here, let me show you
They cast a long shadow on the lawn, all legs, son in so many ways like his father. It’s striking. Nothing really prepares a mother for the moments when she looks at her children and sees something of the adults they’re becoming, the careful sculpting of the future. No matter how broad those shoulders get, I still remember the weight of my son in my arms, the way those chubby fingers gripped my sleeves.
“Here, let me show you how to throw it,” Kevin says, picking up the football as it bounces again near his feet. I’m close enough to see the way the foam dents beneath his long fingers.
When the football thing started, it was three friends at school who noticed Adam standing nearby, flapping his hands– the excitement practically shooting out of his fingertips, every time they lobbed the ball. Something about hiking the football made him laugh–still does–with the kind of sideways humor a boy finds in absurdity, and so the boys asked Adam to play, tossing him the football right along with the invitation. Of course, Adam has yet to learn the rhythm of the game, and to be completely honest, he throws like he’s holding a coconut. Still, these kind friends congratulated Adam for crazy kicks that went beyond them all, for a ball returned in any sort of way, even if they had to chase after it. It impresses me that they’re moved to enjoy Adam without feeling compelled to train him; that they have learned that effort is the real thing to celebrate, and that their friendship trumps performance every time. And so it is that without even the first intention to improve Adam, these friends have helped him find a new way to connect.
So now, father walks towards son, running the tip of one finger along the lace of the ball. “See, you put your fingers this way.” He demonstrates with his own strong hand, and Adam’s eyes, which have been full of light since they walked out together, focus on Kevin’s example with unmistakeable determination. Kevin places the ball in Adam’s hands and takes a step back, watching, stepping forward again to gently lay his own hands over Adam’s so that Adam can adjust his grip. “That’s right, just like that,” Kevin says, walking away again to create space enough for throwing. “Now throw it to me.”
Let me show you. Okay, now try.
The ball bobs awkwardly in the air but meets its goal, and Adam laughs as it lands in Kevin’s hands. And so it goes for a while, back and forth, back and forth, Adam carefully replacing his fingers, watching, mimicking Kevin’s posture and timing, practicing the exact way Kevin moves his arms. Something about the whole process is beautiful to me—the humility with which Adam learns, the eagerness, the uncontained joy. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. The ball soars, spiraling, landing lightly in their fingers.
“You can kick, too,” Kevin says at last, and Adam smiles. Kicking he knows. When Adam kicks, the football skyrockets a full distance further, tumbling into the grass far beyond. “Woa, nice.”
“Score!” Adam calls in a stilted, digital voice we recognize from one of the Xbox games. When retrieval fails, memory and application make up the difference. Adam lifts both of his arms in the air. Touchdown, and not because there’s a visible goal, but because Dad is pleased. Nothing has ever delighted our son more than pleasing his father.
Returning to Adam with the ball in his hands, Kevin looks back at me. “I never thought I would see the day when I’d be throwing the football in the backyard with my son,” He says quietly, stopping for a moment. Together, we let it settle just a beat. When your children have exceptional needs, many things make you ache, including grief over the most tender expectations.When your children have exceptional needs, many things make you ache, including grief over the most… Click To Tweet
And it’s Father’s Day.
I don’t want to speak for Kevin, but I think this very well may be his best gift. It’s not only the sudden redemption of something lost to us, but the delight—clear shining on our son’s face and bubbling out of him in uproarious laughter—that the two of them have found in being together; the relationship they’re building. Because the inability to connect, in fact, the way an Autistic child’s difficulties can cause him or her to protest and resist social effort; the lack of discernable relationships with our children that grow beyond the meeting of their most basic needs—these are some of Autism’s most painful realities. Most things we teach Adam are not things he wants to learn, and he is often most verbally motivated by complaint over such opportunities. Even games Adam enjoys playing with us he intially resists, preferring his own comforting sensory routines and company to our distruption and innocent unpredictability. But today, there is only a father’s here, let me show you and a son’s enthusiastic attention; even more, a son’s joy.Because the inability to connect, in fact, the way an Autistic child's difficulties can cause him or… Click To Tweet
And it’s Father’s Day.
It occurs to me that like Adam, I often resist the circumstances through which God offers me the best opportunities for growth, and like Adam, in a kind of survivalist-style pursuit of my own comfort, I sometimes reduce my relationship with God to an efficient and minimalist exchange centered on meeting my most basic needs. And it’s so often my friends who, without trying to improve me at all, find ways to encourage me all the way past my yearning and fumbling and right into a new and deeper way to Connect.And it's so often my friends who, without trying to improve me at all, find ways to encourage me all… Click To Tweet
See, Adam and I really both suffer different shades of the same affliction, and despite my oft misapplied resistance, comfort-loving me desperately longs for closeness with the Dad I live to please. So this afternoon, as I watch my men–the one still yet much younger, I realize what a gift it must be to God when I finally take uproarious delight in spending time with Him; when I focus my eyes on His here, let me show you Son; when I learn to stand still in my discomfort and let Him place His vast hands over my own.What a gift it must be to God when I finally take uproarious delight in spending time with Him; when I… Click To Tweet