Chapter One

The Beginning

Every life has a beginning. Some are more famous than others. Some end before they have really begun. This beginning was neither. It was a normal middle class beginning in a middle class neighborhood on a quiet street where children could play without being hurt or bothered. All of the people who lived there had moved in about the same time. The house was a three bedroom ranch that was new when the Robinson family moved in it in 1951. There was no air conditioning and the heat was a floor furnace. Daddy worked about 16 hours a day installing heating and air conditioning. The average weekly salary for that time was about $50.00 bring home. Gas was purchased by gallons, milk was about .25 per gallon and still delivered to the door. Bread was a nickel and the mortgage on the house was $7000.00.Mother bought about $20.00 worth of groceries and it feed us for a week. Even though things were inexpensive, times were still hard. The country had just come out of two wars, a recession was on and work was not easy to come by. Mother did not work, she stayed home and took care of the house and me, until Stan arrived. The second child of Clinton Leonard and Doris Robinson Stan was born on July 13,1952. This as a time when "handicapped people" were as out of place as frost in July. As a general rule those handicapped ( the title given to the disadvantaged at the time and will be used here until later), were frequently placed in institutions, left in a back room and rarely seen or mentioned. Mostly they were forgotten human beings. It was something one didn‘t mention. It was considered a “bad thing” to admit one had a child or other family member who was “handicapped.” Mother’s prayer was that with God’s help Stan would be socially accepted.

Stan's birth was not historic, nor was it difficult. He was carried to term and he had me, Yvonne, an older sister already at home. There was no reason for this child not to be "normal". God's plan, however, was not our plan. Stanley had purpose. As I look back on this purpose now, it becomes clear as crystal (and at times as a glass darkly)!!! At times I see the results of his reason for being handicapped and at other times I wonder what he could have done had he not been handicapped. He is so driven in his goals, I wonder if maybe he would have been a greater force to be reckoned with. I wonder if maybe he might have been a successful businessman or the

owner of a ball team. But, when I look again I see his influence on others, his popularity and his drive to be the best he can be with the talents that he has. I have to ask myself does he already have the greater gifts and talents? Would not being handicapped have made him a better man or would it have been a curse?

Stanley arrived. He came into our world. He weighed in at 7 lbs and 3 ounces and was name Stanley Clinton Robinson. Mother felt as if something was not quite right from the beginning. Stan cried all the time, not just the normal cry of a newborn wanting to be fed, changed or suffering with colic. His cry was one of undetermined origin. She would talk to the doctors about it and they told her it was nothing. But she knew.

Everything appeared fine, except for the crying and the usual challenges newborns face, and an older sibling! I had been the only child and then there were two. The usual rivalry between children started. I wanted the attention that a newborn required. I think I may have loved Stan, but he was intruding on my space. I have no memories of this time as I was only a toddler.

But, one day when he was 9 months old, something happened which was to change everyone in the Robinson’s lives-forever. San got sick. He was taken to the doctor who, diagnosed his illness as a virus and sent him home saying, “he will be fine”. Mother was also sick with this same mystery virus. Mema, mother’s mother, had come to stay to help with Stan and me. Stan never ran a fever, but he cried all night long and pulled at his ear. Mema sat up and rocked him not knowing what was really wrong. Sometime during the night Stan began to take his left arm and move it in a circular motion. This motion never stopped. As he continued to move this arm the right arm started the same motion. It was as if they had a mind of their own. As they continued to move his legs began to jerk as if they were at the end of a puppet string. Mema got mother up and they put Stan in the car and drove to Dr. Tucker’s office in East Point. On the way Stan’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and his back became rigid. Mother knew at once something was seriously wrong. Once, at the doctor’s office, Stan was sent to the hospital, where he was admitted. The doctors at the hospital started the necessary tests to see what was causing this child to have these attacks. They ruled out meningitis, hepatitis, and number of other problems. But what they did find baffled all of them. He was given a spinal tap and diagnosed as having Encephalitis. The cause of this infection has never been found. The doctors explained that this disease generates inflammation around the brain causing drowsiness, slowing down of the mental and physical facilities, and frequently - coma. The

doctors were not very optimistic. Stan did fall into a coma and the concern was over the extreme possibility of brain damage, whether he came out of the coma- or not.

All that mother and daddy could do was wait, pray and watch the drip, drip of Terramycin seep slowly into Stan’s tiny arm to fight the infection. The days and nights of hurt, concern and worry continued until Wednesday- when Stan finally began to slowly emerge from the coma. Doctors were called to examine him to determine what further struggles and challenges lay ahead. To their surprise Stan’s eyes were crystal clear, and he appeared to be looking at the world around him in wonder and awe. The doctors were not only surprised and stunned, but enormously pleased. This, they told mother and daddy, meant that Stan had faculties they had not expected to see after such a bout of sickness. They told mother it seemed Stan’s intellect was returning, yet they were not sure how much. This was a very good sign. It meant Stan not only was going to survive but that God had answered the many prayers offered for him. Being cautious, as doctors are, they explained to mother that although the intelligence factor was there, Stan would never be “normal”, in the way society understood the term. They indicated he probably would not achieve a level, mentally or physically, beyond that of a three year old. He would always have problems that could not be fixed, nor perhaps even improved. In any other family this might have been like a death sentence; but not to mother, and not to Stan. The doctors did not factor in Stan’s determination or his sense of self-preservation.

Shortly after his awakening from the coma it was discovered that Stan was one third clubfooted on both feet. In order to straighten out his feet the doctors placed casts on both feet and legs. The casts were heavy and awkward because they were made of plaster. He was then released home wearing these heavy casts on both legs and feet up to his thighs. Mother began reading anything she could find regarding brain damage. She sought out medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and others who were researching or working in the field of brain damage. She was not one to sit by and wait for the end to come or accept his condition as final. Further, she would not take him home or put him in an institution and allow him to waste away. Not our mother, she would have none of that reasoning. She knew there had to be something or someone somewhere who could provide the help Stan and his family needed. She did this with no insurance and very little money. She never gave up on her quest to get Stan every opportunity to help him become the person that she knew he was inside. Prayer was as much a part of her day as eating, drinking and sleeping. Reading, which had always been a passion, now became that which she devoured, as food for a starving man. No article was too small and no book too thick. She refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. She refused to believe there was nothing to be done that could help Stan. She became a one woman army in this war against a monster that had affected not only Stan but ‘the family.’ It was not easy; there were many tears, sleepless nights, and feelings of not being able to cope. Giving up was never an option.

Due to the illness, Stan did not have the ability to feel pain and he was too small to even try to communicate to us when or where he might hurt. Also, he did not the coordination skills to begin learning the simplest words. He never made the usual baby sounds of cooing or gurgling. But tragedy began yet again for this courageous little fellow: he was struck with multiple boils all over the top of his head and was suffering from dehydration. No one knew why. With that latest incident, I, his 18 month old sister had had enough. I was too small to understand all the time and effort being given to care for Stan. I didn’t understand that my mother was not well, either. I began to lash out and the most obvious target of my unhappiness was Stan. While he was lying on a pallet on the floor, I began hitting him over the head, the source of his greatest discomfort. I can’t even began to imagine how my poor mother felt at this juncture. Here, she had a eighteen month old trying to assert her place in the pecking order of affection. But she also had a nine month old son who not only had been very ill and near death, but was now mentally and physically challenged, and finally with boils on his entire head. Adding to all this, Mother was herself sick and Daddy was working day and night to support the family. I wonder. Did running away cross her mind, or Daddy’s? Did they think of just throwing up their hands in defeat and calling it quits? Not ever. Now, once again God in his divine providence intervened. My grandparents, Mema and Daddy Wiley were visiting and mother in her knowing way knew that I needed the attention which presently she could not give. Mother knew that I loved my Mema so she sent me home with them. She knew that Mema would give me what I needed most at that time. Yet, it seems that I resented, for many years, being sent away . I did not understand that mother was looking out for both Stan and me. Would Stan survive all that was burdening his small body, plus the jealousy of a sibling and her childish desire for equal time? We often forget the fortitude that we possess in times of trial. Stan had enough for a entire Army.

During this time Mother prayed without ceasing. Her prayers were not for things which were not in the realm of reality, but that Stan would be socially accepted in a world biased in their acceptance of that not perfect or ‘normal‘. Her faith and trust in God saw her thru the turbulent waters overwhelming her at this time in her life. Had it not been for her faith and trust in God, I truly believe that Stan would not have had a chance at life, much less survival in his desperate condition. He would have been lost in that myriad of hidden- forgotten people, due to nonacceptance from society at that time.

God answered mother’s prayer in the form of a wonderful physician. This physician’s name has been lost over the years. She taught mother exercises to train Stanley’s coordination. These same

exercises are used today for sport and accident injuries. This same doctor put mother in touch with a child psychologist to test Stan’s intelligence. Due to the fact that Stan did not have anything but abstract cognizance ability at this time, he would throw temper tantrums because of his inability to verbally express his thoughts and feelings. This saint of a doctor gave mother advice which in this modern day and time would result in her arrest for child abuse, the child would be removed from his mother’s care. This doctor told mother that when Stan entered into one of his uncontrollable tantrum fits, to place him in a closet for a very short period. This, the doctor said, was to let Stan know, in his abstract language, that his behavior was unacceptable. The reasoning for this was to prevent further damage to the brain.

One day Stan went into one of his ‘famous’ fits. Mother took the doctor’s advise and put him in the closet for a very brief time. Once the door was closed, she stood outside and cried. She cried for having to take this unorthodox action, which though seeming inhuman, did help Stan to understand, where words had no effect. She cried for that small boy child alone in yet another dark place. She cried because this child could not make his wishes, hurts, needs or unhappiness known in the verbal world. She cried because this was her child and she loved better him than life itself. She cried because all she wanted was to be a mother and she felt a mother would not do this to her child. The closet ’treatment’ never had to be employed again. Stan was a quick study and he learned other means of making his wishes understood.

As Stan’s brain began to heal and the natural order of development started to come into play, he began to learn and he learned many things. His sphere of reasoning took over and began to compensate for lack of motor and language functions. The instinct of wanting to be mobile took a new form. Stan learned that he could pull himself around on the floor with his elbows, dragging his legs which were still in casts. He moved from one place to another, with relative efficiency, using this method. He was no longer as dependant on others to move him. He seemed thrilled with this accomplishment. Once this was mastered he figured out that by dragging himself to an object he could pull himself upright and stand, even in his casts. He found a bookshelf that served this purpose very well. He would drag himself to the bookshelf and stand. He still had not mastered sitting and walking, so a child’s walker was provided to aid in this advancement. Once he was placed in the walker and learned he could manuaver with his feet and legs, even in the casts, he was free. One must remember those casts were not the light weight casts of today. They were heavy plaster casts of the 1950’s. So Stan had to deal not only with the lack of motor skills, and the weight of those casts, but he was still unable to verbalize discomfort, and the inability to experience pain. This still was a small delicate but tough child of less than two years old.

February 1953 arrived, and what a month it was! It shall remain forever a red- letter month. On the 23 of February 1953 Stan was 19 months old-- and took his first step, unaided. He had done this in spite of being told he couldn’t, not being able to verbalize, and was still clad in heavy casts. The impossible, the improbable become a reality. The doctors were wrong. Stan still could and did achieve. He had determination and a sense of self-perseverance to over come his handicaps and inconveniences.

God had allowed this child to take a step closer to becoming accepted. Three days later on Feb.26,1953 another sibling arrived to help make Stan whole.

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