Nick’s first 4th of July was life changing. He was 10 1/2 months old in 1980 and although he didn’t cry all the time like he had as an infant, he spent most of his waking hours just looking around. He didn’t really seem to respond to any outside stimuli. We had been living in Tacoma for about 9 months and had begun seeking answers from the medical community there about Nick’s development, but hadn’t received any real answers yet.
We decided to go up to Burien to spend the holiday with both our parents and our siblings. Since we both had grown up there, we were returning to the comfort of home. I knew that Ryan, who had just turned 2, would love all of the celebration, the parade, the food and the fireworks.
Nick was quiet most of the day, in his own little world as usual. When he was awake he was passed around as each one in the family wanted to hold him as they tried to engage him in a connection. It was nice to have others help holding him, since he still couldn’t hold his head erect for very long. He was very floppy and his muscles didn’t support him.
The surprise for me came that night when the fireworks started. I was worried that the loud noises would frighten him. They didn’t. His eyes did blink sharply in response, when the sound of the fireworks boomed in his ears. Then he smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen on his face as the bright colors burst in the night sky. He was fascinated. I kept watching him. Over and over, eyes blinking with the sound and then the huge smile filled his face as he saw the colors bursting. For over 20 minutes he was completely engaged listening and watching. It was incredible.
He still loves fireworks. It is one of his favorite things to watch. We go out of our way to make it possible for him to watch them whenever we hear that there will be a show.
That night was an amazing night for me. My son had responded to something, and he loved it.
I had been so discouraged at Nick’s lack of connection to anything in the outside world. I knew that as humans we need to be able to respond to stimuli in order to learn and I was so afraid that he wouldn’t be able to learn and grow.
I believe that it is important to find hope in the midst of times that are difficult. That 4th of July was a turning point for both Nick and me. I was so full of hope for the possibilities. I was ready to work hard to to give him all the opportunities that he needed.
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