealing with adversity and attitudes and perseverance etc.? Well, guess what? I was never asked that before nor have I ever even thought about it. The answer was quickly clear to me. Since we are the sum total of our life's experience (at least I think so) and my experiences are chock-full of exposure to this type of "theme," I guess that's why I do it.

Let me start with my book, "The Priest and The Peaches." It revolves around five newly orphaned kids. Those five kids are based on my brothers, sister and myself. Trust me---there was some serious adversity going on there. Reading the book (which is fictionalized) will give one the idea.

Moving right along, my wife, Loretta, and I were foster parents when we lived in New Jersey. We were considered a "short term placement home." Consequently, many kids aged anywhere from two to 16 spent time with us. Each and everyone of them had serious issues and all were dealing with adversity, especially the ones who believed that their parent(s) had given them away. (Can you imagine thinking that as a child?) Yet some were up-beat and some were "mad at the world." Even kids deal with adversity differently and can handle it differently depending on attitude.

For me, personally, I came down with Multiple Sclerosis 30 years ago and could barely walk. I was told that I would be blind, incontinent and live my life in a wheelchair. Nice prognosis when you are a 35-year-old construction worker and have three small kids. My attitude helped. I told them that they "were full of crap." The most important thing that reinforced my attitude was faith in God. I have absolutely no doubt about that. So, armed with faith in God and using the weapons of prayer which buttressed my contrary attitude I forged through intense therapy and now, 30 years later, I can sing that little jingle, "Look at me I'm walking. Look at me I'm talking." Oh yeah, I am also a cancer survivor, five years out from prostate cancer. In addition, my wife, Loretta, died of cancer (Melanoma) nine years ago and my new wife, Marty (we married five years ago) spent most of 2011 undergoing chemo treatments for lymphoma. Right now she is in remission and has maintained a GREAT attitude throughout the entire process.

I'm sorry, I might be getting a bit wordy, but I would like to share one last thing. I have been a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society for almost 20 years. Our mission---to help local folks in need. Okay, about 12 years ago my wife and I went out to visit a single mom and her two kids. Their electricity and water had been shut off. We took care of that and it was turned back on within a few hours. To the point--our parish was having its annual Fall Festival that week. Rides, food and lots of FUN. As president of the SVDP Society I would always secure ride and food tickets for families who could not afford them. One of these families was Jake's. Jake, age 7, suffered from "Brittle Bone Disease" (Osteogenesis Imperfecta) and many low-energy impacts would cause one of his bones to break. On Sunday afternoon the family met me in the parish center. I had wrist bands put on the kids so they could ride all day long and I gave mom a bunch of food tickets. She asked me if I could just watch Jake while she took her daughter, Nancy, to the bathroom. I walked out side with Jake and there was a small step down, maybe four inches, like a street curb. Jake stepped down and groaned. His leg had broken. All the kid wanted to do was go on the merry-go-round. I sat down with him and he was crying and then I was crying and my arm was around his shoulder and all sorts of people were walking this way and that and he says to me, "Don't worry, Larry. It's okay. This happens all the time. I just wish mommy did not have to go to the hospital today." He was worried about her.

Talk about attitude and perseverance. I'll never forget Jake, ever.