Sixty Minutes

I’m going to hide most of this post behind a link, as I haven’t ruminated like this in a while and there are likely many people who either won’t want to read the whole thing or don’t know me well enough to care about me going on about family and other assorted things.

That said, if you’d like to learn more, you know what to do.

I think this week (and perhaps, by extension, this month) has been one of the hardest weeks in our (that is, Amanda’s and mine) young lives to date. So much stuff has been happening recently and so many things have been changing that it feels hard to keep up.

There’s a lot of fear within the walls of this house right now.

The lesser fear is work; I’m adapting to a new department with new people, and trying to figure out what the future holds for my career and what I will be doing in six months has become quite impossible. I’ve known for a while what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been working towards what I want to be doing, but what I will actually be doing by this time next year is something I can’t currently forecast.

Another fear is one of finances. Amanda works about a half-dozen jobs in her vocation as mother, teacher of our children, and caretaker of our home, and unfortunately she doesn’t get paid for what she does. This is our first year of full property taxes, student loans are going to become payable within a fairly short amount of time, and our children are growing to have new needs and associated costs. The student loans are kind of off on the horizon, waiting to become due. We are thankfully provided for our needs right now, and the bills are being paid, but I fear for something major occurring such as an unexpected medical expense or a vehicle ceasing to operate; I don’t know how well we could absorb something like that.

I know this is a failing of mine, but it would be nice for a change to be able to treat my wife to dinner once in a while without needing to quite literally worry if that modest $15 dinner is going to tip the budgetary scales for the month.

Of all things, I’m thankful that gas has dropped to its current point; I was worried for a while.

All these fears revolve around the unknown.

The biggest fear is that of the unknown where our son is concerned.

This week was so hard on my wife that I find it hard to imagine how she’s been able to deal with it. Not long ago, we had Caleb evaluated for Early Intervention services by the state, and it was hard for her to sit in a room and be told by developmental professionals that our son tested as autistic. We thought it couldn’t become more difficult to deal with. We’ve been watching him improve, but it’s painful sometimes to watch his younger sister begin to excel and to pass him in speech capabilities and even in perceptual skills.

Caleb is blissfully unaware of all this discussion over him. He’s been his normal, happy self throughout, always willing to offer a smile, a hug, or a look to remind you that he thinks life is exciting.

On Friday, Amanda had to sit while a panel informed her that our son tested on an IQ scale as mentally retarded. She had to be in the room and hear these professionals inform her that our son doesn’t learn like other children do. He can’t communicate with us even on the level that his 18-month-old sister does.

Being a parent is hard. There are so many challenges—so many obstacles and pitfalls—to overcome and to learn your way through. It’s strange to think that while your children are learning how to be people, you are learning how to teach them those very same skills and how to best interact with them on that authoritative level.

…But this is more difficult than I could have imagined. We don’t know what he’s thinking. We don’t know how much he can process, or how much he understands what we say to him. Does he even know that it’s difficult for us to decipher his words? Does he understand that he’s not able to communicate with us effectively? Does he dream of having conversations with us, of being heard and understood? How does he percieve us?

The sheer size, enormity, and weight of the unknown in my son’s life feels as though it cannot be calculated. He is an enigma to me, something puzzling and confusing that I am unable to comprehend. He smiles; he laughs; he plays; he says “I love you” in a way only he can manage. He gets frustrated; he fights with his siblings like all siblings do; he loves to pick out his clothes and get dressed in the morning. He’s a picky eater, doesn’t like it when you wake him up from a nap, and is the only one who seems to appreciate sleeping in each morning. He is in many ways the most expressive of our children. But over all of it, there’s an unsettling feeling; there’s the cloud hanging over everything: the realization that he’s three years old and he may not have even understood what it meant that his birthday was last week.

Is this what he’s going to be like as an adult? Will he still have trouble communicating with us? Will he still derive his greatest joy from the music he hears, from the experience of being in church, or from simple things like being told it’s time to eat or time to go on a car ride? Or will he mature and be able to take pleasure in those things I now find I’ve taken for granted, like forging friendships, enjoying conversation and a good meal, wondering at the mystical nature of Word and Sacrament, or looking at the stars in the sky with awe? Will he ever build a life for himself, have a job, get married, and raise a family?

Of course, Amanda wonders the same thing all parents would: “Did I do something wrong?” Certainly she hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean the question never arises in our conversations.

I don’t worry about providing for him or whether he will be loved. He is my son. Nothing can change that. I will always be there for him, take care of him, and talk to him, even if no one else will. His mother will be those things for him even more than I ever could.

I suppose this is all a bit much to take in; it’s a lot for me to sit and have typed out to share with anyone who would be reading this. The impact of it all is just so great right now and it’s weighing heavily on my mind. This week, his mother was informed of his performace, and next week, he will begin going to school half-days four days a week to be in an early childhood class. Amanda’s never really had to deal with one of the kids going away to school—school is here at home.

But because we cannot give him the proper attention and don’t know how to best help him improve, he will be going to class. There, they will do what they can to help him and guide him and work with him to improve his skills and to cope with the delays. I pray that the experience for him is a positive one, that he can deal with being separated from his family for the first time (even if it is only four hours per day), and that he will be able to continue to grow and to improve as we’ve seen him do for the last six months.

I also pray for peace for my wife, who struggles with these things more than I and who works harder than anyone I’ve ever known. Through her, I have an appreciation for my own mother and the kinds of things I must have put her through as a child.

Looking back through what I’ve typed out here tonight, I find that I’m unable to find a proper way to conclude my stream of thought. Perhaps it is an indicator of the disjointed nature of my contemplation over the subject, or my own inability to find a way to be the pillar of strength I know my vocation as husband and father requires. All I can do is ask for the support of those who know us and those who love us, just as we support our son and only want the best for him.

Many of you have already expressed your support and your thoughts to us. For that, we thank you.

And so—this week—we move on into more of the unknown, trusting that there is one who knows what lies ahead of us, guides and directs our days and our deeds, and is able to give us that lasting peace we so desire through it all. We will wake up tomorrow morning, and as a family, thank and praise him once again for giving us that which we do not deserve.

And for that one hour, Caleb will pay attention, will hear the music and the words of the Divine Service, and will want to be involved and invested in what is going on. He will stand when he’s not supposed to; he might even freak out once or twice when something doesn’t go his way. People will look; people will glare disapprovingly, or wonder if something is wrong.

But I don’t care. And he doesn’t care. He knows what’s happening. He says the words when he can; he sings the melodies when he knows them, and he does so with a smile on his face and a smile on my face. He’s my church buddy.

He knows he is loved; he knows who his family is. He loves back.

Maybe that’s all there needs to be.

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