Just when I think there’s a used-by-date for remembering old wars, along comes a invitation to a celebration.
How could we not have a kidney cake and get Tim’s body and Jesse’s kidney in a photo together? Six years! So long ago! Maybe past celebration? But such a short time ago!
No one likes their scars – though we marvel as we encourage to Jesse run and play in the sun without a t-shirt, the 15cm scar up the side of his belly shining like a medal. I have to wonder though, if old soldiers are secretly glad of their special membership in the gruesome club that allows them the occasional front-row honours.
It’s our prideful nature, probably. Or maybe it’s just mine: I would never, EVER go back by choice. But when I see the light hit the dark spot in just a certain way, it dances with a beauty that has me so thankful I have it in my life. And that’s weird.
It’s weird I like the depth it gave me. It’s weird I like the hope I still have from it. Its weird it weathered our marriage in a shared and secret way I appreciate. Most of all, I love how Jesus was in it all. How he still is in it all.
A slow miracle is still a miracle. The other weird thing is that having seen a slow miracle, I know what to look for. I see Sacred Hands all over the place.
Jesse has just finished his first year in the Arrowsmith School Program at the St Thomas Community Christian School. That was a Sacred Hand too. The Arrowsmith School was started by a woman who developed exercises to heal her own substantial learning disabilities over 30 years ago, and last year, for random – or sacred – reasons, the local Christian School decided to open the program in their halls. (Don’t tell anyone at the school, but I honestly think the Lord brought it to this little two-bit town for Jesse.)
When we read Barbara Arrowsmith Young’s book at Book Club, and Jesse’s Arrowsmith teacher demonstrated a few of the exercises and showed the expected results, the girls called it “black magic”. I prefer to call it Answered Prayer.
Cognitive processing speed for Jesse had been so stymied. We knew the wheels were turning, but the process for getting it out on paper, especially, was agonizingly long. Even by the end of grade 4, he pressed so hard on the pencil. The letters were always so large and inconsistently shaped, and would run off the end of the page. A daily journal entry for him, at age 9, would consist of one basic, barely-there sentence, after more than 20 minutes effort. It was painful to watch him do it. Like the angst of listening to an intelligent person stutter.
What is instantaneous for me, is a 5-step ordeal for him. First he has to think of the words he wants to say. Then he has to keep those rolling around his tongue and remember them while he next actively reminds himself how to spell the first word and then move from there to telling his hand how you write the first letter of that first word … by which time he has forgotten what word he wanted to write to begin with. It hurt his heart as much as it hurt his school marks.
He could verbally tell you almost everything the teacher had said, and hit most main points in everything he read, but getting it out ….. pulling teeth. Unfortunately, teachers can’t mark and schools can’t grade unless you can get it out. And if what you manage to get out is sub-standard, well, you can guess the marks. And the discouragement that came with every single one.
We are not parents who need A’s or 70’s or a gold star. What we need is for our child to learn. To delight in learning and along the way, have some wins. What happened, instead, was compensations: the goal posts were moved lower and lower until even the 10 year old knew they were barely off the ground and he had to be stupid to not be able to kick over them.
What Arrowsmith believes is that “compensations” never healed any damaged muscle. Especially not the brain. You don’t do a billion sit-ups hoping it will help your damaged biceps. You do bicep curls with progressively heavier weights. That’s what Arrowsmith does for the brain. Through days-long individual testing, it zeroes in on the specific areas of the brain that are weak in students like Jesse, then gives them specifically designed, progressively complicated exercises to either strengthen the damaged or blocked neural pathway or helps develop new pathways around the blockage.
So that’s the theory. And for all our research, it sounded solid. So after much heartache, we jumped from the public school system. It has been one of the best decisions we have made. Though not for immediately obvious reasons. What we have seen in Jesse this year was not a gradual progression from D’s to B’s. Instead, what we saw: a new argumentativeness.
We saw witticisms develop that had our eyes widen. We saw a boy start to verbalize his opinions, and sometimes, God forbid, those opinions were not the same as mine. We saw this guy present himself who could tell a joke, pounce on someone else’s dumb move with an easy banter, and find the words to present his own reasoning. In the process, we learned the boy we always thought was so accepting and compliant was really only compliant and accepting because he couldn’t process his thoughts quick enough to verbalize his opposition.
When he argues now, and I call Tim, flummoxed and only just annoyed, Tim laughs and reminds me “Kim, we prayed so long for this! That’s awesome!”
He’s still his lovely kind self – I received a few treasured emails from his new Principal telling me occasions when Jesse demonstrated a thoughtfulness that betrayed a generous heart beneath. But he’s himself. Unhindered and uncensored by an uncooperative brain. And happier to go to school than he has been in a long, long time. Luckily the unique twist he has on the world remains: last week he asked “Mum, is bacon a fruit?”
My heart aches for all the kids out there in the public school system who will grow up thinking they are stupid. When they are not. We may have more future cancer-fighting scientists than we ever thought possible in our midst. I’d hate to miss even one of them because of a shallow view of their potential. Wouldn’t you? With all my heart I believe these cutting-edge brain-strengthening exercises will eventually be in every school system. As they should be. In the meantime, we will champion it with everyone we meet.
Next month, Jess competes in his first Canadian Summer Transplant Games in Toronto. He’s not sure if he’ll do the 1km swim, but he’s keen on the 1km and 5 km bike race, and the family soccer game on Toronto Island sounds fairly attractive also.
He’s a pretty determined guy, with his own lovely view of the world. Thanks to his Dad, his school and the Sacred Hands of his loving God, he may be a cancer-fighting scientist one day. Or not. What we are most thankful for – he has a pretty good shot of being whatever he sets his mind to.
Because he’s alive. And because those Sacred Hands guide him and do miracles in him still.