The other night after the kids were tucked in bed, Adam and I sat on the couch drinking wine and chatting about the day, with Brian Williams in the background giving us the news. Then this story came on and we stopped talking. It’s about Hunter Gandee, a fourteen year old boy who carried his younger brother Braden, who has cerebral palsy, on his back for 40 miles to raise awareness for the disease. By the end of the three minute clip, I was crying. (By the way, sometimes Brian Williams makes me laugh.)
No one wants their child to have cerebral palsy. I wonder what the Gandees thought when they first learned about Braden’s condition and how they dealt with the why question. I wonder how they felt about all the extra attention they gave their needy baby, and if they worried their other three kids might feel neglected. I wonder if those early months seemed dark and overwhelming.
But when we look at the Gandee family now—and it seems like plenty of people are—we see extraordinary compassion and courage. We see a brave little boy who is coping well with a tough disease and a loyal teenager with more maturity than many adults. Maybe they would have been a remarkable family without cerebral palsy. But it seems like their experience with CP at least played a part in forming their identity.
I haven’t thought much about Isaac’s hand lately. His difference is not like cerebral palsy. At the moment, it hardly affects him at all, and we’ve had the luxury of forgetting about it. Isaac is a smiley little guy who loves sitting in his bumbo, watching the big kids make silly faces at him or splash each other in the baby pool. It’s summertime, so we’re busy riding bikes and drawing with chalk and getting sweaty in the Florida heat.
But then last week Sky pointed out Isaac’s hand for the first time. “Mommy!” she said suddenly. “I’ve noticed Isaac has little fingers on this hand,” she said, holding it up to me. “My middle finger is my longest, but for Isaac it’s the smallest,” she went on. “I’ve also noticed he has ear wax!” she added in an equally excited voice. I took a deep breath, but before I could gather up the words I wanted to say, she was off and running again.
A couple months ago Adam and I both felt like we were fixating on Isaac’s hand and worrying too much about his future. We made a conscious decision to stop stressing over it and just enjoy our happy baby, and what a relief that’s been. But now, God is quietly, gently drawing our minds back to Isaac’s hand. We have appointments with several specialists lined up for this month and we know it’s time to give it our full attention again. It’s intimidating to think about hospitals and x-rays and doctors. Seeing Isaac stretched and measured under bright lights will make his difference real again. But I’m thankful for God’s reminder to us—in his perfect timing as always—that sometimes what’s hardest for our kids just might shape their character in the best possible way.