Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Graduate

Reuben sports his England shirt and graduation certificate from UCLA's Early Intervention Programme

Did you see the kiss curl top left? Or the cupid's bow lips?

Reuben in the garden resisting my desire for a photo op with his certificate. I tried the Jaws impersonation to divert his attention, but he insisted on dropping the certificate away just to mock me, signing "Please, please". Boys this little man is fully in CHARGE! I have to say, I really don't go for posing too much, but c'mon guys, just a wee pic with his certificate doesn't do any harm. It's rare for me to capture Reuben on the right side of his face which is unable to show expression, so it's good to see him looking so good here and i have no desire to shut out the slowly closing stoma in his throat that has saved his life and will remain like this, a little open til we feel he's completely out of the woods.

Reuben has never been one to crave too much of the limelight and when it's shone brightly upon him, he becomes a little shy. And yet there he was on a huge screen, the projector running through the last 18 months of his life at UCLA school, each photo beautifully selected by the teachers, from the little introverted boy with fragile health, to the big boy with his high top Converse with hidden orthotics, signing and babbling away, seemingly not a care in the World.

It may seem a little early for such a service to be warranted the title "graduation" - I guess I would feel the same too if I were standing in your shoes - but it marks the end of early intervention for Reuben, a period of rehabilitation and development from prolonged hospitalisation and a chronic genetic condition (CHARGE) in the areas of speech, socialisation, physical, fine motor, feeding, well pretty much everything. Add to this his 16 surgeries to date, and I hope you'll agree that Reuben is no less a hero than the fireman whom we later visited today.

A beautifully fitting service about which I'll write more later, the cakes, slideshow to the sound of Somewhere over the rainbow/what a wonderful world by Israel Kamakawiwo, how could we keep a dry eye? I read out one of my poems, "I didn't know" and my thoughts before his original planned graduation, a quick final run around in the playground for some pics, but I feel it's time not to have him hang around with me and Callum, but to move to pastures new.
My mind drifts back to your first days at UCLA. Unable to walk unassisted, no ability to move your vocal chords and sound a word, cry or laugh, in terms of what you have achieved, it feels like a lifetime away. And yet did I envisage you walking, talking, laughing, climbing, jumping. I had my high hopes, I knew there was an Everest to climb and at times the peak kept cruelly being displaced, higher and higher, so it felt like we would never reach the summit, and yet today, on your penultimate day at UCLA, we can stand with the flag waving and look down to the peaks and troughs, the deep canyons and joyous crests and truly marvel at what lies below us. It's a beautiful view.
he fire station was just waiting for us, catching sight of the gleaming red fire truck (aka fire engine) parked outside, how could I resist taking the boys in and how amazingly accommodating the heroic station officers were. Hey, one of them even shot me lying on the same bumper in my dress and heals, dressed up was I for Reuben's big day and the boys' faces were too priceless as they watched one of the (rather handsome young) firemen (oops, sorry, forgetting myself for a bit here), slide down the firemen's pole. What joy!

I didn't know the meaning of downy  Until I felt your skin at birth  I didn't know you knew all your school friend's names in sign  Until I asked  Nor that you could reach down and pick up a book and stand back up again unsupported  Until you showed me I didn't know you could jump without aid  Until the music played I didn't know there were 2 lights on in the car  Until you signed "it's the same"  Nor that you knew the origins of pain  Until you signed ow-wee at a tiny long faded scratch on your hand I didn't know you knew the signs for cloud, windy, lightning and rain  Until the weather changed I didn't know you knew about wipers on cars  Until the first rains came Nor did I understand the power of "yet"  Until you taught me patience  I didn't know the sweetness of your voice  Until a miracle in June I didn't know of courage  Until you let me see  Nor did I know of defiance  Until you became a toddler I didn't know you could tickle yourself  Until you showed me how I didn't know you felt unconditional love  Until I saw your love for Callum  Nor did I know the best smell in the world  Until I smelt your hair this evening I didn't know I had it in me  Until you brought it out.
If all these are things I didn't know because I've never asked, seen, heard, touched or smelt, I can only dream of what it is that you will continue to bring to this World and I can only feel emotions cement inside my heart that you are here for great things, Reuben. "

- October 2009, Mama


hannah m said...

Oh my goodness gracious - the photos of Reu alone have me in tears! Then to read your beautiful words about your boy - well, I am just so moved. Absolutely lovely.

And the photo of Reuben sitting on the fire truck and pointing at the camera totally reminds me of Viv.


Justin and Victoria Nelson said...

Catherine, your words are so, so beautiful...and please don't get me started on how proud I am of Reuben or else I'll cry...
He is absolutely gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Jackie Dominick commented on your post:

"Dave and I have been following your blog, which tends to leave us awestruck. All of your pics of Reuben and Callum are amazing but Dave and I both used the same word upon taking a closer look at this picture - BEAUTIFUL. Congrats on Reuben's graduation! We still get a chuckle out of remembering how Reuben and Callum were typical brothers at Preston's party; neither would let the other get the best of him. [We still need to select pictures from Preston's party to purchase; we have not forgotten.]"

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Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine,

I have visited your blog before but never have left a comment. I so admire you and your son. Rueben gives me much hope for my own sweet boy, Caden. My son was born in November of 2009 and subsequently diagnosed with CHARGE. This has be a very emotional 6 months for our family. Your poem brought me to tears. I am in constant awe of my son. Just when I think he won't he does. I have a blog as well: http://sweetcaden.blogspot.com/

We live in Orange County, California. It is nice to "connect" with other parents going through similar things. Your son is just beautiful and so smart! I admire your strength and courage and am hoping to see Caden holding a certificate, too, someday.

Best Regards,

Karen Rock said...

I regret not having been to this blog sooner. Your photos really capture the moments just like a Degas. I love your poem. please keep writing them because they have put into words some things I would love to even be able to say about my Lily.

Leslie, Arlin and Katie Kauffman said...

Congratulations to Reuben and all of you on his graduation. He has come so far! The pics of his are just beautiful.