Saturday, March 5, 2022

Wilmette Notes: Survival

     Last week, several readers didn't grasp that EGD's Saturday post was written, as it has been since April, 2020, by North Shore Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey. So I've added her photo and bold-faced byline as subtle clues as to whose work you're reading.

By Caren Jeskey

     As Russian tanks roll into the beautiful country of Ukraine while a deranged homicidal maniac embarks on a plot to take over the world, we stand by helpless. The only thing I can think to do is call my representatives and weigh in about where I stand, spread the word about how to get some help out there, and continue focusing efforts on rehousing our new Afghani neighbors. I just hope that we will have the same chance for many Ukrainian survivors when they make it to our shores.
   I’ve been thinking a lot about the children and people with disabilities in Ukraine. It’s impossible not to think about the nightmare they and their families are enduring, but it’s also dangerous to ruminate upon.
     In the summer of 2020 I recall being overcome with grief while biking in Austin Texas where I was living. I got off my bike, leaned it against a tree, took my shoes off and stood in the grass. I doubled over with sobs, an ambulance whining past. I lived a block away from a COVID care center and would hear those sirens for many more months, along with Life Flight helicopters whirring overhead. That level of grief leveled out for the most part, save the occasional good cry I have while contemplating the enormity of this global situation. So much fear, dread, sickness and death in such a small period of time.
     I am dismayed at the prospect of a new spike in the coming weeks and months.
     Balancing the distance and horror from far away is closeness and connectivity here.
     A child nuzzled my fuzzy gloves the other day. I was jauntily bouncing down the sidewalk on a long walkabout, which I have resumed after a sedentary period of winter blues and blahs. I came across a man, a boy, and a friendly golden lab. The lab beelined towards me, wagging his tail and smiling, so I held my hand out to say hello. Before I knew it, the school aged boy with him took my gloved hand and held it to his mouth. I laughed and said “oh no, you can’t eat my gloves!’ and pulled my hand away.
     He picked my hand up again, gently lifted the back of it toward his mouth, and placed his lips on it. He did the same with my other hand. “Oh! You’re kissing the backs of my hands!” I said, which prompted me to give him a warm side hug. His father clarified. “He’s drawn to soft things.” “Oh! I see!” I said, and introduced myself. They told me their names and we chatted a bit. I assured his father that I am vaccinated (and yes, of course I had the afterthought of "that's more physical contact I've had with a stranger in years,") then we set off on our separate ways. I still recall the child’s name and the dog's name, but not the adult’s. This seems to happen often. I have a special affinity for children, animals, and elderly people. I always have. My grandma Marie was like that too, and so is my father. An affinity for the vulnerable.
     As I set back off on my luxuriously solo miles long ramble, a couple free hours stretching in front of me, I felt extra grateful. I thought “I should hang out with that kid some time.” I envisioned his parents getting a break while the child and I hung out in his living room with the sweet lab.
     The boy would be surrounded with his softies and we'd quietly coexist. I imagined telling his folks that they needn’t worry, since I have experience with neurologically-diverse children and adults from my many years working in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Not to mention that my first yoga certification was at Yoga for the Special Child where I was taught how to massage and manipulate overly toned (Cerebral Palsy) and underly toned (Down syndrome) muscles into more comfortable positions. I also provided 1:1 therapy for a girl with autism back when I was in college- she was a little older than the fuzzy glove lover.
     If you’d like to learn more about autism, I recommend the delightful movie Autism: The Musical, and Act 2 of this episode of This American Life. Love On The Spectrum is quite illuminating and enjoyable too.



  1. The ability to defer negative distractions by focusing on the simple pleasures of life can be so helpful during these very trying times. There is lot to be said for mindfulness.

    1. Agree- it's all we have sometimes. Wishing you a good day!

  2. The comment about Afghan and now Ukranian refugees brings to mind a seldom mentioned truth about the people who flee from these war-torn places. They tend not to come from the lower echelons of their societies but are people who can afford to make it out: educated, reasonably well off, able to contribute in the long run to their new homes. An addition of human capital to the countries welcoming them, and a loss to their former homelands.



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