Sunday, August 7, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Foward

This summer, one of my projects has been starting to convert our old home movies on video from VHS to DVD format. Last weekend, I made  a DVD copy of our wedding video from twenty-eight years ago, which Ed and I enjoyed watching, reminiscing about our special day and remembering little moments that we had forgotten over time. As I watched a younger version of myself walk confidently down the church aisle, I recalled that I felt more nervous than I appeared. However, I also know that at the time I felt certain about my faith in God, my love for Ed, and my hope for our future. What I did not know as that smiling bride is how all three of those would be tested by raising a child with autism and how those challenges would actually strengthen my faith, love, and hope.

Because Alex has been doing so well this summer, I have had more time to do projects that I have been postponing when he needed me to entertain and/or supervise him nearly constantly. Instead of just surface cleaning the house, I have had the time to do deep cleaning, which has led me to some discoveries that have taken my breath away for a moment. When Alex was extremely agitated four years ago, he would write seemingly random numbers in ballpoint ink on any surface he could find. Most of the time, I would see these numbers right away and scrub them off the walls, the toilet, the television, etc. What I was unable to erase, I found clever ways to cover with paint or wallpaper or strategically placed curtains, pictures, and tablecloths. For one thing, I didn’t want Alex to think this behavior was acceptable, and for another, I didn’t want any reminders of his temporary insanity.

As I wiped down woodwork and doors this summer, I discovered tiny reminders of that frightening and uncertain phase when Alex’s behavior spiraled out of control. Although I thought I had eliminated those scrawled numbers he had written in a state of agitation, I ran across numbers in plain sight that I shouldn’t have missed. I suspect I just thought they were nicks or spots on the woodwork. On three closet doors in three separate rooms, Alex had written numbers right at my eye level. Unlike many of the numbers he wrote all over the house, these showed control because they were small, even, and legible––a date, the year 2001.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the significance of that date was to Alex; perhaps it made an impression on him because the year after that we moved to this home from our old house. To be fair, he wrote all kinds of dates everywhere, and these just happened to be ones I somehow missed seeing. However, these numbers left behind, much like watching old videos, reminded me just how far we have come. Unlike the confident bride filled with faith, love, and hope, at that time I was a terrified mom whose faith, love, and hope were tested mightily because I didn’t know how to help Alex deal with whatever fears and frustrations were making him behave in such a bizarre way. However, I had to rely upon my faith in God, my love for Ed and Alex, and my hope for the future to get through an ordeal that made Alex, Ed, and I better and stronger.

As much as I’d like to erase completely those terrible times––just as I erased and hid the numbers Alex wrote––from my memory completely, I know that remembering them is just as important and perhaps even more important than remembering the good times that we preserve so carefully in photographs and videos as well as in our minds. Stumbling upon those dates written on the doors was necessary to remind never to take the blessings of God for granted. When we were desperate, we prayed for answers, and He gave us healing, hope, and help. Moreover, we were supported by family and friends who prayed for us during those difficult times.

Approaching the end of a summer that has been our best ever, thanks to how well Alex is doing, thereby allowing us to enjoy activities and everyday life as a family, we know how blessed we are because of what we have overcome. Ed and I often compare notes on how well Alex handled situations that would have upset him in the past, and we take great pride in all of his accomplishments, especially since autism has made his life more difficult. When I look back over old photographs or old blog entries, I see that we thought he was doing well at other times, and we were grateful for that progress. However, we did not know that he could be as happy and healthy as he is now. Not only are we grateful for these blessings, but we also have even stronger hope for our future, knowing that God has a greater plan for Alex’s life than we can envision. As we look back on where we have been, we can look forward confidently, knowing that God holds Alex’s future safely in His hands.

“The Lord will work out His plans for my life––for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You have made me.” Psalm 138:8

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