I'm a little behind on my Fresh Air interviews. The one I recently beamed up is an April 2010 replay of Terry Gross's 2006 interview with Dan Gottlieb. Gottlieb is a psychologist with a radio show on WHYY in Philadelphia. He's a man in his 60s who has been a quadriplegic for about thirty years due to a car-accident injury.
The interview covered his perspective on living one's life, a view of his life he had recently put into words in a 2006 book, "Letters to Sam," and, in 2010, a sequel to that book, "The Wisdom of Sam." Sam is his grandson--a child who has been diagnosed with autism.
If you're still with me here, I want to share with you something Gottlieb said about being the parent of a grown child who's going through difficult times. The story Gottlieb tells Terry Gross is about a conversation with his aging father:
"As he got older, he used to say: 'I'm ready to leave this vale of tears.' And I said to him, 'Dad, is your life that bad that you're really ready to go?' And he said, 'some days.' I said, 'Well, tell me about those days.' He said, 'Well, I get to thinking, my wife is gone; my daughter is gone'--my sister had died five years earlier--'and here's my son, struggling through life every day in a wheelchair.' He said, 'Those days, I'm ready to go.'
"I said,' But Dad, those things are true every day. Tell me about the days you're not ready to go.' He says, '[Those days] I'm not thinking about those things.' It's all perspective. It's all where your mind lands, is how you read your life and how you experience it."
Gottlieb then went on to quote a respected psychologist, Sheldon Kopp. And it's that paraphrased quote--and the perspective Gottlieb's father's story gives it--that resonates with parents of grown children when one of those children loses a job, goes through a divorce or suffers through one of life's other perils: "The most difficult part of love is dealing with your helplessness in the face of a loved one suffering."