“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.”-Vincent Van Gogh
Cradled in her arms is her first grandchild. At two months of age, Wyatt craves the comfort of a warm embrace and the sway of arms that hold him while he sleeps. As I watch Patti gently rocking Wyatt to sleep, the memories of my children as infants emerge from the depths of my consciousness. Holding a precious, tiny, and vulnerable human is an incredible experience. The infant depends on another human to meet every need. We hold them knowing that this is just a temporary season. One day they will begin pulling away from us and demanding independence, freedom, and autonomy.
Someday they will be able to express their wants and needs. For now, we try to figure out what they cannot yet tell us. Are they hungry? Are they thirsty? Are they tired or overwhelmed? Do they need to be changed? Do they have gas or is their tummy upset? It’s a guessing game, until one day it isn’t. One day they reach for the bottle or cup on their own. One day they pick up the Cheerio or cracker and pop it into their mouth. They begin to see themselves as separate from you. They are no longer dependent on others and can begin to make decisions for themselves, or at least that is the natural progression for most children.
As the memories of both my kids as infants and toddlers surface, I am also reminded of the moment, or moments, when each of my children got to any fork in the road. One child always traveled the asphalt trail that was clear of obstacles. His path was easy. It was smooth, straight, and easy to walk. Justin began to drink from a cup and learned to fall asleep on his own. He began walking and talking. His problem-solving skills continually developed and his desire for independence emerged and grew with each success. It was a typical path with mile markers and clear signage to guide him on his journey.
Emily turned down the other road. This path, not well marked, was overgrown with bushes and trees. It required clearing the debris along the way in order to go any further. Many stops had to be taken to rest as the journey was hard, at times impossible. There weren’t any maps or guides to help her traverse the terrain. It was too difficult for her to travel alone. She was unable to walk the path and had to be carried every step. The trail requires maximum assistance to travel and some parts will never be experienced as the difficulty is too great even with help.
There are years that pass without seeing any signs or mile markers. She crossed mile marker two before ever drinking from a cup unassisted or sleeping through the night. She began to crawl somewhere between mile marker three and four. At mile marker 22, she still requires help to drink at times, someone must assist her to eat and she depends on medication to sleep. Now too large to be carried, she must be pushed in her wheelchair. She will never be able to travel this road solo and experience the freedom and independent travel others experience. Yet, this journey, this path, is never boring or mundane. It is always challenging, and exciting, and the scenery is unique.
The journey started the same with both of my kids. I remember holding them, rocking them in my arms, and counting their fingers and toes. The beauty of caring for them and assisting in meeting every need. It was beautiful and satisfying to watch Justin find his independence. But that was not the path for Emily. She will always need me (or someone) to assist her in meeting her needs. Her journey will never lead to her independence, and her path will often be challenging and difficult. We will continue to learn and grow as we travel with her. While this path is difficult, and the trail often treacherous, it is also beautiful. The flowers are fragrant and unique. The views often stunning. This trail has introduced us to guides, angels, opportunities, and lessons we would have missed had Emily traveled the easy, paved, and well-worn trail.