Her son's case is not serious; he has trouble walking, and physiotherapy alone will probably take care of it. She tends to observe us with careful and detached curiosity, like a first-class traveler visiting the third-class deck. She never neglects to mention the minor nature of her son's condition. When we're discussing the most difficult cases she opens her eyes wide in a kind of theatrical solidarity, but you can tell that hearing other people's stories simply offers her yet another form of reassurance. (p. 69 in my copy, at the beginning of the chapter titled "Pleasure Island")Yep. Met her, or at least met her American sisters (and brothers). Other standout chapters for me were focused on the son's school principal, a visit with a dementia specialist, and a lot of the conversations with the son (Paolo) as a teen and young man. The title phrase, Born Twice, refers to a counselor's advice that "These children are born twice. They have to learn to get by in a world that their first birth made difficult for them. Their second birth depends on you, on what you can give them...." I remember being aware of that, when my son was first born. I had been a teacher, I knew full well that birth didn't have the last word on anyone's outcomes in life.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Giuseppe Pontiggia, "Born Twice"
I recently picked up the English translation of the Italian novel Nati due volte by the late Giuseppe Pontiggia, because it seemed like my kind of subject--the narrator is a father whose second son has cerebral palsy. It's not so much a novel as a series of vignettes, thirty-eight scenes across the son's first three decades, in the father's marriage and work lives. I have no way to judge whether the translation is a good one, but some of the observations are very sharp, unsentimental, like this description of another parent, a mother in a parent support group: