Our Katybug is a bit of a Zen master. She’s very good at helping us put things into perspective. She has a way of forcing us out of our everyday rat-race cycle–you know, that whole groove that your life gets into? That groove, that when One. Little. Thing gets in the way or goes wrong, and you lose it because that One. Little. Thing just slowed your roll.
I call them
THE LITTLE ANGERS
Those little eruptions that cause you to use the bad words under your breath. Those things that ruin you day just a little.
Katy’s world is very people driven. It isn’t about the ‘things’ that get in her way–she doesn’t let them ruin her moments. for her it’s all about how to make the day better, how to make herself and those around her happy from moment to moment.
(Note to all: There is no stereotypical individual with Down syndrome. There is no one individual that fits that stereotype “they’re always happy!” That includes Katy. She has her ups and downs, and she cries quite a bit. But her personality is more happy than not. That’s just her personality.)
Lately (since about this past summer) she’s been taking larger and larger exceptions to our little angers. When we trip over the shoe in the hallway or can’t get the remote to change the channel and let the bad words spew from our mouths (and we might get ‘angry eyebrows,’ as she calls it). When we get upset, she gets upset.
Katy (after an eruption of little anger): “Are you mad at me (or anyone else in my immediate vicinity)?”
Me (or whoever has erupted): “No, I’m mad at the (shoes, remote, t.v., whatever . . .)”
Katy: “Oh, okay.”
Except one day, not too long ago, when I was particularly upset about the dishes not fitting JUST RIGHT into the dishwasher. This was the moment Katy did her Zen thing and put it all in perspective.
“Mom, the dishes can’t help it. Just do what you can and deal with it.”
She’s right. All those Little Angers just raise the blood pressure and do nothing to alleviate the situation.
See-Zen. For Katy, a hug is real. A smile is real. Those are the things that should matter. I’m in charge of the dishwasher. The dishes can’t do anything — they can’t change their placement or their size or shape (or color for that matter–but how cool would it be if they COULD!!!).
Of course, she doesn’t see that sometimes getting angry at the dishes in the dishwasher is just a way to redirect the anger I feel at someone else. A boss, a client, a spouse. Sometimes it’s nice to vent over that door that won’t close right rather than the ruin a relationship that you need to remain intact. In other words, screaming at an inanimate object is much safer than yelling at your boss.
But, beyond that, I’ll try to take the lesson. I’ll stop getting angry at the remote or the dishes or the door. At least while Katy’s around.
Now, onto my thoughts on The Unseen World by Liz Moore.
“Only humans can hurt one another, Ada thought; only humans falter and betray one another with a stunning, fearsome frequency. As David’s family had done to him; as David had done to her. And Ada would do it too. She would fail other people throughout her life, inevitably, even those she loved best.”
― Liz Moore,
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, computers and what the could do were the future. And David Sibleius was in the forefront of this new world.
And he’s raising his daughter to understand it all. As a single father, David teaches takes her to his computer lab at a Boston university, where he sort of home schools her. She’s part of the lab, understanding their research and mathematics at an early age. More comfortable with this group of adults than children, Ada longs for friends her own age, but is content in her cocoon.
One of the lab’s projects is a computer program called Elixir, which is a very early form of artificial intelligence. Throughout their lift together, both David and Ada use Elixir as a sort of diary, chronicling their lives, but there is so much more that it is learning to do.
At 12 and 13, Ada starts to notice cognitive changes in David. He starts forgetting basic things, gets flustered and angry more easily, and disappears for longer periods of time. After prodding by his friend Liston (a lab assistant and a single parent herself), David sees a doctor, and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His condition deteriorates quickly, and soon after he’s placed in a nursing home.
Suddenly Ada is forced into the world. She moves in with Liston and her three boys. She’s thrust into Catholic school, where she must learn the rules, both written and unwritten.
Ada also starts to realize that the few things she did know about her father are not real, and that she has no idea who he is. While coming of age in a new world, Ada must also unravel the mystery of her father.
With the help of the lab and Elixir (where David left clues to his true identity and his life before Ada), Ada attempts to unravel the story of her father. Where The Unseen World can finally be seen.
The Unseen World is a beautiful story. Multi-layered and multi-dimensional, this book has so many facets that blend beautifully.
At its heart, The Unseen World is a coming of age story for the most socially awkward of teenagers. But it’s got a bit of everything: history, illness, family, love.
The computer science component is fascinating, taking readers back to a time when being ‘online’ was fantasy, and the precursors for the things that run our lives were being imagined and created from 0’s and 1’s.
The Unseen World also gives readers a glimpse at the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s, and the fast decline that can come from it.
But mostly this is a tale of Ada and her difficulty in adjusting not only to the ‘real’ world (as a young teen!), but also the mystery of who David really was, and hows and whys of how he became to be David Sibelius, the father of Ada.
Set mostly in the 1980’s, this book jumps forward with Ada to 2009, and backward with David to his earlier years.
I loved The Unseen World. It’s different and smart, but with a lot of heart. Ada is a great character, and David’s great mystery brings it all together.
5 stars. Intelligent, heartfelt and original.