Breath of Heaven
By Laura E. Giordano
There are certain pinnacle moments that we, as parents inevitably will face from time to time. Moments filled with uncertainty, and doubt. Moments that feel crucial to the well being, and development of our children. I have had many of these moments; in my six and a half years of being a parent, whether it's the wild tantrum in church; the child who will not eat anything resembling meat; a three year old resistant to potty-training. There are all sorts of random moments in a day in the life of a parent, where you question your decisions, and fret over behavioral issues, food choices, or whether the jacket your child wore today is heavy enough. I have found these moments, for the most part to be fleeting, and usually it is through my mistakes or poor choices that I become a better mother. I have always been able to at least stumble through, and rely on the grace of God, and neither of my children have set fire to anything, or developed rickets from too much candy and not enough meat. My biggest source of worry however, is my adequacy in raising a child who is physically challenged. My son is an amputee, with a prosthetic leg; he is six and a half.
Caleb was born with a congenital deformity in his right leg, and after many months and many doctors, the decision was made to amputate. At 22 months old, my son was operated on, and a few months later was walking for the first time, with his marvelous new prosthesis, "leggy" as we call it. I believe it is a high call, to be the parent of physically, or mentally challenged child. I have over the last few years, drawn much strength from God, and the concept, that He has chosen my husband and I to be the parents of such an extraordinary boy. At first, the hardest parts were the inappropriate questions, like, "What's wrong with his leg?" shouted out across the parking lot of a grocery store. The blatant stares and rubber necking in the park. Caleb was young enough to be unaware that people were gawking at his leg, and innocent to how great his struggle really was. He had never walked before, so walking with a prosthetic leg, with essentially no knee was not weird for him, because it was all he knew. It was matter of fact for him, when other kids would ask about it, he would plainly explain in his three- year old voice, "It's a prosthesis". He learned to adapt in his own way, when not wearing his prosthesis he hops, and developed such stamina! He can hop down the block and back without breaking a sweat. Caleb's run looks more like a gallop, but he does it with the ferocity of a sprinter. He has learned to function, and function well, and all the while, I've watched, wondering if he would ask me "Why?" someday. If I would see a glimpse of pain in his eyes when realizing he's different.
It came unexpectedly, on a Thursday night, as we snuggled getting him ready for sleep. A pending Gymnastic birthday party for his friend had sparked a conversation about our weekend. First, just a slight hesitation, then full resistance, "I don't want to go!" When I pressed, I was met with anger, then tears. As I held his fuzzy blonde head, he said the words that I often worried about. "It's because I can't do anything with my leggy, I can't jump, I can't run, and I can't do summersaults." The flood of tears came now, and the sound of deep sobs, pain released in mama's arms. The fleeting thoughts that must have been periodically dancing through his head, during gym class; during times when kids sit "criss-cross applesauce" and it can't apply to him; as he gallops around the bases in a base-ball game, and pushes his little body as hard as it will go. Subtle comments from cruel children along the way, "You can't run", "You're a robot" always met by Caleb with a strong voice, and wide eyes, "That's not true". Now, after so much in such a short life, the wound doesn't heal as quickly as it did when he was more innocent to his challenges. He is aware now, that he works a little harder at things his friends do easily.
So now, as Caleb's head is buried in my arms, I hold him tight, and can think of nothing to say. No words, only the sound of weeping. My head bows, in this moment I am suddenly rendered useless. There is no bandage big enough for this wound, and my arms don't seem strong enough to hold him as tightly as he needs. My spirit whispers "Oh God". Mingled with the sound of Caleb's crying I hear the breath of Heaven. The soft brush of angel's wings, the gentle breeze of hope, sweeping through this little house, where I know the hand of God rests in this moment. I take Caleb's face in my hands, and look into his watery eyes. "There will always be someone who jumps higher, or runs faster, but you Caleb, are the bravest of them all." He quietly nods, and asks again about the party, that he nervously wants to go to. Sleep soon comes, and I silently wonder if in his dreams he has a prosthesis. I wonder what it would be like to see him run around those bases with two knees, full force, uninhibited. Somehow, I don't think his face would shine quite as much as it does now, bright with determination. I contemplate this, as I watch him a few days later at the party. Cheeks flushed from jumping crown his unbreakable smile. He gallops past me, and I smile, for I am certain I just heard the brush of angel wings.
Laura E. Giordano is a twenty-eight year old mom who lives in East Rockaway, New York with her husband Anthony and their two children. Caleb who is nearly seven, and Grace who is three. Laura home-schools her son, and is the editor of her church's Mom's Group Newsletter.