Years ago I came to terms with all the milestone events John would never know.
Going to kindergarten graduation. Grade school and after school church choir. Oh the joy of once a week seeing the church van pull up at school to whisk away you and your friends to church for a couple of parent free fun hours. Little league. Middle school and basket ball, beginner band. Sleep overs. Summer camp and fishing trips with Dad. I knew all these things and silently checked off the boxes in my mental list that I kept in my head, the things that never happened in John’s world.
Turning 21 was not on that list. Aside from a few things I needed to do from a legal stand point, 21 was not a big deal. John should have gone to college by now, so no, I was not thinking about that anymore. So many of the kids in John’s age group happens to be out of work, unable to find a job, so no, the fact that he lives at home, normal really these days. My plans were simple, a gfcf cake, lemon because that’s what he ask for, and dinner with our favorite family members. Adopted into our heart family members. Sarah is my best friend’s daughter and she was there when John was born and a host at his first birthday. She is now married and a mom in her own right to three of the most amazing children I have ever known. Two wild boys, one princess.
The boys met John and I at the door with shouts of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHNNY!!” They knew I would have a bag of ‘happies’ and new toys with me, I always bring them gifts. They had gifts for John, birthdays are exciting when you are two and four, it does not matter whose birthday it is, it’s just fun. The day was. John shared the day with little kids, who laughed, smiled, sang, screamed, jumped, hugged, and played with him. I had my share of fun too. We had lunch at a favorite spot.
When we got back to the house we talked about John being my forever baby. The boys had been full of questions about why John did not talk, and why he loved books but not toys, and why if he was Uncle Bobo’s age, was he not like Bobo. The reality is, John was born the same day as their uncle. The boys were together almost everyday that first year. They were twins born to different mom’s, we said. When the family moved away, a part of my heart went with them, but it was better not to keep watching the twin hit milestones John would never see. Still, twin never left my mind, heart or thoughts. Now it was time to confront the questions and that latest milestone, turning 21 and going out with friends for a legal drink.
I noticed that as I talked to the boys about John being special needs and what that means, I didn’t cry or even feel sad. I was careful to remain up beat that John was John, and he was here to be a blessing to us. It’s easy to tell preschoolers life is okay and positive, even when knowing your baby will live with you for life scares you to death. The subject quickly changed gears and we were on to something else to talk about. Then Sarah mentioned that ritual of turning 21 and your friends taking you out for a drink. Gee, a milestone we will not have. Didn’t see that one coming. I talked to Dad on the drive home and he called me back the next morning with ideas.
Dad has planned a weekend for John. A river boat ride, trip to his favorite stores, over night stay in motel with indoor pool and hot tub…..and a drink. I reminded Dad that John does not have an ID of any kind. He said it wouldn’t be an issue if John was with us, as where we were going it was common to have wine with the meal. I smiled as I hung up the phone, Dad was going to have that turning 21 ritual with his son after all. John, who thinks for some reason that birthday mean trips and outings and a week long party, is getting his week.
Events we create in our mind as reference points of achievements accomplished. I realized when I got off the phone with Dad that John has his own inner set of milestone and turning 21, going out with Dad, was one of his. It’s going to happen this weekend. I suspect that we will lift a glass of wine in both his honor and in the fun of welcoming John to turning 21, and meeting a milestone of his own.