Thursday, February 4, 2010

Special...Every Day...and in Every Way

This post written by
Greg Bandler, Toronto, ON. Excerpt from "The IDEAL WAY to Cook: Food for Thought."

For many people, the label "special needs" signals a person who requires special concessions - big and small. But the "label definition" is often quite different for the parents, siblings, family members and close friends of "special needs" kids. Quite simply, the label should be shortened to a single word: "special". Certainly an applicable description for our son, Michael, now age 20.

We have special times with our Michael on a daily basis. It's wonderful to enjoy and experience life through his particular lenses and filters. He and I recently took in our first Toronto FC soccer game together at the BMO Field on the CNE grounds. I was graciously extended tickets at the last minute, possibly because the ticket holder confirmed that the weather forecast of a cold and wet Thursday night appeared accurate. No matter. I advised Michael to get ready and dress warmly - we were off to the soccer game. He brought the enthusiasm and anxiety of a five year old - so prevalent in our extremely social and kind-hearted special child. We endured the most horrendous traffic jam - a Toronto traffic jam of epic proportions! - to arrive in time for the opening kick-off...of the second half...Even so, our spirits were not dampened.

The game was fast moving. The home team enjoyed a one-nil advantage and defended strongly throughout the second half. It was interesting to see how Michael pointed out other special people in the crowd immediately upon sitting down. Dad, look at the guy three rows down - he looks drunk - has he been drinking? Dad, why did that guy hurl a red streamer at the player who was on the sideline doing a throw-in? He shouldn't do that - why did he do that? Dad, why are all those people standing in the end zone singing and acting rowdy - should they be doing that in a public place? Of course, none of the questions were posed at the socially accepted "whisper level". No, they were posed at full audible volume for anyone within earshot to ponder.

After the game, we returned to our van in the parking lot, staying dry and warm. We waited to chauffeur Michael's 16-year-old sister and her friends home from the concert they were attending at Ontario Place. In the end, we had a two-hour wait, but it zipped by in what felt like minutes. We did some people watching. We decided to walk a bit to see if we could hear the music at the outdoor concert more clearly. We had a hot dog from the street vendor. Based on the number of dogs he would soon sell from his BBQ, we calculated he must live in a mansion! We chatted and listened to music on the van radio.

Michael reinforced his special place in my heart with the simple phrase, "Thanks, Dad. I love spending time with you. Can we do this again?" We listened to more music. And we people watched more. We were in our own special world. So much so that I hadn't noticed the van's battery drain with the lights and radio on. We needed a boost, albeit not in an emotional sense. It had been a special night - from start to finish - despite the traffic, despite the rain and cold, despite the wait, or perhaps, because of the wait.

Enjoying our children for who they are and experiencing life through their special lenses and filters is indeed a privilege and a reminder of just what "special" truly means.

Our kids are indeed special...every day...and in every way!

Photo: SamVincent


Jan Hajjar, Etobicoke said...

Maureen, Greg Bandler's story hit it spot on! If only we would just sit back and enjoy life thru the eyes of our 'special' children as his son, Michael, did. Oblivious to the traffic, weather, complaining, etc., he was there to have a good time. Why let those things that could not be helped get in the way? In being himself, Michael's contagious love of life drew in those around him so how could they not have a great time!

I experienced something very similar this past Christmas, which is Robert's favourite holiday. Every year for the past 31 years I have gone out of my way to decorate just for Rob. The first carol is played November 1st until Rob's oficial cutoff date of January 31st, at which time he hands me all his Christmas CD's to put away until next year. For 31 years I have decorated to the hilt just for Rob. This year, due to work on our home, chaos reigned throughout. We were lucky to find our beds at night! I decided no tree or decorations this year. Not a protest from Rob. At the end of each day, I'd sit and feel sorry for myself .. we wouldn't have a Christmas like everyone else, my beautiful tree was not up, why did I allow the workers to start during the holidays, and so on. Meanwhile, Rob disappeared to his room several times during the day and night. In one of my pity moments, I decided to check in on Rob. I looked thru the slit in the door and there he was, singing and dancing his heart out to his favourite Boney M Christmas carols! In spite of the upheaval and disruption to his everyday life, Rob found time to be joyful and to feel the Christmas spirit. It was all I could do to hold back the tears. I knocked and when he turned to lower the volume, thinking I was there to complain it was too loud, told him to crank it up even more because Mom was there to share in his Christmas festivities.

I told myself once again "Rob gets it". Gets the message that life is to be lived to the fullest, that you don't need the trappings to make that holiday what we think it should be, that each and every day is to be celebrated and cherished, that we should set aside time for ourselves to be happy and do what we want! This is one of the many, many lessons our 'special' children teach us.

Robert and Michael, you and your peers are truly God's angels on earth.

Maureen Lee said...

Oh, Janette, your beautifully written comment brought me to tears! You said it all - Rob, and many others like him, "get it". We just need to stop and listen, and attempt to be more like them: celebrate and cherish every moment, because happiness lies in finding joy no matter what the circumstances are in your life. Thank you, Robert and Michael, for that life lesson, and thank you, Janette, for sharing that wonderful story with us!

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