End of Summer
There are signs that the seasons are turning: the midday sun is weaker on my face, the nights are chilly, a frenzy of squirrels cracks open pine cones all hours of the day and night. The leaves on the aspens are beginning to yellow. My garden has gone to seed. But none of these things tell me summer is over as much as the empty slot in the freezer door—the last box of Popsicles is gone.
As usual, this summer was too much. Days that at once felt too long and too short. Birthdays (three), summer parties (two), afternoons at the lake (too many to name). And firsts: first bee sting (Bennett), first case of swimmer’s itch (Carter). All these things, so much to count, and yet I will remember this summer for what didn’t happen. I will remember it for what is missing.
Avery is still not walking.
I see other children with Down syndrome walk, even run, and I am taken aback. How is it that they do that? I realize that my amazement means I have given up on it, for us. At some point during these three years of trying, and waiting, and not-knowing, and worrying, I simply let go of it. My boy, who loves to be carried. My boy, full of hugs. My boy, near his mama. My boy who will not walk.
This summer he was fitted for braces. A thousand dollars, a thousand wishes. And still more places I didn’t think we’d go—to the Shriner’s, an organization that for my whole life meant nothing more to me than men in red fezzes riding around in little cars on parade days. Now, they mean aid. A place for assistance. Help. I don’t know how much I want Avery to walk until I feel the weight of it, the heaviness of him in my arms. I can not do it for him. I can not make it happen. I can’t do anything but hope, which feels like such a small thing. It might not be enough.
We practice taking steps over and over. Steps in my arms until my back is aching. Steps holding hands. Steps, and he stumbles. One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different outcome. It is the shape of this summer’s days. Over and over, always expecting it to be different. Which is also, I have come to see, the meaning of hope.
The Popsicles are gone from the freezer. Time to turn toward the next season, with its Butternut Soup and braids of wheat bread. I think of kneading the dough, like I knead Avery’s muscles each night after his bath. Kneading, kneading. Hoping. Trying to find my faith in things like patience and repetition. Love. Time. All the right conditions. Trusting that like the loaves of bread, my son will rise.