Cole’s Prayer

Paul Wayne

Dear Lord,

I hope you can appreciate a good joke.

I’m praying on my back. I wanted be on my knees, which I understand is an ideal place to pray. The joke is that most of the time, that&rsquo ;s exactly where I am. Except that I just had surgery, as You probably know, to help me walk since, as You probably also know, I was born with spastic diplegia. From a very early age, about six months, my toes kept pointing downward, and the assumption was that either I was going to be another Nijinsky or I had cerebral palsy.

My parents hoped that every prognosis was wrong and that I’d beat the odds and start walking by the age of one. Didn’t happen. I can crawl, though. Faster, sometimes, than some people can walk. Depends on the floor. And the carpet. If the pile has a rough texture, you’d better not stand in my way. Anyway, I’m ten now and still crawling. It’s okay because I can find my way to most places, except I can’t stand up to pee so I have to be carried to toilets. I’m getting taller and heavier, and my loved ones are complaining of back problems. Bless them, they used to get a great kick toting me around when I was five and six. Now, it’s a chore; I feel sorry, but what can I do? When I gotta go, they gotta go, too!

So anyway, like I said, I just had this surgery. The doctor is not from California where I live but in New Jersey. So my parents had to fly me all the way there. I won’t bore You with what he did, but it’s supposed to relieve the spasticity in my legs and make it easier for me to maneuver them. I woke up after the surgery in awful discomfort and pain. Discomfort mainly because of the immobilizers they put on my knees to keep them straight. That’s part of the therapy. I’ve got to keep my knees absolutely straight for a whole month.

Everybody says, “You’ve got to have courage, you’ve got to endure this now, because in the end the pain will be just a memory and the result of all the discomfort will be that you will walk like a normal kid.” You see, I have my own blog, and I get a lot of encouraging notes from friends and stuff. Some of them even say, “God bless you.” Which sort of prompted me to join the prayers—give You a little nudge with a more personal touch. I mean, well, to put it truthfully—as if I’d lie to You!—frankly, ten years of crawling is enough. So I’ll come right to the point: this prayer is for me to walk like a normal kid.

But here’s the thing. While I’m praying, my mind is all jumbled. Confused. I’ll tell You why. It’s just mind-boggling to think—You’ll have to excuse me, it’s not easy to put this another way—Lord, if You wanted me to walk like a normal kid, why would You make me be born with CP in the first place? I say this respectfully. I know You can’t be everywhere at once, yet I’ve heard people say the opposite. They say that You are God and because of that You’re Perfect and so You are everywhere at once. Like the song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” which as You know, ends with “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” So if that’s even a small, tiny, teeny bit true, You couldn’t have taken Your eye off me for a second. It’s like You have a hundred eyes. Or a thousand. Or a million. Or a thousand million. Anyway, a lot of eyes. But that adds to my confusion. It would be different if I were a grown-up who committed all kinds of wickedness and wrongdoings and displeased You like all those sinners in all of Your bibles. But I was just being born. I didn’t have time to sin. So when You felt like handing out this condition, I wonder what went through Your mind? I’ve thought very hard about this. I even thought that maybe You had someone else in mind, and you took aim and then missed. But how could someone like You miss?! Is it the room that’s spinning or just my brain?

So here I am asking in a prayer for what I see other kids having as their right of birth. Not all kids, mind You. I have to admit I see some kids that are worse off than I am. That’s the God’s truth, if You’ll pardon the expression. I at least can think and talk. And say out loud what I’m thinking. I see some kids who are so bent out of shape with CP they look like stale broccoli, sitting all crooked in wheelchairs, quietly shaking, moaning, drooling all over their shirts. And it’s not only CP kids. I’ve seen plenty other kids born with worse things. With conditions and disabilities I can’t even pronounce. Some who live a little while and then die. Some in horrible pain. Some for all their lives—eighty, ninety years until You mercifully take them home. What is that all about?

But then You create these scientists and doctors, a few of whom are called geniuses. After a long time they cure things, for which they get awarded medals and sometimes prizes worth a lot of money. They end up curing all the horrible sicknesses that begin at birth. Which frankly gets my brain spinning more, because why would You make a sickness and then make a genius to cure the sickness? Why not just forget the sickness and eliminate the middleman? I’m trying my best not to be a wiseguy, but I hope You see my problem. If I’m not supposed to deal with a problem I don’t understand, why on earth do I have the sort of mind that tries to reason things out? I mean, if I’m not supposed to think logically why, dear God, did You give me the power to reason? If that’s an unreasonable question, forgive me, but whose fault is that?

I take a fascinating subject in school called history. Dear Lord, were you aware that for thousands of centuries back in time there have been people fighting and killing each other? Sometimes because they disagreed on some small thing that your Son, the Prince of Peace, said or did? I found out that I’m partly Jewish, Lord, which makes part of me partly chosen by You. Now get this. My history book says that about seventy years ago, some six million of Your chosen were deliberately put to death. Can You understand my wonder and disappointment? Because here I am, with my little prayer—do You grasp what I’m saying, Lord? My insignificant self with my insignificant request, when all those people who no doubt were also praying—do You gather my meaning, Lord? I mean, all those praying people. . . .

There are a great many down here who believe very strongly and with all their hearts in an Intelligent Designer. I’m wondering, very respectfully, if You know where He is, Lord. And if You do, would You be good enough to forward my prayer?

Paul Wayne

Paul Wayne, now retired, wrote for film and television, including such shows as Bewitched, All in the Family, and Three's Company. He won an Emmy for his work on The Smothers Brothers. Cole is his twelve-year-old grandson, and he is the subject of Wayne's book Adventures With My Brainchild, soon to be published. 'Cole's Prayer' is an abstract.

Dear Lord, I hope you can appreciate a good joke. I’m praying on my back. I wanted be on my knees, which I understand is an ideal place to pray. The joke is that most of the time, that&rsquo ;s exactly where I am. Except that I just had surgery, as You probably know, to …

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