Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Best Answer

At breakfast I explained to Ruby that some people are born with no arms.

Odd topic of conversation over toast and honey you say? But not at my table. Ruby was having fun by pulling her arms into her sleeves and then saying, 'Look, I lost my arms.' I see this as a teachable moment. Others, like those at other tables, clearly did not. Ruby looked at me intently as we talked about how some people don't have arms and some people don't have legs and that some people don't speak and others don't hear. She took all this in. She asked me if I knew people who had no arms, I told her that I did, and she asked questions, quietly munching on her toast and listening to the answers.

That was breakfast.

Later on in the day, Ruby asked the big question.

'Dave, why do some people use wheelchairs and some people don't.'

Now remember, she's not had her fifth birthday. Also remember I believe in plain language. And add to all that that I believe that questions deserve answers. I had only seconds to think.

I picked up a strand of her hair and asked her, 'Why do you have dark brown hair?'

Then I went back to what I had been doing.

After a second she said, 'Um, Dave, you didn't answer my question.'

I said 'Yes, I did.'

She said, 'No the question about why some people walk and why some people don't.'

I paused, took her hair and said, 'Why do you have dark brown hair?'

'That's your answer?' She said, full of the exact kind of inflection on each word that you imagine.

I said, 'Yes, that's my answer. When you can answer my question, you'll know the answer to your question.'

'Huh?' she said.

'Why do you have dark brown hair?' I asked again.

'I just do,' she said.

'That's the answer to your other question.'

Long pause.

'I get it,' she said, 'that's funny.'


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the Ruby stories — as well as everything else you write about, of course! I sometimes find myself getting cynical or despairing about "the youth of today" (even though the "youth" I encounter are often more considerate than the "adults" I deal with).

Reading the stories about Ruby makes me glad to be living in a world where she's part of the next generation.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I second lexica510's comment that your stories about Ruby give hope. What an amazing soul!