Chapter 19 Walk With Me

Walk With Me-Nineteen

I know Josh loves art for many reasons. Due to his disability, anything that allows him to express himself is important. Walking into a big hall and having a dozen people call out, “Hi, Josh” had to feel really good. Hearing bids flying fast and furious instilled confidence in him and, more importantly, a sense of belonging.

For the first time in his life, I saw purpose, dedication, and ambition burning in Josh. He developed a drive that I envy. I recognize passion when I see it and Josh became passionate about his art.

So, I took him to a meeting of the Ottawa Art League. And a whole new world opened up for him; and for me. I had no clue art shows were being offered, and demonstrations in different mediums and technique.

Suddenly, Josh and I had access to more knowledge than I possessed. And people who were not only willing to share, but eager to do so. Josh soaked up the atmosphere of those art league meetings and art shows like a sponge. He was hungry to be accepted as an equal and, I suspect, as an adult.

As a parent and caregiver, I had to make a re-evaluation in how I responded to Josh. He’d always been small in stature, appearing much younger than his years. I’d nurtured and protected him 24/7. Watching him interact with other artists and in venues outside of my experience, I had to make changes. I’m still making changes. Stepping back and letting Josh make decisions and choices without me interfering.

I’m happy we’re at this stage. It means we’ve raised a young man to be proud of; but it’s also hard. I tell myself that it wouldn’t be so frightening if he could speak. I he could actually tell me what he thinks and feels. But he can’t, and I have no clue if I get his signals right.

I very seldom let Josh enter an art contest that awards ribbons or prizes. Because he’s not a totally independent artist I’m never sure how fair it is for him to enter. But one year, I decided he needed feedback. So I let him enter the spring Town & Country show.

He entered his painting of red poinsettias. The turnout was big with lots of tables and pictures. Josh looked tense but I interpreted his reaction as excitement because he was actually entered in a show. Because I was working the show, as a member of the art league we babysat the artwork, we followed the judge around as she examined paintings and awarded ribbons.

She went past Josh’s painting, and gave it a red (second place) ribbon. He seemed pleased. I patted his shoulder and we continued to follow the judge around the tables. Two rows later, she turned around and gazed at the tables she had already judged.

Suddenly, she spoke up, “I think the poinsettias need a blue (first place) ribbon. Now that I see it from a distance, I see that it works.”

She walked back to Josh’s painting and the red ribbon came off and blue ribbon went on and Josh’s face lit up the mall where the show was held. He beamed a full wattage smile at the judge and I almost cried. Until that moment I had no idea how important that ribbon was to him. He knew the judge had no way of knowing who painted the flowers. She didn’t know he was disabled.

Once again he’d been judged as an equal and I still get emotional when I think of the experience. I would have given a lot for a photo of him at that moment in time.

Communication has become my number one priority for Josh. He needs a way to express what he thinks and feels. I am no longer comfortable with playing twenty questions. Yes and no responses don’t cover all situations. It’s too easy to misinterpret what Josh means.

Technology has made tremendous leaps in the last ten years. This year, Josh will be getting an iPad2. I’m hoping that Josh will be able to use the touch screen. Whether he can place his finger in the area he needs to or not, I don’t know. But he deserves the chance to try.

The software offered by Apple is amazing and I have great hope that Josh will finally find a ‘voice’. Only time will tell. I don’t expect this to be the final stop on our communication search but I hope it will be the device needed to train him. To help develop the eye-hand coordination that he needs.

Future blogs will keep you informed on his progress. For the first time, in a lot of years, I’m feeling hopeful again. And really glad I live in a time that is full of such amazing inventions as touch screens and machines that can speak. Truly amazing. Someday, I hope Josh himself will write these blogs. I know it’s on his to-do list.

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