Broken Fins, Missing Fibulas (Missing the Point)

Nicholas and Nemo were both “born” in 2003. Nemo with his little fin. Nick with fibular hemimelia. This could have been a lovely coincidence. A match made in heaven. Except it wasn’t.

One conversation really turned me off the movie (though its not at all fair to the movie). Someone was telling me about why they did not like the movie. They said it was depressing because “all of Marlin’s kids die except for the gimp”. In that moment I froze. Then I changed the subject, and felt awful for not calling this person out on their ignorance. They had actually watched the movie and that is what they took from it. I know cruelty was not the intention. I know this person was not thinking of Nick specifically. Maybe this was a horrifying attempt at humor. It did make me wonder what they thought of my son.

Back to Nemo… The main plot of Finding Nemo is about Marlin finding Nemo, obviously, but it’s also about learning to let go. Finding and letting go. They do seem to go together.

Dory: There, there. It’s all right. It’ll be OK.

Marlin: No. No, it won’t.

Dory: Sure, it will. You’ll see.

Marlin: No. I promised him I’d never let anything happen to him.

Dory: Huh. That’s a funny thing to promise.

Marlin: What?

Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then, nothing would ever happen to him. [Marlin stares at her] Not much fun for little Harpo.

If we focus too much on preventing the bad things from happening we will prevent the good things from happening as well. That’s a repeat theme from a few blog posts ago. I also think we need to find out who our children are, in order to be able to let them go. Realizing that Nicholas is capable of handling the questions and interactions that come with having fibular hemimelia, on his own, keeps me from being terrified of what might happen every time he is away from me.

Meanwhile Nemo is trying to prove himself to his over protective Dad. Although his fins smallness, seemed small to me, compared to Nicks leg, Nemo still needed to learn that he was able and capable. The difference between Nemo and Nick, is that Nick was always told that he was capable and able. He still needs to live it to really know it. However he will not ever have to prove anything to me. For Nemo, seeing Gills damaged fin helped him believe he could be capable too.

Gill: Nobody touch him! Nobody touch him.

Nemo: Unh! Unh! Unh! Unh! Ah, can you help me?

Gill: No, you get yourself in there, you can go yourself out.

Deb: Ah, Gill!

Gill: I just wanna see him do it, OK?! [Nemo panics a little] Calm down, alternate wiggling your fins and your tail.

Nemo: I can’t! I have a bad fin!

Gill: Never stopped me… [Nemo sees Gill’s scarred fin] just think about what you need to do.

Nemo was brave and capable. Kids with differences will hopefully identify with that (though hopefully they wont take risks like Nemo did to prove it). It’s also a wonderful way for kids without physical differences to be introduced to a character with physical differences.

Accepting differences is my favorite theme of Finding Nemo. I think it’s illustrated best in Marlin and Dory’s relationship. Dory is different. Dory may not be able to remember short term information, but she has other abilities and gifts. She can read. She can understand a little whale. She is remarkable really despite her mental illness. I don’t know if kids get that but they know Marlin would not have found Nemo without her. What she had, mattered more than what she didn’t have.

And lastly what is called the tao of Nemo “Just keep swimming”. Even if we help our kids to gain confidence and feel able, that doesn’t mean things will be easy. I don’t think life is easy for most of us and I don’t think it’s supposed to be (which I know I have written before). But fibular hemimelia does not have to be the thing that makes it hard.

For Nemo it’s really not the fin, but how he thinks about the fin that matters. I think it’s the same for Nick. It’s not the fibula or lack of fibula. It’s what he thinks about the fibula. This reminded me of Thich Nhat Hahn’s quote “No Mud. No Lotus”. Maybe FH does feel like “the mud” sometimes but the outcome of it so beautiful. And without it, we would view life so differently. Maybe we would have more problems. Maybe we would view the little things as problems, that are just little things.

No Fibula No Problem. The tao of Curley.

Jen Curley

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