Love Without Labor

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WHEN RAY’S BEST FRIEND IN first grade came over for a backyard cookout last weekend, she presented a dozen long-stemmed yellow roses from her family and a heart full of wedding plans.

Gracie reminded her mother several times that week to send a wedding invitation to our youngest son, her groom, and to uninvite her dad whenever she felt mad at him.

It’s not like her affections caught Ray, 6, off guard.

Their friendship goes way back to preschool. They eat lunch at the school cafeteria side-by-side every day and act like a couple, even without matching rings.

But Ray, like his father, could not give a rat’s rear end about wedding plans.

Our boy refused even to hold the bouquet with her for a 10-second snapshot and instead called Gracie, also 6, to join him at the hole beside the garage that he and his brothers have been digging all summer.

The dynamic felt so familiar.

My husband hoped I would go four-wheeling with him in the mountains on our wedding day and resented the long to-do list I handed him instead. Sure, he wanted to get married and celebrate that through a religious ceremony and festive reception with friends and family.

Honestly, though, I suspect only his anticipation of the honeymoon kept him from jilting me at the altar given the onslaught of directions about multi-tiered cakes, boutonnieres, and folding programs.

David feels Ray’s pain, even in the context of a play date wedding. So, I know what Gracie is up against here.

It is in the genes.

This precious girl nevertheless is fond of our boy in the most innocent ways. He is quite fond of her, too.

And as I watched them play together, it blessed me so to see Gracie’s love rollout without labor — to see the ease with which this very chatty, vivacious girl on the autism spectrum delights in our son’s company.

That moment bounced me back to Ray’s birthday at Longmont United Hospital in December 2009. In the wee hours immediately following his birth and tentative diagnosis with Down syndrome, I entertained surreal thoughts about the future of this boy with the extra chromosome.

For instance, I wondered if he ever would wear a tuxedo — something silly that I now think symbolized the formality of adult traditions, such as getting married.

Ray cannot talk much yet due to his speech delay. As he ages, other developmental delays will cause him to fall further and further behind his peers academically as they navigate the world in increasingly complex ways.

But six years into our life together, I now know something that Gracie and Ray’s fast friendship exemplifies — that actions do speak louder than words and that our presence, not just our performance dripping with sweat equity, provides the invaluable.

Happy Labor Day!

Pam Mellskog can be reached at p.mellskog@gmail.com or at 303-746-0942.

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