I question God’s existence every day of my life. Don’t we all? I’m sometimes of the belief, like my autistic son, that if you can’t see, taste, hear, smell or touch it, it doesn’t exist. Is there a benevolent God with a sense of purpose who gives special children to parents who can handle it in order to make them better people? Or does he go eeny meeny miney mo and dole out special children accidentally? You all have read my book; Jay and I almost did not make it to next September 7, 2015, our fortieth anniversary. Raising Greg certainly did make us stronger, but not as a couple. We argued about Greg’s care all the time. It almost broke us. I’m more the eeny meeny miney mo kind of believer.
Then something like this happens, affirming my belief in a more intentional God.
I am not organized. Yes, my lessons get taught. My style is spontaneous. I am so busy teaching, grading papers and designing lessons for students that I pile papers on top of papers on top of more papers on my desk, in boxes and in filing cabinets to become dust collectors. Many kids have critiqued and even tried to make order of my piles, but within minutes I throw another pile on top of their neatly arranged stacks. So when I decided to do some filing at work to try to find my PSSA review tests, naturally I couldn’t find my hanging file folders. I’m certain that my team leader thought I’d shoved them away somewhere in some nondescript location never to be found by man as I have the reputation of not storing supplies in one central location. Shayna replied, “Don’t have any Square; where are yours that I ordered for you?” Oops! She didn’t sound as if she wanted to order me another box any time in the near future. I refused to go to my math teacher, Aaron, for more folders since he’d already given me his bundle of leftovers the previous year. Our new English teacher, Eric? Not a chance! Didn’t want the young ‘un to think I’m over the hill, or a beggar, or forgetful or senile even. He’s practically fresh out of college with cutting edge information and a drive to succeed under his belt, always with an organized, tastefully decorated classroom, a real go-getter who might shrug and say, “Time for HER to retire!” So I went to my social studies teacher and “borrowed” a half dozen since Casey would give her last of anything to anyone. She always laughs at me and says, “Love you, Square” or some other endearing platitude that she might say to a mother-figure.
After studying my piles I knew I needed more than 6 hanging folders. More like 60. Went to bed that night around ten and woke up at my usual time, Greg’s birth time, 4:20 A. M. Took a Benadryl to fall back to sleep and knew I had a half hour or so for its effects to kick in, so I wandered into my writing room, Greg’s old bedroom, pulled out a box of files labeled miscellaneous and got to searching for empty folders I knew existed from Adam’s college days. Christmas list, social stories, photos, my resume, Greg’s social security records, reports from his teachers, doctor’s phone numbers, my teaching contract, ay dios mio. As Greg would say despite his limited conversational ability, “What a mess!” Yet I found a few empty folders to do the deed, that of organizing a bit more at work. “What the heck?” I mumbled to myself as I checked inside each unlabeled folder. “What’s this?”
Here is what I found.
I’m writing about my long time best friend Greg. Greg has been in my class in elementary school for 6 years in a row! So I am pretty familiar with him. This is my 8th year just knowing him. He for sure is one of my greatest, and most talented, friends.
This year, at the beginning, Mrs. Loew came up to me and said…Cris will you sit with Greg at lunch? I said sure, I would be glad to sit with him. From then on, I helped Greg throughout lunch, and even in his classroom. He is just so fun, and interesting to be friends with. Everybody says, Chris why do you keep sitting with Greg at lunch? Every time somebody says that, I say because he is just my BEST FRIEND! My friends say I only help him at lunch to get a slip for Hershey kisses on Friday. Truly, I don’t even mind if I get a hug slip or not, it is just working with him that I care about.
At lunch we have conversations about what he had done so far in the day. He asks me to open, and save his food for him. I love even doing that. I truly am honored to be friends with somebody as amazing as him. He is kind, and very responsible. Every day after lunch I stop in his room to get a high five of the day. I think he likes it, he thinks it is fun. We say it gives him luck and hope to get through the rest of the day.
Greg now has learned how to read, and write, and is an amazing artist. He can even count money, and do his multiplication tables. He can even go all the way up to his locker all by himself with no help. Greg is just a friend that I can never forget. I hope I can be with him from here on.
By Cris Redman
P. S. by Martha Squaresky: It has to be noted that Greg is significantly impaired in speech, comprehension, behavior and independence. Yet Cris, in his love for Greg, saw beyond those impairments. Two summers ago, when I wrote my book about raising my autistic child, I systematically and religiously searched my house for this essay which I’d remembered Cris’s mother had given to me after Cris handed it in. As a mom, she knew it would be very special to me. Sadly, the chapter in A Spot on the Wall about Cris never included this essay because I could not find it in the plethora of storage boxes labeled “Greg”. Now, after entitling my blog, “Our Autism Journey”, it seems as though it was meant to be found in exactly this way at precisely this time. Cris may live far away, but when we run into him, Greg’s face lights up in recognition, and he replies, “It’s Cris!” when we ask him who it is. Jay and I look at each other, shake our heads affirmatively and know that inclusion brought Cris into our lives, changing us forever. It was an accident, or was it God’s plan?
Cris, next time you’re in PA, call us. My bloggers are going to want to see what you look like as an adult with a child of his own. Special kids aren’t just special needs kids. They are kids, like you: you didn’t see differences, you accepted a largely nonverbal friend with quirky, sometimes embarrassing behaviors and you are proud to call someone who is different a best friend. You helped to make Greg who he is today. Inclusion changes lives. This blog’s for you, Cris.