I finally had gotten motivated to tackle the tsunami of rumpled clothes that grows every week in baskets behind the closed door of our bedroom closet — the security measure we use to keep the cats from confusing unfolded laundry for kitty litter.
My husband, for his part, had hauled the frame, mattresses, hardware, and drawers of a used bunk bed from the garage to a second story bedroom to reassemble it there for our oldest son Carl, 8.
Then, out came Daddy’s tools.
Clearly something about the worker bee activity prompted our youngest son — the one with special needs and a profound speech delay — to express his wish to move from audience member to participant.
“I help,” Ray said, ever so softly.
David and I could have cartwheeled over the words, by our count only the second sentence ever spoken by our boy though he turned 5 in early December.
Usually, Ray jargons — speaks fluently and often passionately with a helter-skelter arrangement of vowels and consonants in a foreign language understood by God alone.
More and more, though, one English word pops out of that mix. Words like “snowflake” and “keys.”
He started calling me “Mom” at age 3, and since then this one-word repertoire has snowballed, albeit in slow motion.
As I stood at the stove last week sauteing mushrooms and stirring boiling pasta water, Ray poked my leg and pointed at a pizza illustration in his Scooby Doo book.
“Pizza!” he near shouted, tapping the picture.
It sounds like he is getting it, getting English down like the rest of us do, one word at a time, and beginning to string those words together.
At such a juncture, I think again on the complaint a friend once shared regarding her mother.
“If she lost an arm, she would be happy because she had one left,” this friend said, rolling her eyes.
When others minimize pain, loss or struggle — especially when it is not their own — it can be insensitive and hurtful.
But this post is in praise of all of those one-armed wonders, in praise of Ray and other kids and adults who keep truckin’ without benefit of standard-issue gear, such as the 100-point (give or take) IQ most of us rely on to communicate.
When he was born, a simple analogy helped me deepen this appreciation.
I began thinking about using my left hand versus my dominant right hand to hold a fork, to write a letter, to apply mascara.
The exercise exposed the efficiency, elegance, and artistry I took for granted.
It also sharpened my sense of how we all operate one-armed or left-handed in some area.
Lots of folks battling the bulge or hoping to forgive wrongdoing can relate to this.
Yet, parenting a boy like Ray reminds me that tough goes can be the most worthy ones, and that progress can be deeply in the works without many obvious signs.
Ray spoke his first sentence on a 100-degree day in July as I tried to tug off his rainboots and replace them with sandals before we left the air-conditioned car.
As I tugged, he tugged back and jargoned frantically in his exclusive foreign language.
Then, as if by magic, he spoke in perfect English: “I want boots!”
His brothers and I looked at each other and then at Ray.
The boy wore boots that day.