It is time for our Sunday afternoon walk around the neighborhood. I take my little prince's hand . He holds the stuffed toy his papa gave to me 13 years ago.
"Doggy is coming with us, kuya?"
He echoes, "Do-dee."
I sing our "walking song". "We are walking, we are walking..." He does not sing with me as he usually does, filling in the last words of each line. I stop and ask him, "What song would you like to sing, Garret?" He smiles quietly. I think maybe the question is not registering. I do not mind. I suggest, "How about... Do you know the muffin man?" This is one of his favorite songs. I begin singing. He still does not sing with me. After a few more seconds, I prod him, "What song Garret?"
My little prince smiles and sings, "Hum-tee dum-tee khat o da woh..."
My heart soars. He understands my question. He was processing. I was getting through him.
We sing Humpty Dumpty for the rest of the 1200 meter walk.
Seven years ago, I had numerous questions. I was filled with fear, uncertainty and self-doubt. Would Garret ever speak? I wondered what his voice would sound like, how I would feel the first time he would speak, what sort of conversations we would have, would we even have conversations?
Two years ago, he finally spoke. I did not want to believe it the first time he did. First it was "fish" as he was playing in our Koi pond. Then a few days after, it was the most beautiful word of all-- "Mama". I believed it with all my heart.
Our life with autism has not been easy. It wreaks challenges that seem impossible. And yet each day as we do the best we can, with the slew of therapies and an overwhelming outpouring of love, challenges are overcome.
Our two boys have a long way to go. Our family's journey is one that will be long and difficult. But we have decided to be grateful for how far we have come. Where every word uttered is a gift, where every breakthrough in whatever form, a cause for celebration. Today was the yesterday we so feared. And today we may not be at our best, but we are wrought with victories, miracles and milestones reached.
By the time we go back to the house, the sun has set. Garret decides to sit at our front steps for a while longer. He looks at the sky, looks for the sun, marvels at the birds taking flight, fingers stimming. Then he sings again this time another song, in perfect tune. His singing takes me back to the first time he had his occupational therapy. He was three years old bawling his eyes out. But then towards the end of the therapy session, he was calm and singing, "Ga-ga-ga," to the tune of the song, "God loves me, God loves me. In the bible yes it says that God loves me."
Now, he sings many different songs. He has at least 15 words in his vocabulary. His favorite words are star, heart, sun, moon, boat, happy, boy. We converse in songs, in gestures, and in a language that is universal. One that is filled only with love. And his voice? How can I describe to you in words? It is like angels singing.
Several years ago, I was consumed with uncertainty, self-doubt and a myriad of fears. They still exist. Make no mistake about it. More questions remain unanswered. But today, I choose to be consumed with gratitude and amazement at how far we have come. And this may be the answer to all my questions-- gratitude and amazement at how far we have come.