Salvaging The Earth — One Person At A Time

soothe crying baby

At one point at my parents’ summer resort was a young teenager girl. She was ashamed of herself because she only had one leg. The other had been sheared off around six inches below the hip. So she initially always wore her artificial leg and long pants, even on extremely hot days when everyone else wore shorts.

My family and others taught her that nobody gives a darn about her missing a leg or not. We taught her that she can do anything that she wants in life and it is not a shame or a handicap to miss a leg.

So she started to change. She would sometimes use a crutch to move about the resort. She’d use a crutch and shorts so that her leg stump could air-out since it would get raw wounds from the prosthetic device rubbing against it. No one cared.

She also swam like a fish and would take big hikes — multiple day hikes — up and down very steep mountainous terrain.

One time a group of hikers passed our group and said that the little one (she was thirteen years old) wasn’t doing so well. And we responded, “Yeah, it is to be expected. It is harder for her since she only has one real leg and the other is artificial.”

She began to believe in her power and prowess since we all egged her onward. … She eventually became a lawyer for human rights and, as a hobby, taught physically handicapped children gymnastics, including children missing two arms.

No one should be sorry or self-pitying for  his or her condition. Instead each should rise. … We all need to help each other to rise as was tried to do with this girl.

Dari was a unique child. He was seven years old. His mother was one of Andy Warhol’s whores and companions. She was a big fan of drugs and sex with anyone alluring to her.

One of the women who knew her was a fan of my parent after having spent time at their resort in the 1950’s. So she arranged to have the child Dari come to their resort and she took the baby half-brother of him since the mother was out of her mind due to drugs, poor lifestyle choices and  increasing incapability to take care of anything, including herself.

So my parents got legal custody of the seven year old child. I was around eighteen or nineteen at the time.

He was a mess. His teeth were rotting. He was malnourished and he had no understanding of customs. So our first act was to hand him over to the resort head nurse. So she took him off to the doctor serving the resort to set up a plan to help him. Next, she brought him to the dentist in the same role.

My job, along with other ones related to the resort, was to teach him habits and ways to conform to customs. So I spent time each day teaching him the way to use silverware — the way to hold a fork, a spoon, a knife. I taught him what a toothbrush is and showed him the way to use it and so on. It was very rudimentary since he’d had no training since he had been left alone with his baby brother to try to feed them both by himself by climbing on kitchen counters in his apartment and open cupboards to find whatever food he could in them for them both.

One day he went down to the beach area with a robe and hadn’t put on swim trunks. I promptly took him back up to his cabin and told him the rules about not being naked. Oh, there was so much to teach him, but he caught on quickly and wanted to learn.

The main resort nurse met with him every single day. She did a wellness check, gave him something called mineral oil and a vitamin/mineral pill. She also checked on his mental health since he found it traumatic to go to the dentist every few days since his teeth were such a mess.

He was a very sweet, kind and intelligent boy. I guess that he had learned kindness since he had learned all by himself the way to keep his baby brother alive since their mother didn’t contribute except to stack junk food in cabinets every now and then.

So, several workers at the resort wanted to adopt him, including a married couple of two teachers, but we had to talk to his biological father first. His father was one of the top international bankers in Europe. He’d had an affair with that mentally disturbed lady since she was sexy, I suppose, and associated with Warhol.

So my father had me call him, Dari’s dad, and explain the situation. I used part French and part English. He decided that he would take his son and tell his wife of the situation — the extramarital affair. So we shipped him off to France after the summer experience at the resort.

Meanwhile, Andy Warhol had called my father and said that he was picking up the boy to play a part of a dying heart attack victim on Fire Island in NY. My father told him: No way. He looks healthy now (not like a dying heart victim any more) and I have legal jurisdiction over this boy. He is legally in my custody. So you can’t snatch him away to his former life with his mother despite whatever she may tell you since she legally gave up custody for this time period.

Mommy: At least she had the “smarts” to give them up … Why, she didn’t even know about whom the baby’s father was since she had been so sexually active with multiple men nine months prior to his birth.

My father went onward: If you set foot on my property to try to get him, you will be surrounded by staff until the local police and state troopers arrive to haul you off to jail for trespassing on MY land.

Andy started swearing and cussing at my father and I never heard my father, a Quaker pacifist, use nasty language in his life except for this one time. He said, “Andy Asshole, I don’t care about who you think you are. You are not taking this boy from me. He no longer looks like a dying heart victim since we have been taking him to the doctor, the dentist, as well as have been nourishing him with high quality foods.”

So this is the way that we do it — the way that we help. We teach that shame over a disability is not needed and you can succeed. We teach that we can help young and old people  — sometimes one person at a time.

Really, it is fun and easy to do and when it gets tough, we just have to act like my father — stand your ground. It’s very gratifying. …The model adopted the baby. The biological father got Dari.

Sally Dugman is a writer from MA, USA.



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