Miss Val. Valerie. Amos' speech therapist and my friend. We met her over two years ago when she came to our house with the early intervention group and she smiled and silently watched ten month old Amos lie on a blanket. Her face did not change and nor was her smile false. Still, I wouldn't have guessed this slight woman would become the friend and cheerleader Amos and I both needed. Twice a week the last two years, minus the summers, Miss Val has knocked on the door, greeted our old lab Clarke as she let herself inside and made her way to us, whether in the kitchen or on my unmade king sized bed upstairs. Miss Val was the therapist but Amos was the leader and wherever he longed to be, she happily followed that lead.
I should have known Miss Val was special from the get go, but I didn't. Early in the months of therapy, I was lashing out at the world, my own thoughts of culpability swallowed in those days. I accused her of hurting my feelings in some way and her eyes, bright with her own tears, met mine as she explained her own daughter had also had special needs. Had, the word did not escape me and I apologized and she never skipped a beat, always genuinely happy to see both of us.
It's been more than just a job for Miss Val and today, we had Amos' last session together at his new school. His new therapist gladly came and listened and watched and praised both of us for his many accomplishments. She wasn't just placating us either, you could tell Miss Dressler was excited to begin twice weekly therapy with her new fellow too. I observed and the long good bye was palpable with bittersweet emotions. I heard Miss Val ask myself and Miss Dressler many times, "Can you think of anything else?" I shook my head no again and listened to her words of love, "he loves hidden picture books, Mr. Potato Head and we have really been working on chaining words."
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Nothing stays the same and life continues to move quickly, whizzing by as we skip or trudge through the days unaware. This goodbye had been lurking on the horizon for quite a while and like most goodbyes, there is nothing I can do but accept our fate. I think it was harder for Miss Val though, at least that thought brought me comfort. I was offered a glimpse in what it is like to commit yourself to a family and a child; to give your heart, with each goodbye, you surely ache a bit. Stronger yes, but not left unscathed.
We will miss you, Miss Val. Amos and I both and I couldn't say who would feel your absence the most. Likely me, mama of the boy who you taught to say NO. Yes, Valerie, your dedication and love has left my heart a bit bigger and the special needs mama in me a bit wiser. We are a team after all, you taught me well.