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Jon's Dad Speaks:

Jon is my second child.

I could not have been more excited than I was on the day we were going to the hospital. He was 2 weeks overdue, and labor was going to be induced. Everything went as normal. This pregnancy was no different than the first.

As labor began in late afternoon, my excitement was hard to contain. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sit or stand. Finally the doctor said the time was “now.” Wow, I am going to be a father again. I can’t wait to teach him to play catch, run, and play hide-n-seek. Take him fishing, hunting, show him how to ride a bike. All this ran through my mind as I waited for his birth. He would be named after my father, but who would he look like? I will know real soon. Soon I can hold him. Here he comes.

Wait, what do you mean I can’t hold him? I saw him with my own eyes. He had 10 fingers, 10 toes; all of his limbs were complete. Where are you taking him? What do you mean he is not well? He was breathing, crying. I just want to hold him. Let me make it all better. I know if I hold him he will be OK.

I was told by the doctor that they noticed he had a cleft in the roof of his mouth, the soft part near the back of the mouth. “It is normal procedure to do an X-ray; it will not take long.” The wait is maybe 15 minutes, but it seems like hours or days. There is a knock at the door. The doctor comes in. I see it in his eyes, and everything is not OK.

“Your son is very sick and we are not able to help him here; he will need to be transferred.” He suggests Children’s in Minneapolis. Within minutes they have made arrangements for his transfer. The helicopter leaves. His mother must stay for she is having some problems as well. I need to get to Minneapolis.

The first doctor tells me, “your son needs surgery or he will not live.” Why? What did I do, what did he do, why is God doing this? The hell with running, fishing, and riding bike. I just want to hold him.

Next, a second doctor enters from a consultation with the first doctor and he tells me there were some problems reading the X-ray, and after further examination my son will NOT need the surgery. Whew, I knew if I prayed hard enough God would help. I will be able to run, fish and ride bikes with him. Tell him about the scare he put into me.

What? What is that, doctor? I do not think I heard you. What about institutionalizing him, why? What do you mean he will never sit up, rollover, crawl, walk? How can this be? You said he didn’t need surgery! He will be what? Mentally handicapped and unable to function as a normal human being?

Why lord, why him, what did he do? Make me sick instead; let him be ok, PLEASE.

How will I ever tell my family that I have a mentally handicapped child? How will I ever be able to take him anywhere? What about sports? School? My friends?

Well today I introduce him with a big grin and always first. I take him in the car, in the boat, in the plane, on his bike. We run, and laugh.

He competes in Special Olympics and attends regular school. I love to show him off to my friends. You should see all of his ribbons and trophies. I forget that he is 14 and has been graded as a 3 year old at best. I do not notice that he can’t use his mouth to speak to me. Our signing is more private, meaningful and ours alone. So what if he can’t add 2 + 2. We bake together and he wants me to eat what he bakes. He makes me smile and cry every morning when he wakes me and every night I put him to bed. He holds me and loves me and he is perfect in my eyes and heart. My friends admire him and his brother cherishes him.