Monday, June 20, 2011

If I Could Speak

If I could speak, I would tell you how the light shining through giant acacia trees is like heaven kissing my tender cheeks.

If I could speak, I would tell you how birds soaring, landing and once again taking flight stupefy my mind.

If I could speak, I would tell you how the leaves floating in the wind is like me dancing to the trumpets of cherubim

If I could speak, I would tell you how the feel of the grass, the morning dew and its dry roughness in the afternoon sun comfort my restless feet.

If I could speak, I would tell you how the wind blowing on our faces is the Universe breathing, telling the truth of our stories.

If I could speak, I would tell you how water calms my soul, soothes the chaos in my mind and that is why I play with it, sprinkle it, splash in it, taste it, feel it running through my fingers, because it purifies my spirit.

If I could speak, I would tell you the waves talk to me like an old friend, that the sound it makes crashing to the shores is sweet, sweet music to my ears.

If I could speak, I would tell you that God loves me and you so much, that he gives us the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the skies and all of the earth. So how can we not marvel at this beautiful miracle called life?

If I could speak, I would tell you how much I love you, Mama and Papa. And I would tell you every single day that you did good.  And all that you have given me, all that you are to me is more than enough.

And if I could speak, I would tell you, in not so many words but in a language that is strong, simple, loud and clear, how much I love you, in the most gentle of kisses, in an embrace so tight as I serenade you with the most beautiful songs borne out of my heart, all the days of our lives...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grace, Hope, Faith

Tonight I pray for
Grace,hope, faith
Let me not lose sight
of the bigger purpose

I look at your eyes so gentle
and all I can utter over and over
is I love you,
I love you, I love you

When all seems lost
You smile at me
lashes flickering
Eyes twinkling

You hold my face
in the gentlest of gaze
brushing my hair
behind my ear

You embrace me tight
as if I am the child
and kiss my tears away
"Mama", you say

With this
the world floats away
the storms cease
and life is beautiful once again

And so today, and everyday
Grace, I pray, grace
to endure, to stand firm
to hope and be strong

For my little prince
and feisty king
my heaven-sent
my cherubim
my Morgan, my Garret...

My Lifeline

Another life I once lived
Another dream I once dreamed
Now this
My true bliss
Morgan and Garret
My eternal gratitude
To the heavens above
The purest laughter for even
The slightest happy memory
My answered prayer
My joyful anticipation of everyday
When I see you both
my boys
all I am able
To say over and over is
I love you, I love you, I love you…
Like a perpetual knot in my heart
My lifeline
My redemption.

Monday, June 13, 2011

And Here Comes Our Morgan

Our baby, whom I have learned to call, our Baby Peking Duck, is getting naughtier and more mischievous by the second. I'll explain why I have begun to call him Baby Peking Duck. Last night, we were reading one of his favorite books entitled, Saffy's Big Adventure. The main character, was, you guessed it, a duck. I begin turning the pages and I say, "Quack, quack!". He, nonchalantly fiddling with his piece of red string mimics almost immediately, "wak-wak!" " Great job, Morgan!" , I exclaim. Then he grins is toothy grin, and his cheeks become robust turning his eyes chinky chinese-y. His cheeks turn bright red, and so rightfully, he is my baby peking duck. And he seems to love it when I call him that.

When he runs, he twists his body in a way that makes him seem like twisting and running at the same time. His favorite food is pancit. And he eats it with his hand, twirls the noodle and puts it in his mouth. He knows exactly what he wants and knows exactly how to get what he wants. When it is nap time, he goes over to the bed of his kuya Garret and jumps on him, hugs him tight and giggles to his heart's delight. Garret, in turn does not mind at all and stays still while Morgan is hugging him. When his papa and I come home from work, he greets me at the door with open arms and gives me a tight embrace. His papa asks him for kiss and his big cheeks are ready for it. His papa made jel-o the other night. And he squished it with his hand, took a bite and wiped it on his cheeks, smiling from ear to ear and running around.

This is our Morgan. Feisty, naughty, funny, cute, adorable, and so full of character. As Garret is serene, Morgan is quite the opposite. But oh, yes, he can be peaceful sometimes...when he is asleep. Watch out when he wakes up. He has this ritual of announcing to the entire world that Morgan has woken up. He cries. Loud. very loud. No different when the doctor pulled him out of my belly.

I remember that particular day. With the CS procedure already in tow, there was no pushing this time. His pediatrician was about to wheel him off to the nursery when I turned my head to see him. She showed me my beautiful baby, all red and fuzzy and crying. Screaming actually is the more accurate term, that his mouth actually formed in the shape of a square. And I was content and happy. While my son was screaming announcing to the entire world that he has arrived, I wept with utter joy. At that very moment, I thought, "Now we are complete. Everything will be better from now on."

Three years had passed since then and my thoughts have never rung so true. Morgan has been the life of the party in our home in his own way. I do not know how to describe it yet I feel he balances out Garret's Autism. He tries to initiate play with his brother. Of course, Garret still prefers to play with his piece of string alone or at someone as opposed to with someone. Out of the blue Morgan hugs his kuya so tightly from behind grinning from ear to ear. And Garret does not pull away. And when the magic moments come, Garret responds. He seems to enjoy it in the way he smiles. I'd like to think that he feels genuinely happy that his brother is giving him a tight embrace. I have yet to witness the two of them hugging face to face but I know the time will come.

At present, while Morgan responds and in fact craves interaction, makes good eye contact, and has more words and verbalization than Garret at his age, he is still delayed in his speech and in some of his other pre-learning skills. A year ago we started his therapy and now he is ready for sped. We still haven't gone to a developmental pediatrician for a final diagnosis though. I think over the years, we've come to accept whatever life hands over to us. After all, there is a purpose to everything. And there is something, someone bigger than all our human capabilities at work in our lives. Still the questions come. Is Morgan also in the Autism spectrum? And if so, what should we do? How should we react? And yes, the most difficult of all... Why?

Two weeks ago, the answer came. "You do know why you were given these two wonderful boys, don't you?", I was asked. I just smiled and said nothing fearing my answer would be presumptuous or simply not the correct one. He continued, "It is so you and Andro could build this wonderful center for all the other kids out there. God works in mysterious ways. And he has a purpose for everything. And this is yours." I smiled even more fighting back tears. It was all I could do to stop myself from breaking down. It was not because of what he said. It was in the timing of it all and in the way he said it. I don't know but I felt like my own father was speaking to me, comforting me like no one ever had before. And it was as if a knot had been untied in my heart. And somehow I felt at peace once more.

Just this morning I was in a way counseling a mother whose child was also special and she was fighting back the tears. I assured her we can help her and that we'll take one step at a time. Thinking about the future overwhelms us and we become helpless. I encouraged her that we take one step, one day at a time. I hope my words comforted her. Now, I reflect on the words I have given to this young mom. And I ask myself, "Can I sustain enough strength for my two boys? I sometimes have barely enough patience for Garret. What will be our future? What will happen? When will things get better? " I am overwhelmed by my own questions.

As much as I am already at peace with everything in my life, as much as I claim to have come to this place of purpose, I think I have yet to come full circle. Every single day is much like a classroom in real life. Each lesson is in the faces of my two beautiful boys. Garret is 6. Morgan is 3. More years of growing up to do. All the more for me. For today, I have to teach myself the words I so easily gave to the young mother this morning--I have to take one step, one day at a time because Garret and Morgan are living theirs moment by moment, one step and one day at a time.

Two hours ago, it was our down time with the boys. Garret playing ball-head-bouncing with his papa. And Morgan? He was licking a lollipop, smearing all the stickiness on his arms, hands, cheeks, tummy and all the pillows on his bed, and yes of course, thoroughly enjoying all of it as seen by his toothy chinesey grin. His papa teases him and pretends to grab the lollipop. He holds on to the lollipop with all his 3-year old body could muster and says an emphatic, "Ay, No!!!" He then hides under his kuya's pillow, sticky lollipop and all. And we all laugh. Morgan resumes his running around again never letting go of his lolly until yaya enters the room and brings him to the bathroom for a bath.

This is our Morgan,our baby peking duck, Garret's "kulit" partner. We are doubly blessed. I still don't know what our future will be like, but I don't think that it matters more than what we could do to live and celebrate the life we have today. And oh, yes, What a beautiful life we have.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hands Held Tight

The cashier counter was full of customers lining up to pay for their goods. One customer, in particular, caught my attention. She was a mother with a toddler hanging on to the hem of her shirt. After she paid for her items, carrying the plastic bag in one hand and her purse in another, they went out of the convenience store. By they, I mean only she and her child. Her child was around 3 or 4 years old of small stature. It was quite apparent that the mother was used to her child tagging along. The mother was not holding her son's hand as her own hands were full. Her child clung to her thigh as they walked out to the street where cars were rushing in all directions. This particular scene stuck in my head like a post-it with double sided tape on the back. I was amazed at how nonchalant the mother was as they prepared to cross the street without holding her son's hand. She was relying on the fact that he stood closely by her side. I was also awed at how cleverly and smartly the child did not run across the street or leave his mother's side. I thought to myself, " Well, this boy has certainly learned his survival instincts early." Further, I convinced myself, " Probably it was the mom's intent to let her son be independent at such a young age, thus the nonchalance. Most likely, like normal kids, he listens to a verbal command of" Don't run or Stay close to Mama." But still, I couldn't shake the image off.

When I bring my two boys to the grocery, as much as possible I grip their hand tight and don't let go until we are back in the car (with the help of the caregiver, of course). I don't mean to be judgmental about other mothers, this scenario just lead me to another striking realization how my mother instincts and protective guards are way up more than others. Or, is it possible that with our situation, with Autism and all, that I am simply given the gift and the opportunity every single day to hold my child's hand almost all of the time? Isn't that what we, in the end, long for? To hold on to our children for as long as we can? Even if we need time for ourselves, and even if we are well aware how our children need to grow up and be on their own eventually. For us, they will forever be our newborns cradled safely in our arms, or at least at an arms length. I certainly don't have absolute answers. But Autism has graced me with numerous insights.

Often times I have wondered what the future holds for us, for Garret, for Morgan, for Andro and me. 5 years from now, 10 years from now. I often wonder how long I can continue to keep them safe from harm. For how long we can hold our boys' hands and keep them from running towards danger. And it turns my insides into knots every single time. When this happens, I close my eyes,say the Serenity Prayer, and say to myself, God will make a way. And this always comforts me.

Holding it all together is one of the toughest challenges parents of children with Autism face. Notwithstanding the behavioral hurdles of our children, much of what comprises a "good day" and distinguishes it from a "bad" one is on how parents work together as a team or as partners. The divorce rate for parents of children with Autism abroad are remarkably high. This is a sad reality considering how these children need all the more family stability and support. But then again, it is not my intention to criticize what I do not know entirely. Statistics, after all, are just that. The real story in every marriage, in every family can only be rightly viewed and judged by the very people who live in that reality. We have our own stories. We each carry our own burdens. And we are the only ones who know the limits of our strength, patience and perseverance. Beyond all the complications of a relationship, a partnership- a marriage, a quote lingers in my mind, the meaning of which I understand only now--

Here it is;

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry-

I would like to add a few more words to this quote; "while holding each others hands tight".

I remember during my 8th month of pregnancy with Garret, friends threw a baby shower for me. A dedication on one of the gifts said," The best gift you could ever give your child is your love for one another." Could this message have been prophetic? Who knows? Nevertheless, this stayed with me since then.

For parents with Autism, the pressure to keep a relationship brimming with love and passion for each other while maintaining some form of sanity and joy in raising the children is relentless. And the only way we can get through this seemingly impossible feat is to never lose sight of what is important. To remember what is important to us-- our love, our marriage, our relationship, our partnership. Because once we remember and live by this proverb, it will translate to our children. The strength of our grip on each others hand, the security of our embrace will in turn be the safety of our children. If we hold on to each other, then we can hold on to our children.

Our love for each other, our consistency in always looking in the same direction, our resolve never to let go of each others hands is our greatest gift to Garret and Morgan. This time, it is not just about our individual needs and wants. It is that and much more. It is a phenomenon, a blessing, a state of grace beyond our humanness. Is Autism the name for it? I don't know. Maybe, most definitely.

I watch the mother and child cross the street and my attention is diverted to a man coming over to me in a blue shirt and blue jeans carrying a plastic bag full of dvds we will watch later in the evening. It is my life partner. He asked me to wait for him at the convenience store before I cross the street to where our vehicle is parked. I meet him. He searches for my right hand, links it with his. We hold hands as we safely cross the street. And I smile, content with the comfort and warmth of his grip on mine.

Everyday is a commitment that needs work. Everyday strength is needed to get through. And everyday, Autism is teaching us the most important things in life. Garret and Morgan is teaching us every single day to hold on. To hold on to faith, to hold on to God, to hold on to hope. To hold on to grace. To hold on to each other. We are definitely not perfect parents or partners by any means. We are constantly a work in progress.

And we will continue to be for as long as we both shall live, not only because of the vows we declared in front of God and the entire assembly, not only for both of us, but most importantly, more than anything else, for our two boys.

Life indeed has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction with hands held tight.