In the Company of a Humble Genius
I first met Glenn Doman in the summer of 1998, when he was still teaching the parents of brain-injured kids what to do to make them well. I was one of those parents - young, enthusiastic and so eager to learn from Mr. Doman, with his booming voice, east coast accent, and sincerely jolly ways. He was kind and friendly, welcoming and warm, putting me right at ease despite my anxiety at being so far away from my young daughter for the first time in my life. And despite the fact that if what he was saying was true, that the brain did grow by use, and there was a chance my girl could outgrow her problems to live an independent, successful life, then I was on the brink of a grand and scary new adventure. And he made it all seem normal. Because here, in his world, hurt kids getting better was the norm. Being in his lectures was such a respite from the world outside. He taught me to trust my instincts as a Mother.
I remember him standing in the doorway to the cafeteria every day that long week, greeting parents as we entered for lunch. He stood there oozing his joy at this job of his, to set us on the hardest and most rewarding path we could ever imagine for ourselves. One day, I finally mustered the courage to reach out and shake his hand and say to him, “I’ll be bringing my Haylie here to do this program.”
To which he replied, “I know you will, and I can’t wait to meet her.”
So, that was it. He believed in me. That’s all I needed to give myself permission to believe in myself. To do this difficult but necessary thing - The Program.
I made good on my word. A few years later, on one of Haylie’s revisits, we had the honor of having Mr. Doman sit in with the staff teaching her intellectual program. As I religiously took notes, Haylie, a hyperactive six-year-old Tasmanian devil princess, ran around the room and each time she circled Mr. Doman’s chair, he would bend down so she could pat him on the head, like their own private game of duck-duck-goose. She called him, “Glenny.” The senior staff remarked that they all called him, “Sir.” But he didn’t seem to mind. To be totally honest, it was hard to tell who was having more fun.
When Haylie mailed him a handwritten birthday card that year, he mailed her back a handwritten thank you note. Not because my daughter was special to him, but because all children were special to him. He was just that way. In love with life, in love with kids, and in love with parents who fought so hard for them to be well. He gave us the most precious gift, both in his genius paradigm-shifting work and in his simple presence in a small room on a sunny Philadelphia afternoon.
Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Doman. We’re so glad you were born!
Darci and Haylie Hawxhurst