Illegitimi non Carborundum
This week, down here in the Caribbean on vacation, I’ve spent a lot of time with my younger son Casey — who at 14 isn’t really so young anymore.
I don’t talk a lot about Casey — not because I’m less involved with him than with any of my kids, and certainly not because we’re not as close — but probably because he’s the most quiet of my three kids.
Casey is probably the most genuinely giving and kind human being I’ve ever met. He’s the first one to offer any of us help when someone in the family is in crisis and he’s always there for you. Kind of like a big giant puppy dog — loveable and always ready to be by your side if you want him there, no questions asked, no self-serving purpose involved.
One thing most people do not know is that when Casey was born, he weighed less than 4 pounds. For the first 5 weeks of his life, I used to visit him every morning and every night in the hospital because he was on a respirator.
The doctors said they didn’t know what kind of quality of life he’d have or what would happen to him, so obviously I was scared shitless. Being 28 with two kids, and frankly, with not much sense of direction in my life at ALL at that time, and with a marriage that was crumbling around me (that ultimately ended 11 months later) I was completely lost and alone out there.
Casey had some fine motor skills issues when he was younger, and today he walks with a slight limp, most likely as a result of being born premature. But that pales in comparison to what else he’s experienced.
When Casey was (I think) in second grade, he was in the lowest reading group in his class. He came to me one day and was flat-out disgusted with what was going on and he said something like, “Dad, I’m in there with all these stupid kids and I’m not dumb.”
So I told him, “Do something about it.”
“Work yourself out of it.”
By the end of that same semester, Casey was in the “regular” reading group, and by the end of the year, he found himself in the level just below the TOP reading group in this same class. He did what I told him to do — he worked himself out of it.
Casey was late walking, taking his first steps at 18 months, but he played t-ball, soccer, tennis, baseball, basketball for 4 seasons (I coached 2 of them), he swam, and he played street football with his friends.
Last year — his first year of high school — he joined the swimming team and he was only one of TWO athletes on the team who were honored for their academic performance, and he improved his time over the course of the semester by 30 seconds. (That’s HUGE.)
He’s a red belt in Tae Kwan Do, and he’s now on the wrestling team, competing side-by-side with his big brother Nick. Casey’s in the 103 pound class, and he’s put on a substantial amount of muscle in the last 2 months alone since joining the team.
Oh, and he’s on the honor roll in school.
Kids still make fun of the way he walks sometimes, but he’s a strong kid with an amiable personality — doesn’t get pissed off too much, doesn’t piss too many people off — and so stuff like that usually slides right off his back.
I told Casey when he was little — and I still tell him today — that he’s in control of his life, and so if he’s frustrated about something, he can either cave in to it, or do something about it, it’s his choice entirely.
In Latin, there’s a saying that goes Illegitimi non Carborundum. It means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
In Casey’s situation, they didn’t grind him down, they polished him.
And that was his choice too.
Have a great weekend — I’ll be back in town next week with pictures of my vacation, saying “Hey mon — bring me a Red Stripe, will ya?”
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