Monday, April 15, 2013

Show Me How to Walk

Last week, we went to the Waco Walk for Autism.  Last year's walk was great, and we were looking forward to having the same kind of experience.

As usual, there were musical acts, and all kinds of wonderful families and friends there to support the ones they know and love who have autism.  It's a lovely event, blessing so many in several ways.  It's well-put-together, with volunteers who understand what all this fuss is about.  We are proud of these folks, we are thankful for all they do for the autism community in Waco, and we were so excited about having a chance to participate!

Last year was almost magical.  All the kids took to the games and charming the volunteers like ducks to water.  Everyone found something or a few somethings they wanted to do... even Ryan!  He played in shaving cream, walked a lap with us (okay, so he was on my shoulders), and the crowd didn't seem to bother him a bit.

In the parking garage I could tell that this was going to be different.

I had bought super-kid capes for the kids to wear.  Ryan, because well... isn't it obvious?  He overcomes so much every day.  We can't even begin to know what he faces each day in this strange world.  Richie and Maelynn earned their capes, too.  They are super siblings to Ryan, being his friend, understanding even when he accidentally hurts their feelings, seeing how much time we spend with him and loving him and us anyway.  They are most definitely super too!

The only thing is, they didn't see it that way. Richie wasn't at all inclined to wear his cape.  He actually woke up that morning reminding me that he didn't want to wear his "costume" as he called it.  Okay, fine.  I took it anyway just to see if he changed his mind.  Ryan was interested in the mask the day I brought it home, but on the day of the walk he was not the least bit interested.  Maelynn, on the other hand, thought the cape was pretty cool.  So she wore her pink and purple cape with pride.

And I gotta ask... how many 18 year olds would give up sleeping in the day after prom to go to an autism walk?  I can think of one, and she was at our house pressed and dressed and ready to head to Waco to church with us at 8:00 AM.  Oh man, am I ever going to miss her next year. 

The seven of us had fun watching Ryan play with sidewalk chalk, that is until he saw an elevator.  He could see through the front of a building to the elevator, and well... moth to a flame. But he did draw a great microwave first! 

After this, there was a lot of general Ryan-herding and chasing.  He wasn't interested in any of the games until we made it around the loop to the bubbles.  Then our little Mr. Sensory was happy splashing, sloshing, and waving the bubble wands around.  

But the whole time, I kept hearing "go to the SAAAND!!!"  There was a booth with a kiddie pool full of sand last year, and the whole time he sought the sandbox.  

To tell the truth, I didn't want to write about this one.  I wanted to shove the memory of how great it didn't go, or maybe just give you the highlight reel of pictures, because they look like we were having a fabulous time!  

But that wouldn't be the truth.  

I was worried the whole time.  Ryan wanted to run from the crowds.  He wanted the sand.  He wanted the elevator.  It was an open space, and the kids were wearing the same shirt as so many others.  I spent the whole walk being nervous, hoping he wouldn't run, get lost, or melt down.  At one point he became interested in a drainage grate on a hole in the ground!

So again, just when I thought I was used to this autism stuff, it sucker punches me in the gut.  

I call for hope and understanding and acceptance, but I still struggle with it in my own heart.  

What did I expect?  Was I thinking at all when I planned this?  

In planning the trip, did I bother to consider the reason for the walk itself?

Sometimes, just when we think we're doing pretty well and we have a handle on things, we're ripe for growing.  

The other day, on the way home from one of so many trips to Waco, Richie and Maelynn insisted that they wanted to go on the high road.  A quick look ahead revealed exactly what they wanted.  The on-ramps for I-35 north and south are brand new and stacked high above the loop, and they were just ahead.  

After explaining where both roads lead, I told the kids that those roads may be pretty, they may look like more fun, and they may even go more fun places... but we want to stay on the road that takes us home. 

It may not look pretty.  It may not have many people on it.  It may not even look like we thought it would.  But the road that takes us home is best.  

So after trying to get Ryan to do what we wanted, we finally wound up here. 

He traced the letters with his fingers.  The sign was smooth but rough, maybe molded concrete, with the letters chiseled under the surface.  He loves text.  He loves to write numbers and letters of his own accord and when it's his idea, and you know what else?  Richie is doing the same.  

He is out of the discomfort of the crowd and the noise.  He's with his people.  He's tracing letters, enjoying the feeling of the surface.  He's asking for the elevator.  

He is being my son.  

Richie and Maelynn stood right with him, clad in their walk t-shirts, Richie snuggling his autism awareness t-shirt clad kitty that he dressed himself and Maelynn in her super-sister cape.  They didn't question why he didn't want to go to the games.  They didn't question him beyond "what are you doing, Ryan?"  When asked if he'd like to go back to the games, Richie said that he wanted to stay with his brother.  

I pray that I will stay with Ryan.  That I will learn to love him the way Richie and Mae love him.  

I pray that the Lord will help me to see him as he is, to love him as he is.  To build on his strengths and shore up his weaknesses.  

Help me not to miss who he is, because you made him wonderfully.  

Thanks be to God for Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn, and for all they teach me. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for being honest. That was beautiful.


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