People with autism perseverate. They can grind you into powder repeating some word or phrase over and over. I mean, for hours.
For them, it’s connection with the world. For the world, or at least the caregiver in their little part of it, it is numbing at best and torture at worst. Just say Soon there will be presents to my wife. Especially after our son has plopped next to her and put himself on auto play for a few hours.
But then plenty of neurotypical people get pop tunes stuck in their heads. OK, I do that, too. Or some fish story we have to share again and again, no matter that our long suffering spouse has been there every time we shared it and is getting nauseous as we launch into it again. Or a joke we think is the greatest of all time and have to keep telling, forgetting that the folks who are hearing it this time were the ones who heard it last week.
Sometimes something more highbrow gets lodged in my brain. I hoard those to myself, but then I’m an introvert and I know that if I share my deep thoughts the listeners are likely extroverts who will let me speak a few sentences and then use something I said to shift the conversation to themselves.
OK, back to my top shelf perseverations. A couple of days ago it was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias. Here’s a recitation by Bryan Cranston, the Breaking Bad guy,
I even found an Islamic scholar upacking this famous Western poem for his students.
OK, OK, back to my thoughts. Let me perseverate all over you.
I think the line Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! is brilliant. It is so loaded with irony and makes a gigantic philosophical, even theological point in just eight words. Read with a mind to the king who commissioned his own statue, it means Ha ha ha, losers. No matter how great your achievements, mine will make you feel puny.
But read from the narrator’s (and our) point of view, it says, All human accomplishments crumble into dust. Stay humble.
So what’s that have to do with care giving?
We spend a good deal of time lamenting might-have-beens. There are works we assumed would be monuments to our lives, but they seem to be pre-crumbled.
We are all too aware of dreams that we had to put on hold and which hung up on us rather than wait for us to get back to them. Career development, travels for pleasure, even that movie matinee we had planned go away while we are tied up.
Even on our most chipper days, we know that those in our care are not living out our hopes and dreams for their lives, either. I know some counselors who treat caregivers with the same techniques used for people grieving a death. A life we anticipated was aborted by some syndrome, illness, genetic code or catastrophic accident. Someone is there with us, but not the someone with whom we expected to share our lives.
What Ozymandias reminds me is that everything, even the achievements we admire, envy, covet and resent on everybody else’s happy Facebook, Instagram or whatever pages, are part of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare. The picture at the top of our blog? Sure, our yard is ratty and the neighbor’s over the fence is paradise. But in time The lone and level sands stretch far away for one and the other.
Which is an ass backwards way of saying that you are no less than anybody else as care giving pins you down and hems you in. No, they won’t build a statue to you. But the ones who get the statues don’t fare any better when all is said and done,
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish. (Psalm 49:20 ESV)
And what you do as a care giver can be part of what will always be said and will never be “done,”
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:7-8 ESV)