a birthday wish

April 16, 2014 § 10 Comments

To my son,

You came into this world in your own time, disrupting expectations and creating opportunities for faith. As quickly as you arrived, you were gone; born prematurely, in a facility unequipped for your care, we were separated so that you could thrive. No one placed you in my arms, instead our first hello was first a goodbye.

I waited eagerly that first morning, anxious to acknowledge the tiny spirit who had previously inspired joy and curiosity as my body changed form to accommodate your enthusiastic movements. Then, in our first conversation, I found myself speaking in a language weighted by silence. I could not thread together the volumes that seemed to sustain the seconds between us.

It is a humbling love, fiercely vulnerable, that tethers a mother and child. Words seemed trite and inadequate in those first moments, instead I marveled at the miracle of your tiny fingers and wise gaze. I looked past the wires and machinery that signaled weakness seeing only beauty and strength.

Then, I let go; trusting that you would be okay and recognizing the limits of my control. Today I asked the same of you.

On the eve of your birthday you begged me to dismiss you from school, a place sometimes burdened with unkindness and discomfort. I struggled against wanting to shelter you from your fears and choosing a path that would honor my faith in your strength. Rather than hide you from harm, I asked you to let go and trust in the possibility of kindness.

This is my birthday wish for you:

I hope you begin always with faith in possibility. In some of our most challenging hours we find the source of our strength is greater than the cause of our worries. In moments outside our control there is an opportunity to let go of fear or hold tightly to doubt; it is always better to embrace possibility than hide in the shadows of insecurities. When calculating risk, count first your accomplishments and multiply them by your willingness to engage risk. Failure and harm are inevitable but joy and accomplishment are impossible without first risking both.

Love, Mom

 

 

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§ 10 Responses to a birthday wish

  • wdnshu says:

    I am in the process of starting a blog site. WordPress.com directed me to your site as an example site to help me as I am taking the baby steps towards becoming a “Blogger”
    I read a number of your eloquent comments and deep personal thoughts. I was particularly moved, moved to the point of tears welling up in my eyes when I observed the love you expressed for your children and particularly for your son who is afflicted with autism.

    My grandmother’s brother who was born in 1901 was afflicted with autism. I really did not have much contact with him until I was about 4 years old and he was about 48. I was told that he had a condition which did not allow him to function as the rest of us did. It was often difficult to follow his thinking and at times he would stare off into space for long periods without saying a word or at other times would have fits of anger caused more by frustration than anything else.

    One day in 1957 while curiosity caused me to look through my great-grandfather’s records I found one of great uncle Oepke’s elementary school report cards. In Holland the report cards were marked from 1 to 10 instead of 1 to 100 as here in Canada. His marks were all 8’s and 9’s. He was an above average student. When I questioned my mother about this she informed me that he was affected with autism due to being vaccinated. I was somewhat shocked and disappointed when the topic of autism and vaccinations came to the forefront some years ago and observed that the vaccination industry vilified any doctor like Dr. Mark Geier, MD, PhD, who attempted to connect the two. I guess they were afraid that if parents stopped having their children vaccinated old diseases would reappear. I always wondered if this was simply a “spin” to cover up the “truth”???

    In September of 1944 during a “Razia” in WW2, some German soldiers picked up great uncle Oepke, my grandmother’s sister’s husband and her son while walking on a street in Delft, sent them to Germany and made them work as forced labour. Coming from a safe and sheltered life and being emersed into this hell of slavery, evil, harm and unkindness, Oepke managed somehow to grow and he learned to survive. He returned to Holland after the war. Oepke, although still afflicted with the autism, became a great musician and played the largest pipe organs in some of the largest churches and cathedrals in Holland.

    Before my family emigrated to Canada in 1959, I would visit him regularly and in most cases he would be playing the organ for the residents of the rest home where he resided. When I visited him in Holland after 20 years in Canada, he greeted me with a big smile and said ”you are a XX XXXX” (where X XXXXX is my family name). Oepke passed away in 2002 at the age of 101. Given his condition, he lived a full life. He always appeared happy and gave much enjoyment to the fellow residents with his skills in music.

    I sincerely hope that science will accelerate their quest to find the cause and a cure for autism and that governments provides assistance with ways and means for families to cope.

    Take care and maintain your love and strenght for your family and son. You are a special person.

    • Marie says:

      First, I wish you well in your pursuit of writing. Your thoughtful response captures a fragment of history within an intimate telling that was a pleasure to share. I am honored that you would preserve a piece of your family’s history here among my motherly musings and look forward to reading more of your work.

      Your great uncle’s story mirrors several of my son’s challenges, although I confess I do not fault vaccines with my son’s diagnosis. One day science may contradict my intuition, but my son’s experience has been linear – there was no singular moment of change that redirected the course of his development.

      This of course begs the question of a cure. Naturally, I wish my son greater ease in many aspects of his days, but I question the expectation of curing something so intricately part of his most basic composition. I cannot imagine less of him. Who would he be without this constant companion that is in equal measure a gift and a burden?

      Instead, I more often center my hope in the evolution of greater empathy and education that might balance ignorance and breed tolerance for diversity.

      Thank you, for the gift of your story and most generous compliment.

  • Britt says:

    Beautiful, as always.

    • Marie says:

      And still I never tire of your kindness… thank you.

      • Britt says:

        I could write five paragraphs about you! I’ve thought for quite a while now that an excellent Writing Challenge would be to affect the style of an admired co-blogger. Your unique ability to set a mood, to use words unexpectedly, to create music… well, that’s a challenge, indeed.

      • Marie says:

        Embracing the concept of your proposed challenge I must confess I could not mirror your blend of humor and warmth, wisdom and whimsy. Blogs are the balm for the broken connectedness of books – here we have the constant company of authors who become companions in our most mundane daily pursuits.

      • Britt says:

        “Blogs are the balm for the broken connectedness of books…”

        Are you kidding me with these gems, Marie? Did that seriously just type itself on your keyboard? I totally picture you in flowy Grecian goddess robes as you write.

      • Marie says:

        Nothing quite so elegant, Britt. Although the image of my children’s reactions to such a wardrobe would make the adjustment an entertaining endeavor!

  • Your piece has reminded me, once again, of how it seems to me that my life really started back in 1992 when our first son was born. What happened before that time seems so trivial by comparison.

    • Marie says:

      It is true, children invite a new beginning; a measurement of time marked by sentimental milestones over age or accomplishment. These little miracles change us, drawing from us a selfless sensibility and fierce tenderness.

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