This morning my son and I discussed literature. Specifically, we noted a good author’s ability to challenge and strengthen the mind and character in ways mere escapist entertainment never can.
Michael wants to protect his mind, because he fears the long-term prognosis of some of his conditions. He does not want to lose the ability to think or to read, as sometimes happens with degenerative disabilities. I promised him he will be well served to continue reading good books. Reading good literature will help protect his mind.
I pray for stronger minds for both of my children. As parents of special-needs children understand too well, my children’s prognosis is on my mind too. This helps keep me steadfast in teaching them, caring for them, and loving them.
I recently spent several days in the Memoria Press office working on the new special-needs curriculum packages. My children were back home in Missouri. I thought of them often; however, I did not want to call so soon and make them miss me. Even as young adults, my children’s special needs often leave them vulnerable.
So I had some quiet time on my hands in the evenings. Unaccustomed to quiet time in the evenings, suddenly I needed a book to read. (I learned that when you find yourself in Kentucky with no book to read, Martin Cothran will reach into the trunk of his car and give you a book or two by Kentucky’s own novelist and essayist Wendell Berry.)
That first evening back in my suite, instead of calling home, I entered Wendell Berry’s stories. The forced slowing of thought, where reading yields to contemplation, led me to welcome those hours. The characters spoke with such a casual wisdom, they reminded me of gentle insights my 100-year-old grandma shared with me without ever intending to be wise.
In “Pray Without Ceasing,” a conversation unfolds in a farm kitchen. The grandmother describes a horrible day long ago, when she had learned of a tragedy. “Oh,” she said, “I felt it go all over me, before I knew it in my mind. I just wanted to crawl away. But I had your mother to think about. You always have somebody to think about, and it’s a blessing.”1
As long as our children live, especially our children with special needs, we will always have somebody to think about. And it’s a blessing.
Wendell Berry. Fidelity, “Pray Without Ceasing,” 38.
Originally published in The Classical Teacher Spring 2017 edition