Living Beyond Words
T. J. struggles with the pencil in his left hand, pushing it carefully up and down on the notepad that sits in his lap. My middle sister, Kellie, has asked him to write the word Mommy on the paper to show my younger sister and me what he has recently learned in school. The pencil stops moving. T. J. yells Mommy! and turns the notepad around to show us the scribbled letters M-O-M on the paper. We all clap and cheer at his accomplishment, and we watch as a proud smile spreads across his face. This may seem like an insignificant feat, but for T. J., it is a milestone. He has just learned how to spell Mom and he is ten years old.
My little brother, T. J., was born on my first day of high school. My parents were in their early forties at the time, and it was a surprising situation for all of us to have a new baby in the house. My dad, Tom, was the most excited of all, since he finally had a boy to balance out his house full of women.
When he was three, my family discovered that T. J. was not developing language skills at a normal rate. The doctors did not have any answers as to what could be causing the delay.
T. J.ís disorder put a strain on my family, and our household could be a tense place to live during some of the years that followed. As my brother got older, it became more apparent that his disabilities reached beyond simple language skills.
My mom spent a lot of her time trying to find a solution. My dad reacted in a very different way. He embraced his chance to be a father to his son. They would go for haircuts, hang out at the mall, or just drive around listening to sports radio in the car. T. J. loves these outings with our dad, and the minute he returns from work, my brother pulls on his shoes and waits by the door. He and my dad have developed a bond that goes beyond my brotherís problem, and have become buddies who struggle every day to maintain a semblance of normalcy.
As we watch our father with T.J., it has set an example and a standard for us all. He lives beyond words. Little things for us are big things for T.J. and our father taught us to go beyond acceptance and to come alongside and actively encourage growth, wherever in life that person is at. And I believe we each apply them in our daily lives as we are learning how by watching a living example.
Stacey Marie Flood © 2000
Chicken Soup for the Soul
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Living Beyond Words
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