You’re turning 8 today, and the snow is falling just for you. We don’t get much snow in the valley, but all of a sudden, it’s coming down, and you are right now glorying in the experience. It is a testament to you that none of us doubts the possibility that God sent the snow just for your birthday. Because you delight us, son, and it stands to reason that you delight the hosts of heaven even more.
While I hope the snow lingers a bit, it must not interrupt the mail, because your present is coming. The “American Spy Car.” You’ve been checking the mailbox for it every day. When it comes, you will do what you always do. You will line it up on the bookshelf with other toys of its genre–in this case, Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Finn McMissile–and then you’ll flap the daylights out of them all. And I will think of the autistic boy in Japan, who could not speak but learned to type. He wrote a book explaining why he does the things he does. Flapping? He explained that light can be so harsh sometimes, and the act of flapping filtered it. Calmed it. Made whatever he was looking at more beautiful.
Is that why you flap, son? To make things more beautiful?
There was a time when these questions depressed me, but they intrigue me now. You intrigue me. Especially after what happened last week.
You brought this book home from school. It was a red, cardboard book for very young children. Every page showed the same two characters: a big penguin and a little penguin. “I like it when we hold hands,” one page said, or “I like it when you tickle me.” You opened it up next to your mother and smiled brilliantly, pointing at the big penguin, then the little one:
“Jack and Daddy,” you said.
Mommy sent me a frantic message about it. When I came home, you were almost as eager to say it again as I was to hear it.
“Jack and Daddy.” It made you giggle. Your eyes were alight. And mine were welling up.
It’s not a simple thing, son, to understand relationship. This has been why your mom and I sometimes still get so sad about your experiences. The limitations of your autism have stopped your tongue, and severely hampered your connections with people. With us. And this is not the way it is supposed to be. It is wrong.
You have probably heard me say things like “God created us for relationship,” because I am a preacher, and I say that often. I believe it with all my heart, and that is the top reason why we fight for you. Because you are our son, and we want you to experience all you were meant to experience. And the most basic experience a child ought to feel is the love of his own family.
We didn’t know you felt it.
But then came, “Jack and Daddy.”
Did you understand what those words would mean to us, my boy? Did you say them on purpose, to assure us that you do know our love? That you get us?
I hope that you can read this someday, and understand the joy that comes with your overtures of affection. Just a glance from your eye does wild things to our hearts, son. And I am honored beyond words to be penguins with you.