When she was about ten years old, my daughter insisted I read Roald Dahl’s wonderful, The BFG. If you’re like me and have never had the pleasure, The BFG is a lovely children’s story about a large and terrifying giant who turns out be gentle and kind. One reason it works so well is because it’s all about unexpected contrasts.
That’s how I feel about Caroline’s Dad, my brother Tony (pictured).
As you can see, he is (literally) a giant among men. In high school, he ended up in the same senior class as me as a result of some strange (but banal) circumstances. Tony and I couldn’t have been more different seniors. I was quickly expelled in the first six weeks. Meanwhile, he went on to win the Pennsylvania AA unlimited weight class wrestling championship in 1979. And this is in Pennsylvania, a state notorious for having some of the best high school sports programs in the entire US. Pennsylvania, the home to huge farmer boys who wrestle hogs and cattle for lunch.
Who could have guessed that such a big imposing guy would end up being tasked with such a huge nurturing life challenge? And yet, here he is, rising to the challenge.
I mentioned this to my wife and she pointed out that Tony has been teaching special needs students at the high school (the same high school we both attended in the 70s) level for his entire career. It’s a good point. You can’t spend your entire work life teaching troubled kids without developing huge reserves of empathy and compassion.
I guess sometimes the big unexpected contrasts are often present but not always easy to see—like Dahl’s BFG, who sneaks into all our dreams to protect us from nightmares and the bad giants (who steal and eat “human beans“). I guess that means I’ll have to be a bit more like Sophie, the little girl and hero from The BFG, who isn’t afraid to dream big and concoct elaborate plans to lock away the bad giants (like Rett syndrome), so they can’t hurt us anymore.