Here's a book for Dad's – The Boy in the Moon – by award winning Globe and Mail journalist, Ian Brown. It's the story of a father who, while searching for the meaning of his 13 year old son's life, discovers the meaning of his own – as a father, husband, man. For his efforts Ian has won the two biggest literary prizes for non-
fiction in Canada: The BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction book
prize and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non Fiction.
Discovering ourselves through our children is not uncommon. Who better to burst our preconceived notions and perfect construction of reality? From vulnerable, dependent infants whose lives revolve around ours, or
is it vice versa, to magnificent persons with unimagined gifts, powerful wills and a
yearning for freedom. It is a journey all fathers are on whether we know it or not. Ian Brown's talent as a writer reveals that journey with utter candor, and an eye for detail. He is relentless in his search for the truth of his son Walker's purpose. Fathers who have read, The Boy in the Moon are unanimous – this is a book they can relate to.
While Walker's vulnerabilities are more extreme than many of our children – he has a rare genetic disorder that delivered a combination of physical and intellectual limitations – it would be a mistake to see this as a disability book about hard pressed, long suffering parents. Brown encounters all the steps in the complex dance between fathers and their children. The main difference Brown suggests, since Walker doesn't speak, they don't compound their confusion with words. Perhaps this makes it slightly easier for them to understand each other or at least to notice what words don't portray.
There are aspects of Cormac McCarthy's, The Road in The Boy in the Moon. There the father sees goodness and God embodied in his son – and the father's warrant is to protect that goodness. That's about as deep as a man can go to love his child, writes McCarthy. He (Walker) is one of the pools where hope resides, writes Brown.
Brown goes deep in his love for Walker revealing his imperfections, his doubts, his grace, his tenacity, his weaknesses. Not all of these are pleasant. His is a harsh judgment about science, about God, about human service ideology, about government, about disability. In fact, some parent leaders have castigated him for glorifying his own pain, overshadowing his son's condition and for perpetuating negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. They miss the point. Brown is a searcher and a skeptic. He accepts nothing as a given. His doubt leads him down many paths including to France where he spends time with Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche communities. Subsequently they carried on a public correspondence in the Globe and Mail. Vanier blesses Brown with equal candor. Vanier sees Brown's purity and impurity as resembling his own, as should we. Vanier offers no advice just a simple suggestion, they must continue to help each other become more human.
Ian Brown's book will help you become more human and perhaps slightly envious as he arrives at this tender conclusion:
I was already as close as I could be to him: there was no space between my son and me, no gap or air, no expectation or disapointment, no failure or success: only what he was, a swooned boy, my silent sometimes laughing companion and my son. I knew I loved him, and I knew he knew it. I held that sweetness in my arms, and waited for whatever was going to happen next. We did that together.
This is as pure as love gets – father style. Happy Father's Day.
To read an interview with Ian Brown along with a list of references in L'Arche's magazine, A Human Future click here.