What I Learned From Karen

A few weeks ago I read “Karen” by Marie Killilea. While I cannot say that it is my all-time favourite book, it was a good read and probably worth it. I think I learned a lesson from it (and that doesn’t happen very often- or maybe it does? Maybe I learn lessons from books without realizing it? I guess I don’t actually learn “lessons” as in morality, behaviour, etc., instead, I learn different styles of writing, a bit of history here and there, but no actual “lessons” as in how to act and behave. . . Whoops, I’m beginning to ramble! I am incredibly talented when it comes to rambling. And also very good at not making sense.)

“Karen” is the story of a little girl with cerebral palsy. It is written by her mother, Marie, who describes the family’s reaction to Karen’s diagnosis and how she and her husband, Jimmy, undertook the treatment and therapy that Karen needed. After they saw and spoke with an astonishing number of doctors who informed them that it was hopeless for Karen to ever be able to walk, the Killileas finally discovered one doctor who offered help and encouragement. As the distance was quite large between their cities, he taught them how to do therapy on Karen themselves, and well, I’ll just say that, in the end, she does learn to walk.

But the lesson I learned from this book was about being judgmental. All those doctors that Jimmy and Marie spoke with were incredibly unkind and uncaring. I was shocked and appalled at how some people treated and rejected the Killileas because of Karen’s CP. They were even thrown out of an inn once.  There was one scene where the family was canoeing with some friends and Karen fell overboard. Both parents dove in after her while other people watched from their boats. After a frantic while Jimmy managed to fish her out of the water, and, in order to prevent Karen from developing a fear of water because of this scary incident, he and Marie started laughing and joking around with Karen. The people continued to observe, now in increasing disdain, as the Killeas appeared to be not at all disturbed by their daughter nearly drowning. I have never considered myself as judgmental, but when I put myself in the shoes of those observing, I realized how I would have jumped to conclusions just the same as they did. This incident had terrified the parents, but it was not lack of love or concern that made them smile and laugh at such an unseemly moment, but the overflow of it. They could have acted scared and panicked and this way safeguarded the good opinion and sympathy of the on-lookers, but their love for Karen was greater than the fear of losing their reputation in the neighbourhood and being thought of as bad parents.  This book made me see how there’s often more than meets the eye (sorry I’m using a cliche!) and that I should work on always being ready to make allowances for people when I don’t know all the details.

 I hope you enjoyed my lecture. JK, I’ve just realized how very much this post sounds like a lecture, but I’m too lazy to edit it. (Yes, laziness is another vice I have to work on getting rid of.)

Well, this is the end of my Very-Unconfusing-Post-That-Makes-A-Ton-Of-Sense-I’m- Sure!

Until next time!

-Elestyn

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