Sunday, August 14, 2016

Alex's Garden

Today is the last day of my summer vacation as I start my next school year of teaching tomorrow. Although I feel wistful about ending what has been our best summer ever as a family, we are delighted that Alex has shown so much promise these past few months. Last evening we went to a party at my brother’s house with more than two dozen people, and not only did Alex behave appropriately the entire time, but he also thoroughly enjoyed himself. Even when he came home, he seemed to be replaying the evening in his mind, smiling in amusement. After a summer filled with walks in the park, downtown concerts, old-time baseball games, evenings at the local arcade, meals at favorite restaurants, relaxing on our screen porch, following his beloved Chicago Cubs on television, and family gatherings like the one last night, Alex has enjoyed a rich and full summer. Watching him enjoy himself and knowing he has been content has blessed our lives immeasurably.

The summer began with some trepidation, however, as his psychiatric nurse practitioner recommended that we reduce one of his medications for anxiety because he was doing so well. With the coping skills he has learned in therapy, Alex has developed appropriate ways to calm himself when he feels overwhelmed. Although we feared that he might regress in his behavior with this medication reduction, the opposite has been true. Instead of being more anxious, he has been remarkably calm. Another benefit to this change has been that his mind is sharper, and we have seen his quick wit return along with improvements in his speech. Of course, we are thankful for this progress and for the wisdom of his nurse practitioner who knew what Alex needed to get better.

One of our summer projects has been the evolution of Alex’s garden. At the beginning of summer, I asked Ed if he had any plans for the patch of weeds that was taking over a section of our backyard along our back fence. Wisely, he realized that I probably already had a plan in mind and was willing to go along with what I wanted to do with that overgrown mess. Bless his heart, he spent days tearing out all those weeds so that we could start over with a rock garden. After hauling five tons of river rock and laying seventy paving bricks along the edges, Ed completed the hardest work of the task. Then the three of us worked together on the creative aspect––choosing what should go in Alex’s garden.

As we ran around to all the garden stores in our area, we talked about what would look good in our new rock garden and have meaning for our family. We enjoyed our outings, searching for those items that would complete the garden, and when we couldn’t find what we wanted, we searched on the Internet to find the items that seemed elusive. Along with the items we purchased ourselves, we added to the garden some decorations we bought with an Amazon gift card given to us by my parents as an anniversary gift. After thinking and planning and discussing and searching and a lot of hard work on Ed’s part, Alex’s garden came to fruition.

Because of Alex’s interest in weather, the garden has a windmill so that we can observe the speed and direction of the wind.

Knowing that red is Alex’s favorite color, we found this red flower that decorates the garden and also spins in the wind.

We also have a rain gauge to measure precipitation. The little red wheelbarrow is a reminder of all those rocks and bricks Ed hauled back there. The dozen solar lights along the edge make the garden look like a disco at night as they change from red to blue to green and back throughout the night.

Because Alex’s favorite animal is the turtle––perhaps because, like him, it takes its time yet steadily moves along––we found a turtle statue to sit upon the stump of a tree that was cut down a few years ago.

An even better find was the statue of a little boy who looks like Alex holding a turtle.

Since Alex loves keeping track of time, we searched and searched for an old-school timekeeper, a sundial. He picked this one out on Amazon, and the adage “Time flies” seems appropriate for a summer filled with fun where time, indeed, did fly.

This stepping stone seemed a perfect reminder of our time spent this summer working together on this garden and savoring the blessings and joy God has given us as a family.

In many ways, Alex’s garden is symbolic of our life as a family. From a chaotic and tangled mess of weeds––autism––we worked together as a family to create order and to accomplish our goals. We discussed and planned and searched for what we needed. We celebrated what makes Alex special. After steadily working and patiently waiting for what we needed to find, suddenly all the pieces seemed to fit together. And, as always, we looked around at our blessings and thanked God for His goodness. Alex’s garden will stand as a testimony of how God answered our prayers to make Alex better and will remind us of a summer filled with joy and even greater hope for our future.

“Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once––and everywhere you look, blessings!” Amos 9:13


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