Having a child with special needs is stressful, a struggle, a daily reminder that our pre-conceived plans are not coming to fruition. The athlete, scholar, student body president are long away memories of what danced in my mind while I carried him safe in my womb. His sister's eyes dance with delight when another little boy his age called her by name and asked her to chase him. His oldest brother tries and tries to get him to make a basket in the pint-sized basketball goal that Santa had brought. His middle brother, eight years old, sits with him most evenings and they play with his gigantic outgrown dinosaurs. I hear his eight year old voice repeating the difficult multi-syllable names and then I hear Amos try so hard to imitate but his best mimicking is indistinguishable from the stream of consonants. I remember when that eight year old was exactly Amos' age and could verbally identify a velociraptor, stegosaurus, and brachiosaurus. His daddy plays chase and roughhouses but every so often, laments verbally in a moment of sad transparency that Amos still hasn't said, "Da-da". Like many other words such as bye bye, it comes out as "Mac Mac". There are many things he can not do and many things he is not.
However, that child has been more than anything I could have dreamed. His light radiates in our small community of 6,000, whether on the brick sidewalks, our lone grocery store, our small post office and especially at our familial Episcopal church. Amos and I often go to eat lunch at the local elementary school and the friends of his siblings vie to run their fingers through his silky hair, play peek a boo and wave hi, all in hopes to be rewarded with a counter wave or a smile. It would be safe to say he has following on the Internet world too, maybe not smart but it comforts this Mama. A tow headed boy with small round glasses, laughing eyes, and a contagious smile. Despite his nots, he still is too much awesome.
I had never considered the story of the older black man who I see on an almost daily basis, walking our small North Carolina town with a quick yet awkward gate. Clad in a baseball hat and out of style square glasses, too big for his thin face, he roams the sidewalks, seemingly moving with a purpose. What was his story? I had not once paused to wonder as my own life flew by, though I have always offered up a hello to the man I only know as Johnny.
As I pondered his grin, his purpose, the even personality that I had never seen be annoyed or too distracted to call out a friendly hello, I was overcome with peace. Strangely, my heart swelled with pride and the familiar disappointment did not overcome me when I thought of Amos' future. Perhaps a future of beckoning "special" classrooms and people "pretending" to be nice all the while breathing a sigh of relief internally that he was not their child, no matter how blond and cute and loving. They were glad to designate my mothering skills as a gift of God for a child like Amos, though secretly relieved I was the mother and not themselves.
As my too much awesome grew, I was struck with the thought that he was now and could be in the future, like Johnny. It was not the familiar paperclip of sadness that poked me but love. If Amos grew to be the type of person to shout an enthusiastic greeting, worked at his own pace sweeping sidewalks and washing windows, diligently heading to the next task then I should be content. Too much awesome was presented to me in an old man of color and in a blond boy, two bespectacled souls radiating true joy. What more should my heart desire.
No, I thought of Johnny and his story that I still haven't made the time to learn, what I perceived as a simple existence, but was it? I doubt it, as we all know that appearances are deceiving, our outsides often don't reflect our insides and that everyone submits to putting on a happy face occasionally. Do we abide by the rule to "never let it show"? Perhaps many of us do, but not me. I can't. I'm too tired and sad and happy all at the same time most days. I know there is more than meets the eye to Johnny and the next time I see him, I will ask him to join me for a cup of coffee to find out about the joy that I perceive as limitless. I too, despite my circumstances and the unknown future that is for now a secret, shall try to return the favor and through honesty, mirror the truth in my soul and the joy in my heart.