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Right now I’m crying over a sandwich. I know, this sounds utterly ridiculous and most of you are wondering if “Miss Lisha has left the building,” but I can assure you there is a sound and rational reason for my tears of joy.
It’s not that I have discovered the best kept sandwich secret in the greater Charleston / Mattoon region. It’s not that I have discovered some secret ingredient to the Crabby Patty recipe. It’s because my son asked for a sandwich and ate it. It’s that simple. He asked, I made it, and he ate it—with excitement and eagerness.
Now before too many of you think Miss Lisha is easily entertained let me tell you a story about a boy….
Over 8 years ago, there was a little boy born in a small hospital amidst laughter and joyful anticipation. Within seconds of this child’s birth, his parents knew without a doubt that he was different. He wasn’t your average everyday newborn baby. They didn’t know what it was about him that was different—they simply knew he was.
Over the following weeks and months the things that made him special became more and more obvious. Things like not sleeping, staring at the blinds and shadows on the wall, and always fighting against human contact. There were also things like nursing round the clock every 45 minutes and then throwing it all up—a constant vicious cycle of need and refuse. No one really knew what was wrong—it was as if everyone was dancing around the edge of some greater mystery.
And so they waited for the kinks to work themselves out and simply hoped and prayed that it would. The boy grew and grew but he didn’t talk and he didn’t eat much—people and food and places and things were sometimes just plain frightening to him. Eventually his parents found a word for the why—autism—and from that day forward life became a series of therapy visits and doctor visits and tests, tests, tests.
The boy learned to communicate, he learned about himself, and he learned how to learn—but he still didn’t eat. Then one day his mother drew a line in the sand and said, “You’re going to eat this young man and I don’t care if you throw it up.” And throw it up he did. Finally, the boy and his parents ended up in a feeding clinic amidst a plethora of white coats, khaki pants, and big hair—all telling them the same thing—it’s not that he won’t, it’s that he can’t. It took many days and weeks and months before this mother and this father finally understood what all those fancy therapists were saying—it’s not that he won’t, it’s that he can’t.
And so this mother and this father learned how to help this boy and they worked day in and day out on making food an enjoyable part of life—three times a day, every single day, year after year. They erased the line in the sand and started from scratch. Learning to learn and teaching to teach they saw this boy willingly reach out for food. But still, he could only reach so far before he drew back again and it’s not that he wouldn’t, it’s that he couldn’t.
One day this mother ended up in a therapy clinic with a video camera in hand to show everyone else that again it wasn’t that he wouldn’t, it was that he couldn’t. And finally, finally, the Redhead with eyes that saw what everyone else missed whispered the name for all the tears and struggles—Eosinophilic Esophagitis. His parents had to take food away in order to give it back again—and for the first time in four years of his life, this boy could eat food without pain. Yet each bite came with fear and trepidation—each bite brought back the ‘what ifs’ and it took all his courage and strength to reach out and just take a bite. Despite his fear, despite his pain, despite everything—he continued to reach and to trust and to learn.
And despite all of that, today MY son asked me for a salami, lettuce, cheese and tomato wrap. I made it and he ate it. He gleefully ate every last bite of it. He ate it, and I cried. And when Ewan asked me, “Mom, why do you cry?” I replied simply, “I cry because I am so proud of you and I cry because I’m happy and I cry because it’s been a long, long road to get here.” To which the literal young man said, “Mom, we went from the kitchen to the living room—it wasn’t THAT far.”
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The boy was really special, but had a big problem. The mother and father seems to be very happy after looking that their son was eating after a very long time.
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Miss Lisha, this is beautiful. And I am crying too. Sometimes the road from the kitchen to the living room is an unbelievable journey. Thank you for sharing your story!