A Fourth for the family to remember forever
Updated: July 9, 2012 9:20AM
Everyone has special holiday memories, and ours is what I call the Forever Fourth of July.
My oldest son was born 17 years ago, after an arduous 72-hour labor. My husband vowed he’d never get near another birthing room as long as he lived.
As a baby, my son did not babble or coo. When he was 15 months old, I had him evaluated at an esteemed university. Their findings were grim. Autism was likely, and it might be severe.
After a good cry, I pledged to do whatever I could to help him. While the expert expressed doubt that he understood language cues, my mother’s heart told me he understood plenty, he just couldn’t speak yet.
Then we consulted a speech-and-language therapist whose optimism and gentleness were a contrast to the cool, clinical evaluation we’d received earlier. While they were “certain,” she offered a humbler opinion, that he had speech apraxia. As long as he could communicate in some form, he could move toward forming sounds and, eventually, sentences.
We began therapy sessions with zeal. My kiddo made a great client: He was cooperative, smiley and caught on fast. We started with sign language and it became such a habit that my husband and I signed each other for the TV remote.
By his second birthday, my son was making new sounds and attempts at phrases. We were thrilled and I felt a renewed hope.
That summer, we attended the sprawling Rib Fest in Naperville with my sister and her family.
We fanned out an old quilt, settled on our rumps and waited for dusk. The event was packed, the air muggy and hot. We smeared on mosquito repellent and gulped down cold water.
Noisy fireworks can scare little ones, and we weren’t sure how our son would react. Turned out, he loved the exploding colors in the night sky. Grinning, he clapped along with everyone else.
A swell of patriotic music signaled the finale. The crowd applauded wildly, whistle-cheered, and as the smoke cleared and the night fell silent, people stood up, stretched and began the mass exodus to the parking lots.
One little guy didn’t make a move, though. My husband and I looked at our son.
He signed “more” at the now-empty sky.