Aidan's Way: The Story of a Boy's Life and a Father's Journey

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Overview

This life we're given comes in its own season and then follows its vanishing away. If you're at ease in your season, if you can dwell in its vanishing, joy and sorrow never touch you. This is what the ancients called getting free.
--Chuang Tzu

"Aidan's crisis had liberated me in a way. We had come close to death, had looked over the edge of the precipice, and then moved back. He would die at some point, perhaps young, maybe very young. He was profoundly disabled, even more so ...

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Overview

This life we're given comes in its own season and then follows its vanishing away. If you're at ease in your season, if you can dwell in its vanishing, joy and sorrow never touch you. This is what the ancients called getting free.
--Chuang Tzu

"Aidan's crisis had liberated me in a way. We had come close to death, had looked over the edge of the precipice, and then moved back. He would die at some point, perhaps young, maybe very young. He was profoundly disabled, even more so than he had been before. But his near-death had altered my vision. The length of his life or the physical particulars of his life were not as important as the mere fact of his life itself. He was following along in his own season, moving on the currents of the Way....

I could feel myself starting to get free."
--from Aidan's Way

Sam Crane was unprepared to be the father of Aidan, a boy who would never walk, talk or see. Aidan's Way is an endlessly inspiring account of parental love and devotion, of the lessons of ancient eastern philosophy and of what it means, ultimately, to be human.

"Aidan's Way is the rare personal account that should resonate with any reader....By telling his story simply, beautifully and bravely, Crane challenges us to question the criteria by which we judge everything in this world."-Chicago Tribune

"One of the rare stories about family tragedy: both remarkably perceptive and lacking in self-pity."-Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An Asian studies professor at Williams College, Crane mines his academic field to tell the story of his profoundly disabled son's life, unpacking a grab-bag of Asian philosophy and its relationship to his son's humanity and worth. Despite some excessively formal passages and, alternately, overly emotional, cliche-laden writing, this book will ring true for parents dealing with similar situations. Crane's thesis that "disabled people are not marginal to the human experience; they are central to it, for without them there could be no definition of ability," while not novel, is a stimulating addition to the public debate over the rights of the disabled. Crane's son, Aidan, has suffered from seizures since he was 10 days old, and at age seven he "still could not walk or talk or see. His abilities were closer to those of a three-month-old infant." The author recounts the many years of doctor visits and the frustrations and triumphs he and his wife experience as they attempt to give their child meaningful care, and philosophical discussions of Tao Te Ching and the Book of Changes, as well as other texts, relieve the repetitive litany of seizure episodes and the tedious minute-by-minute descriptions of Aidan's medical care. Parents of the disabled will find much to identify with in this upbeat and hopeful memoir. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is not the first book by a scholar-father to ponder what it means to raise a special-needs child in an unforgiving world. In Life as We Know It, Michael Berube also asks troubling questions and uses his academic specialty to formulate answers. While Berube relies on his background in history and the philosophy of Western civilization, Crane (Asian studies, Williams Coll.) draws on Eastern philosophy, particularly the Tao Te Ching, to examine how he and his wife cope with the mental and physical disabilities of their first child, Aidan (his condition is unknown). Crane is more conversational than Berube; he describes the technical details of Aidan's condition in the simplest terms, effectively explaining Aidan's various seizures, and he is more positive than Berube. Crane admits great pain and sadness on his part but acknowledges that the world is perhaps a little kinder to our special children than it was in the past. A nice addition to larger parenting, health, and disability collections.-KellyJo Houtz Griffin, Eatonville, WA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Loving expression of profound gratitude to the author’s severely disabled son, from whom he has learned unexpected lessons about life.

Never scanting the heartaches and medical emergencies, never maudlin or under any illusions about outcome, Crane nonetheless finds affirmation and comfort in accepting what good can be gleaned from his family’s heartbreak. Aidan appeared normal when he was born in western Massachusetts. But ten days later, he developed seizures that affected his breathing, was rushed to hospital and placed in the pediatric ICU, the first of the countless anguished medical emergencies. A CAT scan revealed that his brain was malformed; although outwardly normal, he would never speak, see, or walk. Sam, a professor of Asian Studies at a nearby university, and Maureen, a trained nurse, learned how to medicate their son’s seizures, exercise his limbs, and give him as many rewarding experiences as they could. They decided to have another child despite the risks, but shortly after Margaret was born healthy and normal, Aidan suffered a massive grand mal seizure so damaging that he will always have to be fed by a tube and can no longer kick or coo as he once did. While Aidan endured these endless traumas, Sam began studying anew the Chinese classics he taught, looking for wisdom that might apply to their situation. The philosopher Chuang Tzu offered him the most persuasive solace: "all lives are contingent and limited . . . we never find all that we are looking for [and] cannot escape death." Comforted, Sam began to appreciate all that Aidan would not have to experience in his life and to acknowledge that, although his son’s existence had curtailed his travel, it had led him towrite and to enter local politics while seeking more funds for the school Aidan now attends.

One of those rare stories about family tragedy: both remarkably perceptive and lacking in self-pity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402201530
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Crane is Chair of the Department of Asian Studies at Williams College. He has written scholarly books and articles, as well as numerous articles in the popular press, such as the New York Times and Salon.com on his son Aidan. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1. Difficulty at the Beginning 5
2. The Abyss 31
3. The Knowing Are Never Learned 58
4. Moving as One and the Same 85
5. Being the Child 118
6. The Human Realm 143
7. The Form of this Body 170
8. The Farther You Go, the Less You Know 201
9. Mastering Uselessness 236
Bibliographic Note 272
Acknowledgments 276
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2002

    Inspiring and highly recommended

    Every now and then a book comes along that wakes us out of our drab routine lives and makes us reevaluate essential questions: what is important? Am I doing something worthwhile with my life? What is life's meaning? Trite as it may sound, "Aidan's Way" does just that, but in a way that is subtle and avoids self-indulgent breast-beating. At its core, "Aidan's Way" is a resounding affirmation of life. Sam and Maureen Crane are the parents of Aidan, who is profoundly retarded mentally--he cannot walk, talk or see. At every turn, they face the possibility that he may die. Pneumonia assaults his lungs and grand mal seizures force him to rely on a feeding tube for sustenance. Adversaries come in human guise as well, with the Cranes heroically combating outrageous abuses by their HMO, doctors stereotyping Aidan as "one of THOSE kids," and a heartbreaking moment of frustration when an indecisive nurse fails to administer a drug in time to stop Aidan's seizures from permanently damaging his already fragile brain. There are heroes, too--a doctor with cerebral palsy who doggedly probes the causes of Aidan's condition while others write him off, a younger sister who brings hope and joy to the family, and countless therapists, journalists, and teachers. Aidan touches hundreds of people. There is even an amusing vignette about Aidan's role in a row involving his father and, of all people, the Singaporean Prime Minister. Crane's prose is saturated with vivid imagery and he effectively conveys both the heart-rending pain and sheer joy that is Aidan's way. Drawing upon ancient Chinese texts, particularly the Tao Te Ching and the writings of Chuang Tzu, Crane explores the lessons that Aidan offers to all who come in contact with him. We, the readers, follow Crane's journey as he struggles with ideas of science, human worth and purpose, and the dichotomy of active, rational analysis and intervention, and passive being. All in all, an inspiring book by a talented writer who has obviously poured into his words not only his heart, but also that of his son's.

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