I fell in love the day I first met them in May of 2003. Two of the most wonderful, loving little guys you could ever meet. Trent has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, mirror movement disorder, and asthma. He also has aphasia, is grossly developmentally challenged, has pins in his hips (cannot walk), doesn’t speak, or enjoy table food (he has a feeding tube)–but the warmth from his smile brings daylight into the darkest day. See Trent in his picture, the little guy sitting in his car seat? This dark-haired young man was 12 when I met him–he won my heart without a word–all 24 lbs of him.
His blond-haired little brother Dalton, hamming to get into the picture as usual, is so protective of Trent. He helps his Dad, pouring formula into the IV bag for Trent’s feeding tube, running for diapers, entertaining Trent in any way he can. They even have a bit of a language all their own, laughing at the same things, making some of the same noises…
Dalton is also vastly hindered in his ability to speak, although he tries. Not to say that he’s silent. He’s always making noises, trying to “sing” with the radio or dance, and laughing. Always laughing, occasionally hysterically, I’m afraid. He’s exceptionally mentally delayed, is hard of hearing, incontinent, with the IQ of a 2 year old, and yet has the uncanny ability to operate a VCR and TV remote. He’s created his own sign language, with clever symbols for driving (he mimics turning a steering wheel) walking the dog (he mimics holding the leash while a dog pulls on it), and camera (as he peeks through an imaginary view-finder and clicks the button).
Dalton was 11 back then, eager to please and always in a perpetual state of delight.
I tell you all this so that you’ll get an idea of the impact these two had on me. It was the 2004 Christmas season. I had just married their Dad, and our house was decorated, complete with a lighted Christmas tree—but up on a table to save it from Trent’s curious maneuvers. He goes exploring, scooting around the house on his knees or on his back. He loves to take small things–like videocassettes, books, or ornaments–down from their place, kind of “measure” them in his hand by swinging them back and forth, then discarding one to reach for another. My afternoons were often spent putting the rows upon rows of videocassettes back in their place on the shelves, only to have to repeat the action a while later.
I relaxed since I knew the tree was out of Trent’s reach, but didn’t know the reaction he and Dalton would have to the Christmas tree with its shiny ornaments and multi-colored twinkle lights.
It was one of those “you had to be there” moments–as their Dad went out to the car to carry some of Trent’s paraphernalia into the house, Dalton popped in the door, looked up and saw the tree, and stopped dead in his tracks. He walked reverently up to the tree, looked up at the angel on the top branch, folded his hands as if he were a choir boy, and began to sing “Joy to the World” in his blunted, indistinct “deaf speaking voice” (I’m sorry, I know no other way to explain it).
My eyes filled with tears, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of that moment, hearing this child and seeing his reverence for the season and the Lord that he knew so well in his own way.
And I knew in that moment that somehow, some way, Dalton understood that Jesus had come to provide a mansion just for him.
And it would be right next door to Trent’s.