Monday, March 1, 2010

Game Change

I just read a book titled Game Change about the 2008 presidential election. The authors used the term “game change” to refer to those moments in the campaigns when the wind shifted, or the sun broke through, or the tsunami hit.

When my son was in middle school, he was in a special class for kids with developmental disabilities. One Friday afternoon I waited outside to pick James up after school. We were headed up to the mountains for the weekend, and I was eager to get ahead of the traffic. The teachers always walked the kids from his class outside to make sure they got on the right buses or were met by parents. One of the teachers walked over to me and blurted out, “A terrible thing is happening to one of our students. Dan’s father died recently. Now his mother is dying and there is no one to take him. He will have to go into foster care, but there is no foster family qualified to keep him because of his autism. He will have to go to a residential facility.”

As she began telling the story, I felt the ground shift under my feet. It seemed like I was inside a tank turret looking through the little rectangular opening and the gears began whirring as the turret turned to aim in a different direction. I didn’t want it to turn. I wanted to get James and my daughter and head up to the mountains for a relaxing weekend. I did not want to hear about Dan. In my mind, I covered my ears with my hands and started singing, La la la, I can’t hear you!

But I did hear, and my life was changed. I wanted my life to go on as it was, but my life could never be as it was because now I had a choice that was not there moments before. My life was changed no matter what I chose.

Two weeks later, on the day his mother died, Dan joined our family. He was 14. He and James became brothers. Now they share an apartment in a small complex operated by a wonderful organization serving the needs of adults with developmental disabilities. They will always have each other.


  1. So, dare I ask whether you made Dan's life better or whether he made your life better? Although I would suspicion it is a little of both, it may not have been as you expected.

  2. So true. I hope I have honored the promise I made to Dan's mother before she died that I would take care of her son. As for me, choosing a child with autism helped me heal some of my pain about James's autism. Dan has been a gift to me and to our family for many reasons.


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