Last weekend I had the rare opportunity to visit with two favorite cousins I hadn’t seen in several years. As understandably proud mothers, they talked about their children—now successful young adults who are intelligent, attractive, and very nice people. In addition, I spent time with my sister and her two daughters, my beloved nieces who are now eleven and fourteen years old, and as Ed aptly describes them, “the nicest girls,” who are also smart, pretty, and personable. Although I am genuinely pleased that their children are doing well, I can’t help feeling a bit wistful that my child still struggles with simple tasks. Their children eagerly anticipate dating, college, and careers, but Alex’s future holds uncertainty and perhaps none of those milestones of young adulthood. On the other hand, he has been spared from much of the angst of the teenage years because he simply doesn’t care what other people think of him. However, as his parents, Ed and I sometimes feel that we are sitting at the airport, waving as our friends and family depart on their journeys of life while we sit in the terminal, waiting on stand-by for a flight that may or may not ever arrive. As much as we try to fight it, sometimes jealousy arises.
Whenever I’m tempted to sink into self-pity mode, something happens to lift my spirits and make me feel blessed for what we have. This week, we took Alex to the dentist for his regular six-month cleaning and check-up. As I described in “Dentist,” Alex loves going to the dentist, and we are thankful that his dentist and especially his dental hygienist are wonderfully patient and sweet with him. While we were pleased to hear the good news that Alex’s teeth are very healthy—he has never had a cavity in his life—we were even happier to hear that he was remarkably cooperative and pleasant. His hygienist enthusiastically told me, “He just gets better and better!” The dentist, whose practice he once told me is comprised of 25% special needs patients, then commented that he knew that Alex faced various challenges, yet we had done a really good job with him and should feel proud. That kind comment blessed us and gave me encouragement I needed. Since Alex had done so well at the dentist, Ed treated him by taking him to one of his favorite places, Walmart. Although most teenagers would not be caught dead grocery shopping with their fathers, Alex loves going with Ed and pushing the cart—for him, this is the equivalent of an amusement park. When they returned home, Ed proudly told me what a great job Alex did navigating the cart through crowded aisles, smiling the entire time. To think that about a year ago, we were pushing Alex in a transport chair through the store because we didn’t trust him to walk through the store on his own makes this progress amazing to us. Besides improving his behavior, Alex also seems to radiate joy that’s contagious. Ed noticed that as Alex smiled, people in the store saw him and smiled back. Perhaps this is his mission in life: to make others feel the joy he finds in everyday experiences.
Along with these two positive experiences this week, Alex also had another good session at music therapy. For the past few months, his music therapist has remarked that he has seen great progress in Alex, especially in his social skills and language, to the extent that he only points out small issues, refining and working toward mastery of skills that took time to develop, such as speaking at an audible volume and looking at people when he talks. In contrast, we have noticed other children in the therapy office waiting room who still struggle with behavioral issues, and we have felt empathy toward their parents who are trying to help their children. As Ed commented the other day, whenever we feel bad about something that Alex can’t do, we see other children who are more profoundly affected by their issues and feel thankful that he has accomplished so much over the years. The other night, as I was mulling over the reassurances we’ve enjoyed from these unexpected rewards this week, I heard country singer Darius Rucker’s new song, “This,” and its uplifting lyrics resonated with me: “All the doors that I had to close, everything I knew but I didn’t know, thank God for all I missed, ‘cause it led me here to this.” Although our path in life hasn’t been typical, looking back, we are, indeed, blessed that God has led us to this.
“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” Hebrews 10:35