Linda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs
Excerpted Inspirations #40
"When Adam was three years old, I began to lose hope that he would ever communicate verbally. His inability to speak was terribly frustrating for him, and it just plain broke my heart. I worked with him for hours, doing the exercises the speech therapists had taught me, having no success whatsoever. Sometimes Adam made random sounds that could be force-fit into words, but not with any degree of honesty. I had to face it: the kid couldn't talk. Not at all.
"One day, after hours of unsuccessful therapy, I hit a low point. I took my children to the grocery store and offered them all bribes to keep quiet -- I was too tired and discouraged to enforce discipline any other way. I told them they could each pick out a treat from the candy stands next to the checkout counter. When we got there, Katie chose a roll of Life Savers and Lizzie a chocolate bar. Adam, who seemed to understand everything I had said even though he couldn't speak in return, went over to a basket of red rosebuds and pulled one out.
"'This is what you want?' I asked incredulously,
"'No, honey, this isn't candy,' I said, putting it back and turning him toward the rows of sweets. 'Don't you want candy?'
"Adam shook his small head, walked back to the bucket, picked out the rose, and put it on the counter. I was baffled, but I paid for it. Adam took it gravely as the girls unwrapped their candy. He held the flower with both hands all the way home. When we got there, I was immediately engrossed in putting away the groceries and forgot all about his strange request.
"The next morning I awoke to find sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. John had already left for the day, and I could hear quiet babbling coming from Lizzie's room. As I yawned and stretched, I heard Adam's small feel padding down the hallway toward my bedroom. He appeared at the door with the rose, which he had put in a small crystal bud vase. I looked at him in surprise. I didn't realize that he knew what vases were for, let alone how to get one down from the cupboard, fill it with water, and put a flower in it.
"Adam walked over to the bed and handed the rose to me. As he held it out, he said in a clear, calm voice, 'Here.'
"It had been years since I had thought about the dream at University Health Services, years since I had heard the incredible gentleness in the voice of the young man who had sat across the table from me -- the same voice I had just heard coming from my mute son's mouth. I stared at Adam, almost frightened, as the dream flashed into my mind. He looked back at me with steady eyes, and I knew what I had known -- what I should have remembered -- all that time: that his flesh of my flesh had a soul I could barely comprehend, that he was sorry for the pain I felt as I tried to turn him into a 'normal' child, and that he loved me despite my many disabilities.
"Then he turned around, his little blue pajamas dragging a bit on the floor, and padded out of the room."
-Martha Beck, Expecting Adam (1999), pp. 70-71