Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to see the world through the eyes of my son, Andrew.
Although Andrew has celebrated twenty-four birthdays, he’s a curious mix of abilities ranging from Kindergarten level right through to his actual age. I suppose Kindergarten might be pushing it a bit though. Our granddaughter, Maggie, is in SK and she can already read like nobody’s business. She can also do simple arithmetic and even has an idea bout how money works. Sadly, none of these are true for Andrew.
Andrew came roaring into the life of my husband, his first wife, and their daughter, Sarah, when he was around three. At that point there was no way of knowing the extent of his disabilities and they were hopeful that once he settled into their family, he would slow down. Unfortunately, it was much, much more difficult than that.
Sadly, Andrew lost his devoted first mom to cancer, and when I married his dad in 1999, Andrew came as part of the package. Eighteen months later a judge decreed what my heart already knew; he was truly my son.
Although I love Andrew as much as I love the other three, the journey hasn’t been easy. Teaching him daily skills, such as how to bathe and dress properly, and keeping up with his (mostly) unintentional disobedience, required a resourcefulness that taxed us almost beyond coping. His three teenage siblings felt like a walk in the park by comparison.
The results, however, are magnificent.
Andrew now lives in a semi-independant group home just ten minutes away from us. He walks to a volunteer job three mornings a week, and every Thursday he delivers papers to well-satisfied customers, if his tips are any indication!
He still can’t read and has no concept of time or money, but he does have a cell phone programmed with important numbers so he can keep in touch with us or his staff when he’s out. He likes to play with the (flip) phone, and because he can’t read he managed to reset the darn thing into Spanish. Twice. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to navigate through Spanish instructions in order to get the English back? Twice?
For Christmas we gave him a Wii. On his own he discovered that his camera card fit into a slot on the unit, and he enjoyed looking at his photos on the TV. A couple of weeks later the Wii stopped working. Using Andrew-type logic he had assumed that if the camera card showed pictures from the camera then, surely, if he put his phone’s SIM card into the slot, he’d be able to see his phone pictures too, right? Wrong. It’s still not working.
I could regale you for a day and a half with stories, both heart-warming and hair-raising, but the bottom line is that Andrew is very, very happy. I sometimes look at my happy boy and wonder what it would be like to live without a care in the world.
I also wonder how I’d feel if I couldn’t read anything at all. Not signs, not instructions, not even the names of the movies on the local marquee. How would it feel to swipe my debit card and then walk away, unembarrassed, when I’m told that it has been declined because I’ve already spent my weekly allowance without even realizing. To take my skates and stick and play one-man hockey for half the day on the frozen pond in town, or to plan on becoming a wedding photographer just because my camera takes videos?
Andrew will always require extra time and much different support than the rest of our adult children, but my heart is always warmed when, at the end of every phone conversation, he never forgets to say, “I wuv you, Mom.”