by Karen Capel
My son was an uncommonly intelligent person. That's not just a mother talking.
One day my parents were here visiting. My mom and dad were sitting with Will in the family room overlooking the patio. I was in the kitchen, making dinner, and I could see and hear through the "hole" in the wall where the microwave oven later fit in. The television was turned on in the family room and Will was seated on the floor about three or four feet in front of the TV. There was a game show on TV. It was a game in which the host of the program gave three clues about something and then the contestant had to guess what one unifying thing that the three clues all related to. The host said "elephant," "mountains," and a third word that I can't remember. Will leaned forward, toward the TV, and yelled "Hannibal crossing the Alps!" I dropped what I was doing in the kitchen, my folks sat in stunned silence. Will was four years old. In the frontispiece of his big fat 1950s atlas was a cartoon picture of Hannibal crossing the Alps. It was only a picture. No words, no "ID." I have no idea how he made the connection between the cartoon-bubble picture and the actual historical event, not to mention the phrase "crossing the." "Hannibal crossing the Alps." It's what is commonly said about that thing that occurred in history.
There was a younger boy in the group. I think he was around 8 years old. His parents were going through a divorce and this little boy was very very upset. He cried a lot. To make matters worse, the parents of this boy were either using him as a football in the family crisis situation, or they were "trying too hard" to share him between themselves. One parent would drop him off somewhere, and then the other parent would pick him up. This happened for the camp situation too, but to make matters worse, there was air travel taking place. Parents were flying in and flying out, picking up their son or dropping him off. I think the little boy was confused about who would "rescue" him next to keep him safe. He wasn't sure of anyone or anything. "What's next?"
The boy would wake up at night, in the tent, crying. And he would start crying, spontaneously, while out with the group on a trek somewhere. Will took him aside on one of these hikes, when he broke down crying, and he explained to the little guy that things were very hard now, but that they would soon get better and, yes, that's true and he should believe that. Isn't it typical for a 10- or 11-year-old to make fun of younger kids? To taunt them? To tease? Not show empathy and concern? Wasn't he risking his own esteem by his age-peers in this situation, by showing such mature compassion and empathy? He was only 10 or 11.
I don't think that Will's avoidance of family, his refusal to invite family people into his life, was necessarily a rejection of the person or people, per se. I think in some instances, perhaps as pertains especially to me, "the mother," it may have had something to do with wishing not to "hurt my feelings" in some way or not to "worry me." I think that may have been an unconscious justification on his part, too. A way of convincing himself that what he was doing, in the way of avoidance, was "okay." I also think that in order for him to really feel, to discern, his own life, in its purest form, he had to abstract himself totally from situations that would have otherwise diluted him and his life and meaning. Take himself away, really and metaphorically, from all those things that could cast intruding definition, "color," on him and his life and its meaning. If you take a glass of water from the ocean, what can you tell if you pour the glass right back into the ocean? What's the difference? If you take the same glass of water from the ocean and pour it onto the dry ground next to the ocean, there is something to behold.
All conjecture, surmising, on my part.
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