Memories wax and wane…. somewhat like the waves on the ocean. Some are bigger and stand out more. Others are smaller, slowly fading away until a smell in the air, a certain time of year, or a certain sound bring the memories back with a rush of feelings and sometimes even a tear.
When I reflect back, to what my wife and I term our “playing pioneer” days, I cannot remember that time period without a jumble of emotions.
My first real building project was a pole barn. We were rather proud of it…..in fact, the trailer we were living in seemed like a real dump compared to the fresh, clean scented, pole out-building. So much so, that we kicked the animals out and moved in ourselves…..with a few additions such as insulation, a better roof, and 2 wood stoves. Life was very peaceful. Our 5 acre piece of land was covered with tall, healthy, fir trees and good, draining soil. We’d cleared enough land to have a milk cow, chickens, a horse or two for luxury, and my wife’s hobby….angora rabbits. We had home grown chicken in the freezer, applesauce, peaches, cherries, and lots of other mouth watering wintertime treats in the pantry. That summer I honestly felt life could not get any better. Sherry, my wife, was pregnant with our third child. She was healthy and we were planning a home birth.
It was corn husking season. Wispy clouds blew across the dark sky, making their appearance only when shifting in front of the light across the harvest moon. Tonight was the night we had been waiting for. Nine months of anticipation had come to an exciting crescendo …..for labor had started.
This being our first home birth, I was amazed at how calm we were. When Sherry knew it was time, I called our midwife. After she arrived in about an hour, I busied myself with cleaning the chimney. The evening was a bit chilly and we needed the warmth of this first season’s fire. Labor was very low key, easy for me to say…..but I in fact fell asleep! As soon as labor picked up, I was really into helping ease Sherry’s labor. I couldn’t wait to hold our baby!
I recall looking down at our newly born baby and questioning, “Is it a girl?” “It is a girl!” The next moment our midwife said softly…..”And it looks like she has Down’s syndrome”. Her statement sunk in immediately. I understood, but I did not want to believe that she was less than perfect. Little did we know the effect those words our midwife spoke would have on our lives forever.
After adjusting to the fact that she was handicapped, we actually looked forward to raising her to the best of our ability. Fall arrived in a brilliance of color. The dreary rain seemed fitting accompaniment to what we were going through medically with our sweet baby. She developed a severe heart murmur after 2 days, and further investigation found that her little heart had a hole inside that caused the chambers to leak blood back into her lungs. Sleeping most of the time, she had to work extra hard just to eat. Sherry, scared and exhausted, struggled to nurse a sleepy baby, trying to get her to gain weight so they could operate. Every two hours around the clock Tally needed to eat. At night my mind would race with worry, keeping sleep at bay. After 3 months, she had finally reached 10 pounds. The “safe” weight for surgery. So we thought. Surgery went fine…….but several hours later, our tiny baby’s body, exhausted from trying to get enough oxygen those last few weeks, did not have the stamina to stay alive. Fighting for her life, her eyes opened briefly in panic and looked into mine. She was gone.
Stunned, would be a good term to describe how we felt for the first few weeks. Our baby was dead. The finality was cushioned only by the fact that I knew, some day in heaven, I would hold her again. But for now, our idyllic life was smashed to pieces and it was time for us to grow up. We were really looking forward to raising this special needs child of ours.
It is amazing how life goes on. We felt like we were wearing signs on our chests that read, “We’ve just lost our precious baby”. Meeting friends in grocery stores and at church was difficult. The subject near and dear to our hearts was our little girl….but people would rather not talk about death. We learned to quietly bear our sorrow.
After six months of healing, our midwife called us on the phone. Her friend had just helped deliver a baby boy with Down syndrome. The family did not want to keep him…..would we be interested in taking him for our own? WOULD WE!!!! Our hearts leaped at the chance to hold a baby again. Waiting for us in the hospital, was Jordan, a 2 week old infant, ours for the taking.
Gone were the tearful nights. It had been one of the most difficult times in my life as I fought to keep my deep sorrowful emotions in check and give my wife the building up she desperately needed. I hoped and prayed this would be the beginning of something good in our lives. I felt like we were being given another chance. Watching her nurse Jordan was healing balm. Sherry’s face, for the first time in months, was not etched in heart wrenching pain…….instead there was a tender glow of love for this tiny babe that had been motherless.
Jordan grew and blossomed that next year. Although very slow in development, he was moving forward. Looking back it seemed he was a baby for an incredibly long time. We didn’t care. The more he needed us, the better we felt! The hole in our hearts where our little blessing had been plucked was not filled, but a new tender shoot was dearly growing beside it.
We decided to homeschool our children….including Jordan. His needs did not overwhelm us and we were weren’t going to send him off to elementary school at age 2. He was a still just a baby in size and development. It seemed as if every new milestone he reached was celebrated with extra excitement and cheer. Learning to walk at age 3 was a wobbly accomplishment for Jordan. The muscles and tendons in his feet were “loose” and it gave him a bumbly-tumbly puppet like gait. To us it was beautiful. We all were so proud! Each accomplishment still means so much to us as a family. Working together to reach hard earned goals, easy for normal children, serves as a special glue bonding us as a family.
Now, after 6 1/2 years, Jordan is just starting to talk so we can understand. For a long time he has chattered away, commanded the troops, asked for things politely….only we couldn’t understand. His first two syllable word was “ap-ple”. Then “Mommy, I wan’ ‘na ap-ple.” This is truly music to our ears. His two word phrases have grown to full fledged understandable sentences.
Sometimes our hearts ache for him. A couple months ago his bigger brothers realized in the car one day that Jordan will never drive, nor marry, have children and really grow up. This seemed to make them sad. When we got home, Jordan proceeded to get into their half finished project in the drawer (Jordan knew it was a no-no) . His older brothers’ sympathy lasted all of 2 hours.
When I look at Jordan, I don’t see the label “retarded”. I see Jordan. Although there are times when he works like a 286 computer in a 486 world, he still works! Teaching him to obey has been just as much work as training any of my other children. We simply hold him accountable for what we know he already can do, and teach him the rest. His eyes, just like those of his brothers’, clue us in to the attitude of his heart. He is mostly a happy little feller…..but on occasion he can be grumpy, naughty, sad, angry, excited, scared, generous, sympathetic, cruel, devious, full of mischief and an angel.
I am thankful to our Heavenly Father that we have the liberty to homeschool Jordan. The life skills Jordan has learned, and the time we have invested in character development, make him a pleasure to live with. I do not feel “burdened” or “saddled down with extra cares”. Sherry and I are looking forward to sharing the rest of our lives living with Jordan and his little sister Sherlynn who has cerebral palsy. With us will always be someone excited about the first snow fall, Christmas trees, camp fires, marshmallows, and the new baby kittens in the barn.
The memories of Tally serve a great purpose. Having my little girl go on before me, to be with the Lord, has given me an eternal perspective on life.
My love for Jordan matches the love I feel for my birth children. The Lord has graciously given him to us, for a time, for our enjoyment. Our life ahead carries joys to behold, lessons to be learned, and memories to be made. I know the reminiscence will be sweet.