September 1, 2010
“It’s Silly Day, Mom?” my youngest son queries me from the backseat of our SUV, and I’m almost surprised he’s put down his sippy cup long enough to ask me the question. “No hon, it’s Sibling Day” I reply, “the day where kids get to go visit their brothers and sisters at school”. I glance in the rearview mirror to see if this computes or not, and I’m gratified to see a slight smile grace Zachary’s face before I turn my attention back to the road. “We go see Justin, Mom?” he continues, and after I adjust my soul from hearing the far more grown-up “mom” appellation rather than “mommy”, I respond in the affirmative. He’s been excited by this visit for days, wanted to ride the bus with Justin that morning until I gently explained to him that brothers and sisters have to reach the school by car. He eventually bought that, and as long as he could bring his juice and a Thomas train with him I knew he’d comply. In general, copious liquids and access to Percy and James satisfy this child. Most of the time (thank God), he is fairly easy to please.
After several rounds of “Row, Row, Row your Boat”, and a completely bastardized disco version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, we arrive at our destination and find parking not too far from the entrance to the school. Upon exiting the vehicle we are immediately immersed in a wave of unrelentless heat, and I am forced to summon “mean mommy” as I tell my last-born son he will indeed be walking the two hundred feet to the sliding doors, for if his mother picks him up she will in fact melt. This feels like DC weather to me, and as it does not come accompanied by six thousand nearby cultural opportunities, I resent it. It’s July, and I’m already looking forward to fall.
We avoid a near stumble as we make our way down the empty bus lane to the school, and gratefully achieve our destination as the glass doors close behind us, enveloping us in a welcome blanket of chilled air. I manage to sign in with one hand while the other grasps the back of Zachary’s t-shirt, keeping him from investigating several nearby wheelchairs which have caught his eye. Within moments one of the school’s administrators has come to usher us into the cafeteria to wait for Justin’s teacher, and miraculously I am able to keep his sibling from activating one of the chairs and taking it for a spin. This child is nothing if not curious.
The wait is brief, but it affords me the opportunity to check out some of the parents and siblings as we sit. One or two make eye contact and smile, some are entrenched in conversations with their attending children. All of them look tired. Fatigued parents may be the one commonality that transcends all differences across the spectrum (and other children with a disability as well).
Soon we are summoned by Justin’s gracious teacher, and I grip Zach’s hand tightly as we make our way down the brightly lit hallway to see my eldest in his new environment. There is only one other parent with us at the moment, and I wave her and her daughter in before us so I can give Zach his instructions one more time. “Run up to Justin, say, ‘hi’, and give him a big squeeze”, which is the McCafferty euphemism for a gigantic hug. He hesitates as we cross the threshold into the classroom, and I watch him take it all in, and orient himself.
Most of the students are congregated in the front of the room before a Smartboard, with the configuration of their chairs forming a crescent shape, their one-to-one paras seated behind them. Justin is so enthralled by what is transpiring on the big-screen technology before him that he doesn’t even register the presence of visitors, so I have a brief opportunity to observe him. Zach makes a break for it, ripping his hand from mine, feet tumbling one after the other as he heads for his target. Moments later he is there, runs in front of the students with complete abandon, throws himself on his brother’s lap, and screams “HI JUSTIN!” loudly enough that I’m certain the entire facility knows he’s in residence.
Then, the miracle occurs.
I regard my boys from across the room, and see Justin’s unbridled response, starting with disbelief in his eyes and working its way to a huge grin that encompasses his entire face. I count, one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, and watch my eldest son completely revel in the fact that his younger sibling is strewn across his torso. In those few, sacred moments, it is apparent how much he loves his little brother, for he it takes him three entire seconds to even search the room for me, to investigate who else has accompanied Zach. This is their time, and for this brief period Justin is simply happy to see his sibling, no other presence is required. Zach quickly tires of embracing his brother and heads toward a tent set up in the corner of the room, and I sprint sideways to circumvent what I’m certain will result in the deflated camping apparatus before Sibling Day has officially even started. After all, I’ve schlepped here, I want them both to get what they can out of it.
But the truth is, for me, I’ve already had my celebration, had my gift bestowed upon me, unanticipated, yet eagerly accepted. I’ve born witness to proof of love, those precious seconds supporting my belief that Justin, indeed, truly has feelings for Zach, even though he can’t communicate them in any traditional manner. One, two, three, a triumvirate of evidence, sanctifying my hopes, realizing my dreams.
And I know, that no matter what else transpires on Sibling Day, that for this mother at least, it has been a success.