Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My New Insight into the Terri Schiavo Case

I'm embarrassed to admit that in our household, when there are so many other stories much more worthy of discussion, the Terri Schiavo case is what Sarah and I fell asleep kvetching about last night. Blame the Daily Show's typically brilliant skewering or the astonishment that I still feel having TiVo speed-cast through CNN's "Inside Politics" yesterday which spent the ENTIRE HOUR on that one politicized subject - the sort of monotone full-throated non-newsy-anala-bunk I never even saw all through a 2004 Election cycle that featured Swift Boat Vets and Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech. This story has become such a tempest of pseudo-outrage and counter-outrage that we're now all running the risk of being spun off the planet and hurtled into space. But then in these early morning hours, I've gained what I think is essential new insight into this tragic mess. Please bear with me while I ride this ponied-up metaphor to its intended conclusion. To make it more palatable, it involves Maya.

The last few nights, Maya's been sleeping really well. Every 3 to 4 hours she pleasantly awoke hungry, ate, belched and went back down. Given that and a chance for a long nap yesterday, I'd totally caught up on sleep and felt like I just might get the hang of this whole new parent charade. Then tonight, just before 2:30am, I heard Maya stirring after what I thought was only an hour and a half since she'd last eaten. She grunts all the time, almost always for a reason, and in this case I was sure it was a hidden burp waiting to be gently encouraged out by dear ol' Dad. Gallantly rising to my intended duty in all but my cape and tights, I reassured Sarah that she should go back to sleep. I picked up Maya and began my signature rhythmic burb-elimi-patting. In a matter of a minute, maybe two, she burped as sweetly as a child has ever burbed and seemingly collapsed into a blissful heap upon my chest and shoulder. Mission accomplished, I thought. Pipe in the celestial soundtrack, for I had accomplished a parent's greatest triumph - assessing what ails his or her child and then seeing a self-prescribed remedy act quickly and as hoped. I then thought (and I'm being entirely serious here) even if Terri Schiavo's parents are opportunistic shady characters, they must on some level want to fix what ails their daughter. I returned a sleeping Maya to her bassinet and went back to my own bed. That empathy from moments earlier morphed when I then thought of my wife and all that she means to me and how we now guard each others' interests in so many ways. Terri's husband, Michael, is after all her legal guardian, even if Jeb Bush and so many others in both the Florida and U.S. Congress want to take that right away from him. And Michael's trying to do what he says is best for his wife, even though he now lives with his new girlfriend and their two kids. As I marveled at my new insight that requires empathy for both sides, I reassured Sarah that Maya just had a burp and that we should both go back to sleep.

And then Maya began to grunt again, more loudly than before.

It didn't take long for me to assume the burp-coaxing position, this time while walking around the apartment and beginning to consider what sort of mindless TV might be best to soothe her bubbly innards. After a few minutes, Sarah got up and sleepily confronted me with the opinion that "Maya's hungry." She can't be, I countered, having just eaten at 1am. "She ate at midnight," Sarah corrected me. Oh. Yea. I, um kinda slept through most of that feeding, I agreed. And so we changed Maya's diaper and her increasing cries and grunts solidified the rationale for Sarah's diagnosis. In short order, my Schiavo insight deepened. Sometimes, even when a parent thinks he or she is doing the right thing, their attempt to help may be exactly the wrong thing to do. You can't fix everything with self-assured conviction nor should any parent or loved one be inflexible to the advice of others. No matter how well-intentioned your beliefs may be.

I don't know who's right in the Schiavo fight, but I do know that the politicians who are trying to stir up the outrage using her have reached a new level of depraved opportunism, if that's still possible. Maybe it's just the curious forces that act on a mind in the early morning hours that have me waxing melancholic about this whole mess. Or maybe now that I'm a husband AND a parent, I've got a smidge more insight into the difficult and unique requirements of each role. When the sun rises, this case will still dominate the news. But when Maya wakes up again and presents new challenges on this day like all the others before, I plan to listen a bit more and hopefully learn something in the process. Time to head back to bed. Thanks for reading.

Oh, and the Federal Judge assigned to the Schiavo case just denied the Congressionally-forced appeal. Let the new day's shitstorm commence.

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