This day. This glorious, much-anticipated day. This day that I sometimes thought would never arrive finally did and, in the celebration of it all, nearly slipped through my fingers, like the final grains of sand in an hourglass.
How could I possibly recount the infinite, often heavy steps that brought us to this day? How many long days to this day? How many days did I put him on the little yellow bus to go to his Early Intervention school? And the first two years of elementary? How many “good” elementary days, when he would bring home an E.T. ticket as a reward from his full-time aide? How many “bad” days, when I would get a call to leave work and pick him up because his behavior was “too disruptive”? How many times did he shriek when the school landscapers fired up the lawn mower or because the multitude of sounds in any classroom on any day at any given moment became too overwhelming?
How many meetings did I attend trying to figure out what to do about it?
Yes, those thoughts and many others could detract from this special day. Instead, they only remind me of how far he has come, and how many people have helped him to get here. I really don’t think it would be possible to sit down and recount all of the therapists, specialists, doctors, teachers, educational assistants, and service providers. We started having him evaluated for “developmental delays” when he was two and three-quarters, after I finally found a pediatrician who didn’t say “don’t worry, boys start talking later than girls.” The good one saw him for five minutes and immediately said I’m going to refer him to Child Development Center for an evaluation right away.
Almost sixteen years later, we made it to this day. I am sitting in a beautiful park on a glorious, sunny evening, my brother to my left and Nigel’s father to my right. Aidan, my mother, and my sister and her family have also come to share in the happiness of this day. It is the same park where I graduated from college nineteen years ago, with Nigel in my belly. Soon he will walk across the same stage that I did, shake hands, and receive a diploma. His diploma is modified, but our pride is not. Our emotions are not. No one goes through an experience like that to feel anything less than absolute joy and triumph, no matter what’s on the paper.
And now, sunglasses on, he is walking down the aisle, escorted by his second grade teacher, from his first year of mainstreaming (with a full-time aide). Nigel’s high school has a tradition in which the students pick someone in the school district who had worked with them to escort them down the aisle and then announce them when it is time to receive their diplomas. Nigel said he picked her because she believed in him.
He is seated near the back, so I am unable to see him during the ceremony. But I can see so many wonderful kids I’ve had the privilege to know over the past eleven years we’ve been in this district. I’ve watched them grow into beautiful, compassionate adults, and I’m so glad that Nigel has had them in his life. I am so grateful to their parents for raising them to be this way, for teaching their children through their own example. For getting to know me, and for caring about my son. When I say that it took a metropolis to raise this child, I’m not just talking about all the therapists, teachers, doctors, and other professionals we’ve known in his life. I’m also talking about these incredible kids and their lovely parents. They are a huge part of Nigel’s success and his well-being.
And before I know it, his second grade teacher is announcing his name, and I am watching him walk up to hug her, to cross the stage, through the glass rectangle of my camera instead of with my own eyes. His father is doing the same thing. And we finish and put our cameras down and sit, asking for tissues. It was over so quickly and I feel like I missed it. I am in shock, I guess, but then I gasp and the magnitude hits me. This day. This day is here. We were scrambling at the end – he had tests to make up, missing assignments to do. His Senior Project presentation. Emails flew back and forth with his long-suffering special education teacher of the past four years. Somehow everything got finished, he squeaked by with passing grades, and we made it to this day.
[The video below is very short, about 30 seconds. You’ll see him receive his diploma. He even hugs the principal, who did not solicit hugs from everyone. Then there’s an even bigger treat at the end, something I didn’t anticipate but wasn’t surprised to see. Nigel felt just as proud, just as triumphant, as I did.]