Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How are you today?

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve greeted Sam with a simple question:  “How is my Sam today?”

In the early years, there wasn’t an answer. Still I continued to ask. Eventually an answer came; a scripted reply regardless of the day’s events: “Is good.” When Sam’s answer was more appropriate, I punctuated with, “I’m glad.”

For the better part of 17 years, our communication has consisted largely of scripted conversations sprinkled with a few less scripted chats surrounding Sam’s wants and needs:

Mommy, can I have a glass of milk?
Can I play with a laptop?
Outside, Mommy. Basketball?
Mommy, can I have a drive in the car?
What’s the plan?

Somehow we’ve muddled through information exchange, though conversations were more often one sided. This was just our life.

Today was a little different as we took a 40-minute drive to visit some puppies. The sound of Sam’s favorite radio station played softly in the background. Except for Sam’s usual “What’s the plan?” our trip was silent.

About 20 minutes into the ride Sam reached forward and placed his hand on my shoulder and announced, “I’m good.” Though perplexed why he offered this information, I responded absentmindedly, “I’m glad.” Again he said, “I’m good.” Again I responded, “I’m glad.”

Within a moment I understood. “I’m good” were his segue words. It was the only way he could figure out how to say what came next:

Softly I heard, “How is my Mommy today?”

For a second I stopped breathing. Ohmygod. OHMYGOD! An unprompted question. He took my words, twisted them and made his first unrehearsed and completely spontaneous question about someone other than himself. Most people don't understand the magnitude of such common five-word query. It is an ordinary one, asked every day without fanfare.

Families like ours will understand. Families who have spent hour upon hour painstakingly eking out the tiniest of words will know this is huge. Sam has never spontaneously asked a question about me – or anyone. Ever.

He may not ask again for months or years. But today he asked. He finally figured out how verbally say he cared. He is capable. That thought gives me goose bumps. I'm not joking. I really have goose bumps. Call out the National Guard. Declare today a national holiday.

As for me, I am good. I am great. And well on my way to suburb. 

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  1. As a father of a son with autism I can truly appreciate this as a "HOLY SH!T!!!!" moment in your life. I am happy for you and I hope things continue going this well for your son always.

    1. Yup. You do understand! We've had some great breakthroughs lately. Who knows. Maybe there will be more. Still, I am pretty happy right now with what I've got. Thanks for reading and for the great comment.