Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The story I want to read

Maybe you've heard the statistic: 80% of couples parenting a special needs child end up divorced.

Then again, maybe you haven't. I hadn't until I heard it repeated like a mantra as my own marriage fell apart. I think people were trying to reassure me, to let me know that with those kinds of odds, I was in no way alone. Perhaps it helped. Could it be that in a weird way I was comforted by being in the majority for once? Maybe. I don't know, though. That doesn't really sound like me.

Besides, I was alone. 80 percent is meaningless when you're the one curled up on the front porch with your insomnia, watching the stars, wondering how on earth you are going to raise three humans to adulthood. Heck, there are days when you don't know if you can manage pants!

One such sleepless night, I decided to research that number. Although 80% is almost certainly inflated, the threat to marriages is real, with sources suggesting special needs families have divorce rates at least 5-10% higher than those of the general population. This still placed me squarely in the alone-not-alone group, and not just because of my son's alphabet soup of diagnoses. After all, the cracks in my marriage had been there for a long time. The extra stress just turned them into chasms.

At any rate, the exact number is beside the point. Statistics have their place, but stories aren't made of numbers. They're made of people. And what I want to know is this: where are the stories about people like us? families like mine? women like me? Where are our novels, our plays, our films? Where is our epic love story? I've mostly found two versions: a) shattering tragedy full of heartache, estrangement, institutions, and death, or b) preposterous Disneyfication featuring an improbable cure and/or a white knight sweeping in to save the day. What ever happened to the truth being in the middle?

I hear you. If it's truth I want, I should read a memoir. Better yet, write one. Guess what? I am. There are parts of our story I want need to tell. But it's not enough. Much as I love memoir, fiction is where I go to fall in love. Nothing beats the intoxication of other worlds, other lives. I just wish sometimes those other worlds were a little more like ours, those fictional characters a little more like us.

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