Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments. I also pasted it below. Enjoy!
[note: Mary and Martha did their best posing for the above shot; as always, Martha's a bit ticked]
How a Neighbor Helped Welcome my Special Needs Son
Around this time last year, when March was skipping out like a lamb, the stork dropped a bundle in my arms. I remember catching my third son and my breath at the same time – overwhelmed by his newborn perfection. So you can imagine my pause when doctors pointed out that Simeon had “indicators of a genetic syndrome” – low-set ears, down-slanting eyes and a short neck.
I brought my baby home and while I was joyous in those early days, I was still “pausing” -- as if I had suddenly found myself on a ship for mothers with special needs children but had yet to grow sea legs. It was in those early days a kind-hearted man stopped my way to help unload my groceries. This good soul, who I later came to know as Michael, also has low-set ears, down-slanting eyes, a short neck … and a smile like the summer’s sun.
I remember taking note of Michael’s features the day he offered to not only carry my groceries but to paint my fence and to take out my trash – he’s a handyman by trade, he said, but he wouldn’t charge me because I just had a baby. You see, Michael’s heart is pure goodness, but before I talk more about him, let me tell you about my son.
In addition to being perfect, I soon learned Simeon was born with Noonan Syndrome – a condition consisting of the physical symptoms I already mentioned as well as short stature, a heart defect and, oftentimes, slight mental retardation. While I had no prenatal warnings that Simeon would have such challenges, I spent the early days of his life in the state of “pause” I mentioned -- grappling with the idea of raising a child who would be “different.” The acquaintance of Michael helped shape my heart on the matter.
Shortly after I met Michael, I saw him and his mom at the market. He’s about forty and she must be in her sixties. They were laughing and discussing what to have for supper. I remember glancing down at Simeon in his car seat then back up at them. Simeon’s cheeks had the same flush as Michael’s mom’s – hot pink and full of life. The cashier let Michael fill the bags, and his mom walked behind as he steered the cart out the double glass doors.
Since then, I’ve seen Michael around town. He’s always on errands. He talks to me with boasting pride about his work as a handyman and asks if I’d like him to mow my lawn or help plant tomatoes. I keep meaning to take him up on the offers.
You see, when I consider Michael, when I think about his mother’s glow that day in the market, I am filled with hope. I look to a future where raising a child with special needs is not burdensome but a joy. I still hear the echo of his mother’s laughter in the freezer section, playfully arguing with the son who never flew from her nest. I still see the pride in her eyes as she watched Michael bag the groceries – not because he was accomplishing something extraordinary, but simply because he was her son.
And while I plan to raise my Simeon with every advantage possible and refuse to label him less than his abilities, I have peace about raising a child who’s “different.” So many factors contribute to this peace – my faith and my family’s support are, of course, pillars. But Michael, a kind-hearted soul with a knack for helping out, has quite unknowingly, given my peace wings.
To learn more about Noonan Syndrome, visit http:// www.noonansyndrome.org/