Facula: n. /ˈfakyələ/ a bright spot on the surface of a planet
A bright spot appeared in our little world on Friday. Actually, I should say that a bright spot got a lot brighter that day. Sometimes amongst the chaos and difficulty of life with a special child, you get rewarded with an unexpected surprise. Then you get an affirmation that, hey, you must be doing something right. Christopher participated in a baseball camp this past week. It was a program run by a long-standing and well-known baseball academy founded by an ex-Yankee player. Young players from all over the country attend this particular baseball academy throughout the school year and in the summer. This year, the program, known as the Bucky Dent Baseball School, ran a camp at the athletic park less than one mile from our home. Players from all over the county and into the next one came to attend. The ages ranged from 7 to approximately 15 years old. The players were divided into two large groups (by age), then those two groups were split into two teams each. This particular week (by pure coincidence) the teams were the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. I happened to be there when the kids got to pick their team (thank God Christopher made the right choice – GO SOX!). But I digress……..
After a week in the hot South Florida sun, playing baseball and training from 9 to 3, the week ended with a nice ceremony where the kids received a certificate of completion and a photo taken earlier in the week with one of the Miami Marlins players, Logan Morrison. Then, unbeknownst to the kids (or the parents), the camp staff announced that they would name four MVP’s for the week – one from each team in the 2 age groups. They were careful to explain that this honor had nothing to do with skill, speed, accuracy, or stats. This honor had to do with character, listening, attitude, and sportsmanship. I sat listening and thinking about my little baseball player sitting patiently on the ground. With so many other kids there – many who have probably played more intensively on travel teams – I really had no high hopes of Christopher receiving this recognition. Although I know in my heart that Christopher possesses all of those qualities, I figured that after only one week, it wasn’t likely that his coaches would have gotten to know him all that well. Well, wouldn’t you know that the FIRST name called was “Chris Enlow”. How is it that such a little recognition like “MVP” from a week-long baseball camp can make someone ecstatic? And no, I’m not talking about Christopher…….. Yes, Christopher was THRILLED, but as his mom, I felt a sense of pride in that sweet boy that can only be described as heart-swelling. (I must add that the other boy who received MVP in this age group from the Yankee team was Christopher’s teammate for the last two seasons, both coached by my husband, so I feel pretty proud of Mike too for helping develop these two awesome kids’ sportsmanship!)
Let me explain that Christopher was born an old soul. I have often felt that some part of my grandfather, who passed away a few years before Christopher’s birth, came back when Chris was born. Christopher used to make this funny face when he was an infant that was the picture of his great-grandpa. Chris began to talk very, very early and spoke in full sentences almost immediately. We were once at a family gathering when he was two years old, and one of our cousins remarked that she couldn’t believe the full conversation that she was able to have with him. He began to read when he was 3 and at 8 years old, now has the reading level of a high school freshman. (I hate braggarts, but this is my blog so I can be obnoxious from time to time.)
Yes, he’s smart academically, but the most remarkable thing about him is the endurance and tolerance he has developed since practically the day he was born. When Christopher was 3 months old, he was dragged to Michael’s first set of psychological tests. He sat patiently in his little carrier/stroller, only cried to nurse once, and listened to his brother scream and cry for almost 3 hours in the testing center. He has observed Michael’s behavior his entire life; I have never once heard him utter that his brother is “weird”, “annoying”, or “strange”. Autism is part of ALL of our lives – and Christopher has the advantage of not knowing any different. Sometimes I wonder if that makes it easier for him than for us as his parents who didn’t grow up with a child who was different.
Christopher has developed more character at his young age than some people will have in a lifetime. The empathy and love he has for his brother is awe-inspiring. He helps Michael put on his seatbelt in the car every time we go somewhere; he assists Michael in the shower; he gets up at the crack of dawn and keeps an eye on him when we are still sleeping in on the weekends. Most of this he does without even being asked. Recently, there was an incident at the ballpark where Michael got accidentally hit in the face with a bat by a boy in the dugout and broke a front tooth. Michael was a little upset, but Christopher was the one who broke down into hysterics. He was so worried about his brother and couldn’t be consoled until we were assured by the dentist on the phone that he could fix it first thing the next day. Earlier this school year, Christopher’s class completed a religion activity where they had to write about someone they would pray for. Christopher’s paper reads: “I will pray for……..my brother, Michael, because he is autistic” – to which his teacher added the written comment “You’re such a good brother!”. That paper hangs proudly on our refrigerator and may never be taken down. Christopher was also given an assignment to complete a biography project on a famous or historical person. Christopher chose Dan Marino – for two reasons. One – he’s his daddy’s favorite football player (Super Bowl ring or no Super Bowl Ring!), and two, he’s been a key figure in the development of programs for autistic children in South Florida. (For those that don’t know, he has a child afflicted with autism who is now a young adult, and has worked tirelessly building a special center, lobbied in the state capital for insurance benefits, and countless other things.) One part of the book report (which was done on a posterboard) states:
Dan Marino has done many important things to help people with autism, like my brother.
A few months ago, Christopher met a new friend who also has a brother with autism. Their mother is a close and treasured friend of mine and the boys hadn’t really ever met. We went over for a playdate one day, and within an hour, Chris and his new buddy were planning sleepovers. I have never seen two kids with a connection like that. I don’t even think they talked about their brothers or autism. It was like something just connected them together; both younger brothers of special boys who have developed character, integrity, tolerance, understanding and love beyond their years.
** On a side note, I am reading a wonderful book called How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism, written by Eileen Garvin, a woman who is the sister to another woman with autism. It’s so interesting to read about the sibling views. My sixth grade literature class this year was assigned the book Rules by Cynthia Lord. It’s a young adult fiction piece about a 12-year-old girl living with an 8-year-old brother with autism. It was a FABULOUS read and the students learned so much……..plus their teacher has a lot of passion about that subject. 😉