I finished watching “The Street” on BritBox the other night.
One of the episodes, “Past Life”, was about an alcoholic named Shay who finds out he has a teenage son.
An old flame named Madeleine turns up out of the blue and tells him that he has a 16 year old son named Otto.
He asked Madeleine why she didn’t tell him about his son. She said it was because she wanted nothing more to do with him. But his son had asked to meet him.
In other words, his drunken behavior had driven her away long ago.
Then the day comes when Madeleine brings Otto to his house. Shay watches out the window as they get out of the car. He has began to look forward to meeting this son he knew nothing about.
Until he sees that Otto has Down’s Syndrome.
What Is Normal Anyway?
Madeleine knocks on the door but Shay is too cowardly to answer it. He cannot find it within himself to accept a son with “limitations.”
He thinks to himself: She must have slept with someone else. That can’t be my son.
But that is not the end to it.
Sometimes Shay comes home to find Otto waiting for him. Shay chases him away as though he’s a stray animal.
He cannot see past Down’s Syndrome. Shay cannot see Otto as a son.
Shay Makes An Effort:
Shay eventually decides to get to know Otto. But the first time Madeleine allows Shay to have Otto stay overnight, Shay passes out drunk.
Otto comes down from the upstairs bedroom looking for something to drink. He sees a beverage in the refrigerator and drinks it. It is vodka.
Shay awakes to Otto having a seizure on the floor. He rushes him to the hospital. And of course when Madeleine arrives the doctor tells her what Shay cannot bring himself to tell her. That alcohol caused it.
Madeleine immediately cuts off ties between Shay and Otto. She has given him several chances and he has failed Otto too many times to be trusted.
If Shay was to have a son, he wanted a normal son. At least that’s what he told himself. But he finds that he misses Otto. He had given his life new meaning.
Shay goes on a real bender. He loses everything and eventually is sleeping on the street.
A neighbor finds him, sees that Shay has finally hit bottom, and helps him to sober up.
Shay Finally Sobers Up:
Shay goes to Alcoholics Anonymous and stays clean. He passes the six month mark.
But Madeleine will not relent. Shay had hurt his son first by rejecting him because he had Down’s Syndrome. Then he had nearly killed him by choosing to drink instead of being a proper parent.
Sometimes, unfortunately, you don’t know what you have until you no longer have it. As was the case with Shay.
If he had looked past “different” earlier he might have gotten the chance to really know his son. And his son might have enriched his empty life.
We all have so much to learn about acceptance. About looking beyond someone’s color or intellectual challenges.
Different does not mean bad. It doesn’t mean “less than.”
It just means “not quite the same as, but equal to.”