The movement was just a small shifting but she stopped eating and turned to adjust him in his chair, asking, "Is that better?" He shook his head.
At the time I did not fully comprehend the exchange before me but it registered deep in my mind as something inexplicably precious. My nephew cannot talk. He can do a modified sign language and use different devices to communicate but none of that is always needed. What I am learning caring for a non-verbal child is that there is a secret that others do not know unless they care for someone non-verbal.
We have a limited idea of it when we get married and live with our husband long enough to understand that wrinkled brow look or when we have a baby and those first months have no words. Somehow though we miss out on learning it more intricately. That shift in the chair and my sister's response was a full conversation in front of me without my knowledge. The movement clearly said, "I am not comfortable" to my sister. She understood it and responded.
As I care for Jellybean, I am learning this secret language. It happened the other day when we ventured out to the Botanic Garden. My husband was holding Jellybean and walking towards a fountain spraying water. Jellybean visibly stiffened and started grasping with his hands. He was excited. As we ventured on, we came to a noisy play area and my husband carried him up the treehouse ramp and across a suspension bridge. This time his body stiffened and tremored a little and he grasped my husband's shirt. He was about to meltdown and my husband must have felt it because he turned around to come back. Before he could make it across, a screaming child ran past shaking the bridge and Jellybean went into freak out mode. He can recover pretty quickly if you can get him some place quieter and give him his blanket.
We decided to go to a more peaceful part of the garden and enjoyed our time looking at fish, listening to birds, picking up sticks and leaves, and just being outside. What I realized even more that day was that caring for a special needs child is special.
It is easy to get caught up in the "Why" or grief and heart ache of it but once you are in it, there is no reason to dwell in either place. My mind has decided that it is a lot like tent camping in the middle of Belize. You can say that you have seen Belize if you went on a cruise and docked there for a day. You can say you have been to Belize if you stayed in a hotel there for a week. Sure you have some exposure and memories, but you do not completely know Belize and its intricacies.
Want to really know Belize? Pitch a tent in the middle of the Belizean jungle for a few years and trek miles on adventures exploring. You get to know the perils and treasures firsthand. Do not think that I am romanticizing the situation. There is beauty of course but also the ugliness is revealed to you in personal ways. Not much is secret when you are living in the middle of it.
When they were babies and toddlers, I knew my children pretty well but they grew and could do things without me. They had secrets and times where I was not needed. They could make choices of their own accord.
Jellybean cannot say that he is hurt or scared. He cannot hide or even play with something else if he cannot reach it. He will smile and giggle if we ask him questions about what he wants and we get to the right thing but we have to know what question to ask and what choices to give. It is a much more intimate communication. It is messy and sometimes ugly but it is also beautiful and full of treasures.
We are working with picture cards and sign language but it is a slow, patient work. It is crucial to learn him and know him better than I know anyone. The secret language is not just a sweet part of our relationship, it is vital but the necessity of it builds something incredible.
It is an amazing reminder of our relationship with Christ. We have the Word but Christ is not going to physically speak to us. We must pitch our tents in His Word and learn it. We cannot just dock a boat there for a day and peruse whatever is close or set ourselves up in a hotel for a bit, hitting the high points if we feel like it. It takes something much more intimate and personal. We must trek through all of it, dig down deep, and make it so familiar to ourselves that we know how to act according to it in any situation.
The secret to it is that when it is part of you, there are no secrets.
"...A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." - Matthew 5:14