First, Lucy & I would like to thank everyone here who came from near and far to celebrate and encourage Jenny on her special day and all those who have helped and encouraged Jenny to get to this point.
Going back 6 years ago Jenny could barely talk, perhaps saying 20 words and she was difficult to understand even when she did say a word. With intensive therapy by Father’s day a year later Jenny came up to me that morning and said clearly “Daddy Eat Watermelon”. This was the first time she had ever put 3 words together. It was the best Father’s Day present ever.
Fast forward a few more years to just before this past Thanksgiving, Jenny woke up at about 6:30 on a Saturday morning and was watching TV while Lucy and I were trying to sleep late. For an hour we heard the TV-which was much too loud. All of the sudden Jenny yells out “Good Morning its Breakfast time”. With a big smile we got up and made her breakfast.
And then, within 2 weeks of that moment came the biggest milestone day ever for Jenny. A day that I never thought would come. I remember the moment clearly, I looked over at Jenny and all of the sudden I said “Jenny can you just shut up and stop talking for 2 minutes”. That’s when I knew I had finally caught up with all the other parents in the world. I was so proud of her.
But that’s just the speaking side. Then there was last weekend. I took her Go-Kart racing with her Hebrew school classmates. I was not sure she could even drive without crashing, and was afraid she might get hurt, or get kicked off the track for not listening and following instructions. After a slow cautious 2 laps, she started to make speed and was passing all the other kids. Watching her I would see her keep it floored, spot some daylight between the walls of the track and her classmates carts, hit the inside of the curve at top speed and pass them all. The other parents there, were telling me I can’t believe your daughter, she’s amazing. Yes she is. She may not grow up to be Danica Patrick, but it’s good to know she has a fallback career as a NYC cab driver.
There are a lot of stories that try to describe how life differs when raising a child with Special Needs. There is one called “Welcome to Holland” which sugar coats the experience. There is another one called “Welcome to Beirut” which gives a much harsher reality. You can access these stories on the internet so I will not go into them. But I think our Journey with Jenny is not like either. It resembles more our summer road trips, with an unplanned 4wd off road adventure. First thing you figure out is there is no map of this country, and the GPS does not work. It has definitely been a rough road, and progress is difficult and frustrating, but we keep going. As Jenny likes to say, “Never Give Up”. She does not give up and we never gave up on her. We encouraged and pushed and had lots of help from a lot of people in this room and some who could not make it today. We will never forgot what they’ve done for her. But most of all I am always amazed with what Jenny can do by not giving up.
She has skied, Ice Skated, Swims faster than anyone I know, can put together a robot, assembles her toys, knows the flags of the countries of the world and all the states. That’s just a few of her abilities.
Jenny is an inspiration to me in her refusing to give up. Most things come harder to her than other kids, reading, writing, sitting still, speaking and especially listening and paying attention. On any given day I never know what she will do or resist doing. Today, whether she would recite everything just like in the rehearsal, we could not know till it was over, and whether she did all of it part of it or none of it today, I would still be just as amazed and proud of her because I knew she had already done what a typical young lady would do for her Bat Mitzvah. To most a Bat Miitzvah is to acknowledge when someone becomes an adult within the Jewish Community. Jenny’s Bat Mitzvah today represents more than that. It’s her never giving up.
I know everyone here wants to congratulate Jenny at her party. Jenny likes to give High Fives. So when you come over to congratulate her, give her a high five and be inspired by this beautiful young lady that does not give up. And when you encounter challenges in your own life remember her and don’t give up either.
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