Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Little Black Slippers

Those of you following along will have noticed that 2015 has been a difficult year in "Bateyland".  Significant change has invaded every aspect of our family's life.  At the same time, there have been moments that left me in slack-jawed wonder and deep appreciation.
My lack of "mountains to climb" and "adventures to pursue" has been a recurrent theme, at least in my head, for most of my 40's.  I've felt "adrift", particularly in the last couple of years. Answering "Ok...what now?" has been impossible.

Enter a pair of little black slippers, the stretchy, satin looking kind that seem very popular with ladies from cradle to grave. 

This particular pair was adorning the feet of a rather quiet, much younger coworker.  Everything "ankles up" was standard dress code (slacks, etc.). Most would never have noticed that they weren't flats, but we all know I'm not most.  To my hyper-observant mind, they may as well have been chartreuse rather than black.  My sense of humor generally takes over from here.   I made some passing, good-natured jab about her "dress code violation".  She responded that she was "tired of her heels".  I considered this a completely valid reason for wearing them then and every other day for that matter.  I don't know how you ladies don't end up crippled by those things in the first place.

While "Black Slipper Girl" (which we'll abbreviate as "BSG") and I didn't become "friends", we were henceforth "friendly acquaintances".  Hellos in the hall, brief small talk on occasion, and that was that.  At least that's what we thought.

A few weeks ago, BSG and I encountered each other in the cafeteria.  This time she requested a brief, private conversation.  One of her "little ones", her youngest has been diagnosed with Autism.  They've caught it at the perfect age to make the greatest impact. Coincidentally, they caught it in her at the same time we caught it in Nathan.  We talked a bit.  She received the same offer of support that all "newly diagnosed parents" get from us and my cel number.  We chatted a bit that day via instant message as well.

A little later, an unexpected text from an unknown number arrived.  There she was, a very close copy of her mommy in miniature, with big, deep, soulful eyes.  Even in a picture, those eyes give a glimpse of the "high-octane" intellect Autism is thinly veiling.  The picture made it impossible not to fall in love with its subject instantaneously.  Her tribe had found her.  No matter what life may bring her, she is not alone.  She is "of my tribe", Nathan's tribe, Josh's tribe, Blake's tribe, the tribal roster is long.  She has her loving, supporting family, and now she has her tribe.

In our original "private talk" BSG and I firmly agreed that neither of us believe in coincidence.  We share a common belief in God's Providence.  A seemingly chance encounter between a pair of little black slippers and an old Autistic guy with a strange sense of humor placed us on a collision course that will benefit both families.
All I have learned growing up "undiagnosable", but unquestionably different, all I've learned from the brilliant health and mental health professionals in our journey with Nathan, all the techniques designed for and taught to us by brilliant educators in two states, our whole body of experience, and our hearts themselves are open and available to BSG, her husband, her relatives, and later her children.  In my quest for accomplishments and adventures, I'd completely overlooked something far more crucial.  Purpose.

Purpose is the only thing that can give any meaning to life's difficulties and pain.  It makes the suffering in both Nathan's and my journey valuable and useful.  Purpose is the bond that makes us a tribe.  Purpose ensures that those dealing with the brutal impact of a new diagnosis know they aren't "alone in the cold".  Goals, accomplishments, and adventures  can do none of this.

Purpose changes everything.  Purpose brings my life's real value into focus.  Purpose makes a random encounter with a young mom in little black slippers tangible proof of God's Providence

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