The Symphony of 18 Years
July 6, 2023
by Dr. Plastic Picker
I’m not sure why but I find these carrots very inspiring. I’m not sure why they grew the way they grew, but they are so interesting. They are 100% organic and taste better than any store bought carrot I’ve ever eaten. Each new carrot that comes out of the garden, is really a marvel. My mother-in-law planted them in containers and we have many more to go.
Our son turned 18 and it’s the summer before he is off to college at UC Berkeley. He’s really proud of himself for how he did on the one AP test that he really cared about. He showed me his reaction video when he got his score back, and it’s in the field of study that he is considering. His good friend called him from the Serengetti to let him know the scores were in. Who knows what time it was in Africa? But back here in San Diego in the downstairs room that has been filled with his childhood memories, he celebrated by taking a reaction video for himself. I was so proud of him, just like his first words and his first steps or the first time he made a friend at school. He’s learning how to drive albeit later than the rest of his friends. He made straight As his last trimester, and we realized that without the stress of actually worrying about getting into college – he performed better and was more joyful. We know he is well prepared for college, and more importantly he has stumbled here academically and recovered. So he’s already learned those lessons, that I did not learn until well into my training.
And there are other children that have turned 18 as well. Their 18 has been very different, and they are some of my patients. Someone who only the medical team knows and her mother knows, she turned 18 as well. Hers was a very different childhood. She never walked nor talked. She came in a few times a year, and more commonly in the winter for aspiration pneumonias. She had specialists and not friends. She had G tubes and tracheostomy sites and not AP test. But she also had a mother that watched over her as carefully and diligently as I watched over my son. Her mother protected her. Her mother made sure she was always well dressed. Her mother advocated for her.
So many 18 year olds in clinic these days, or maybe I’m just noticing them more because my son turned 18. I was happy to see an 18 year old in clinic whose parents have worked so incredibly hard to give her the same opportunities that my son has. When children are born, it’s not an equal playing field. Some are born with more opportunities as others. That my son earned his spot fairly in the system and is attending the same prestigious UC system as many of my patients, is a point of pride for me. None of these children are perfect, but they are each really amazing and loving. Society works better when the children of all classes mix, an that there is mobility within the social structure.
But mostly I’m grateful that I raised a caring young man who has empathy and compassion. Many of the other 18 year olds going to college have that same empathy. There are the other 18 years old that have such a different future, where their parents have to file conservatorship paperwork because they are special needs children. But they are all 18 year olds. Jumbled in my mind. Diverse, none perfect, and all very organic and real. None were store-bought. That is what the diversity of life is supposed to be like. I’ll never enjoy a perfect store bought carrot as much as the ones that come from our garden.
Thanks for listening to my ramblings.