On February 27, 2014, you forever changed the trajectory of my journey.
To this day, I’m amazed at the resilience you displayed that day. 3 weeks in a group home. You sauntered in clothes that obviously weren’t yours. Your mother hates it when I say this, but they really went out of their way to make you look like a foster child. I mean, your shirt was 2 sizes too big and worn out. Your pants were dirty and also a size too big. Who knows what you’ve experienced in the 3 weeks you were in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people. Yet, when you saw us, you flashed that smile that was so genuine; so pure; so innocent; so unbroken. I don’t think you had a clue of what was happening; where you were going; what we were doing; but that didn’t stop you from smiling.
After we showed you your new room and introduced you to your new teddy bear, I had to go to a damn trustees meeting. I couldn’t get out of it. Yet it was so pointless of me being there because while I was their physically, my mind was at home with you and who you’d call Ray Ray (because you couldn’t say “Rahel”. You kept saying “Ho”. And she was adamant that was NOT going to be what you call her). I rushed home so that we could put you to bed. I had no idea what to do. You couldn’t read. Nor would you sit still through a book. So I grabbed a guitar and sang “Goodnight, Sweetheart” and you just… smiled.
You and I instantly clicked. (It’s because I’m cooler, more fun, and more loving than your mother. Ask her. She’ll agree. Even at that young age, you had a good sense of judgment of character. But really, don’t ask your mom.)
That was almost 4 years ago. Four! Where does the time go…?
You are so full of life and joy.
When I hear “child-like faith” my thoughts immediately turn to you. Who else can find that much joy in a bowl of cereal at 7am, before coffee?
Who else can find that much joy in sprinklers going off?
Who else finds joy in the mundane things of life that we all take for granted…
You are so filled with joy; love; laughter — it’s contagious.
And you have this gift of bringing out joy and laughter in others.
How blessed are you.
And how blessed are we.
My only hope is that joy within you is never stomped out. That you will always have a child-like wonder and the joy that swells up from deep within your soul.
Because the world has a knack of taking one’s joy and turning it into cynicism. It’s really good at taking love and contorting it into hatred.
When people don’t understand some thing, they sometimes don’t take the time and effort to understand what they don’t understand.
Some will take the easy way out and label you and make unfair assumptions about you.
Maybe as you get older, more and more people will understand “autism.” It’s surely has gotten better than when I was growing up.
But there will be people who will make fun of you; who will hurt you; who will exclude you; who won’t understand you; who will belittle you and underestimate you…
… I know because unfortunately, I wasn’t the nicest of kids growing up. I always went for the cheap laugh at someone else’s expense that way they couldn’t hurt me.
But you know what? There is good in the world. There are good and loving and caring people. And you’ve met so many good people who love you, often times more than your mom and dad.
The truth is, you will find what you look for.
And you have taught me to continue to look for joy and love in this world.
To always be the good in the world.
And your mom and I will continue to fight to make sure you continue to be the joyous person you are; to continue to guide you into being the person God intended you to be; to build upon the truth that you are a child of God, deeply loved.
Yes, that means occasionally, you’ll be disciplined and scolded — because you know you’re a rascal.
And we’ll trust that God’s love and strength and grace will overflow into the areas and gaps where we fall short.
All this to say, Boy Wonder — filled with wonder — you turn 7 today!
How much you’ve grown!
You’ve made so much progress.
We are so damn proud of you!
And that unbreakable smile and that infectious personality only gets bigger and brighter.
You know how much we love you?
We’re spending your birthday at Chuck E. Cheese’s. On a Saturday.
Don’t you ever say we never loved you. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.
Happy birthday, Boy Wonder.
May God’s light continue to shine brightly in and through you. Mom and Dad love you to the moon and back.
But your dad loves you more.