We didn’t shoot off any fireworks on the Fourth of July.
We didn’t even watch others shoot them off. Nor did we attend our city’s big fireworks show either. My special-need son is in bed by 8:30 at night and it’s barely dark.
No time at the pool or lake.
No backyard games and activities.
No sports, no activities, no Independence Day festivities.
In our limited, and structured special needs world, with a son both cognitively and physically challenged, holidays are anything but typical. They usually are just another brutal reminder of how different, sometimes dismal, our lives can be.
No summer trips to the beach or Disney World. No roller coasters or water slides. No Facebook posts of our travels and experiences.
I think a lot about the dad I would have been if my son were typical.
We would do so many activities together as a father and son. Ball games, camping, backyard fun, fishing, watching sports together- I was ready to be a typical dad to a typical son.
But this? I wasn’t ready for this.
No one is ever really ready to be the father of a child with special needs. Sometimes I grieve the life that could have been and the father I would have been as well.
Last night, my now seventeen-year old non-verbal son and I sat on a swing on our back deck as dusk fell.
No one said a word. The only sounds were from the birds singing in the trees and our feet as they periodically scraped the deck.
We rocked back and forth in the silence.
Back and forth.
And then it happened.
Jon Alex leaned his head over and rested it on my shoulder. He looked up and me and grinned.
As we continued swinging, I put my arm around him and told him I would love him forever. I told him to always remember how much I love him just the way he is, and I reminded him that will never change.
We continued on for quite a while in silence. Father and son.
Love requires no words.
Then I realized we had fireworks after all. They were just shooting off in my heart.
I am not the dad I once hoped I would become. Instead I am becoming the dad God hoped I would become.
God did not give me Jon Alex because he thought Jon Alex needed me. God gave me Jon Alex because he knew I needed Jon Alex.
No I wasn’t ready for this.
But I wouldn’t miss it for the world.