Emma Loves Teddy “A Lot” – A Touching Story About Love Despite Disability

Opinion   |   Dave Andrusko   |   Mar 20, 2014   |   3:14PM   |   Washington, DC

My thanks go out to Wesley Smith for alerting me (and all his many other readers) to the film, “My Brother, Teddy.” We reprinted Wesley’s post on Monday, and this morning I watched the 6:06 film (video at end of this post) that will evoke powerful emotions in anyone who may have family members with severe physical disabilities.

emmaandteddyThe “header” for the film is spot-on: “This short film captures a young girl’s love for her brother, who has cerebral palsy.” And does it!

First, the background.

The New York Times runs what it calls “Op-Docs,” described as “a forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists.”

What readers/viewers saw was adapted from “Softening,” which won the grand jury prize in the shorts competition at the 2013 New York City Documentary Film festival [DOC NYC].

The director is Kelly O’Brien, “an independent filmmaker and mother of three who lives in Toronto.”

In an explanatory note, Ms. O’Brien informs us that her film “Softening” was made “over the span of five years, and captures moments, memories and reflections from our everyday lives. In an impressionistic way, it documents our challenges, changes and celebrations. It began as a film about my relationship with Teddy, but became a film about my family and all of our evolving relationships with him.”

She tells us frankly

“While I spent those first few years longing for what Teddy wasn’t, my husband, Terence, was able to appreciate him for who he was. As both mother and filmmaker, I felt it was important to find ways to represent Teddy not simply as a tragedy or a constellation of delays and disabilities, but as the sweet, happy and complicated kid that he is. Emma’s connection with Teddy reveals this perfectly.”

We first see Emma at six, running through fields, talking about what she likes about life. Before you know it, she is pirouetting around Teddy’s wheelchair and telling us what she likes (loves) about her three-year-old brother.

Well, Teddy is “cute, cuddly and funny, and I like him because he laughs at my jokes.” Good reasons, all.

Out of camera sight, we hear Ms. O’Brien begin to ask a question about what Emma would tell people who didn’t know Teddy. Emma jumps in

“Well, basically he is in my mom’s tummy and he got this in-fec-tion and when he come’ed out it was really hard for him to walk or stand, so he needs physical therapists and he needs medicine…and lots of help…. But I love him, though, a lot.”

Ms. O’Brien talks about one time after dinner when Emma started tickling Teddy who laughed and laughed. So she tickled him so more and Teddy “laughs even harder.” (Emma later tells us being tickled is one of Teddy’s favorite things.)

Her parents tell Emma she is Teddy’s favorite person. And then she asks

“Will I always be Teddy’s favorite person? Yes, we say. Even when he’s a dad? My heart breaks hearing this but Terrence is able to say yes. Then she asks, will Teddy need a wheelchair? Terrence says we don’t know yet and Emma says she hopes not. And then she asks, for the first time, what will happen to Teddy when he gets older? Will someone have to look after him?”

As the film turns a corner (remember this is only a brief adaptation), Emma and Teddy are more active together. He rests his head in her lap as they spin around on a merry-go-round. They play in the fields and, smiling, Teddy moves his arms as legs as if he were making a snow angel in the autumn leaves. He is immensely happy and Emma’s pride is abundant.

Emma is now 10 and Teddy, 7.

In the introduction, Ms. O’Brien tells us “This short film captures her love for Teddy, one not weighted down by disappointment, sadness or a full understanding of all the ways in which he wasn’t ‘normal.’” She concludes, “We’ll all continue to struggle with Teddy’s cerebral palsy, but this film isn’t about that. It’s about the things that make the struggle worthwhile.”

What an incredible last thought. Yes, it is difficult rearing a child with cerebral palsy, and (implicitly) yes, Teddy may always be with us.

But we see, clearly, that Teddy is not reduced to merely being a child “with severe physical and developmental disabilities.” Far more important he is a human being in his own right, Kelly’s and Terence’s son, and Emma’s brother, a brother she loves unconditionally.

LifeNews.com Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared at National Right to Life News Today.