Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Day Gift From My Special Child

Motherhood is a biological fact, while fatherhood is a social invention.  ~ Margaret Mead

I have often wondered how Mead's famous quote fits for fathers of special needs children. I came to parenting relatively late, so late my youngest, my very own special needs child, is sometimes mistaken as my grandchild. Yet the social invention of fatherhood seems to fit me better now. When I try and be still, and listen to him it is the closest I come to transcending my senses and perception of the world.

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When I held my older two boys in their infancy I prayed silently they would be "normal" - that is they each would reach a stage in life when I would no longer be responsible for providing the necessities of life.

Is that not that what every parent wants for their child?

Then Zane came.

I remember asking his doctor, "What can we expect as he becomes older?" To his credit, the doctor gave as honest an answer as any health care professional responsible for Zane's care and treatment ever has.  "I believe Zane will have challenges with most every task" was the reply. Zane is non-verbal and is not potty trained. My younger self's worst conjuring.  

Last week I stopped for Chinese takeout with him. While we were leaving, he let out a blood curdling shriek that turned every head in the place toward us. I just smiled. I knew he was expressing something no one else in restaurant could know: How pleased he was to be experiencing new sensations, picking up food that smelled delicious. You see he was hungry, and he wanted me to know how much he appreciated me. It was really that simple.

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Zane has physical impairments. One leg is shorter than the other and the walks in a unbalanced way that resembles a drunk sailor. He also has seizures. Not the Grand Mal type, but a lesser variety called Absence seizures that last a few seconds but come in clusters. They are ameliorated by medication, but not completely eliminated.

The seizures are always a worry. Sort of like life. Look away and it is gone. See, these are the things I have been taught by Zane. Things he has given me for Father's day. Knowledge, appreciation, insight. Gifts I can never totally repay.

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Zane has made my sons better brothers to him and each other. They understand things others cannot. They appreciate Zane in ways I could never have envisioned. He has brought them lessons in acceptance of themselves and others different from themselves in ways I could never have taught.

 Zane has made me a better lawyer. I listen more now. I have more empathy for those who have fallen. I am keenly aware of the intellectually disabled, how they can occupy that space between appearing to understand yet not understanding the world around them. I appreciate the frailty of  the human condition. Zane has made me a more passionate advocate. He has helped me realize we are put on this earth for reasons beyond understanding.

And of course without Zane, this blog would likely never exist. For better or worse it is here to stay.

Happy Father's Day, it is a good social invention.   

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