As I look at now six year old pictures of Noah from the day he was born, I can’t help but think how 23-year-old me was not at all prepared for how much Noah would change my life.
The picture of fatherhood I had in my head on that beautiful day varies greatly from the image of fatherhood I have now. Yes, we’ve experienced immeasurable highs, but we’ve also experienced some dreadful lows. Autism does that to you. His childhood hasn’t been the dream I thought it would be, but it hasn’t been a nightmare either. It’s something else. It’s been a strange marriage of joy and grief.
Death of expectation is a hard thing to overcome. I still look at other fathers and their sons and wonder what it would be like to play ball with Noah, or video games, or to just talk. I envy fathers who can bond with their sons using a simple thing we take for granted everyday: language.
But Noah doesn’t let language get in the way of speaking to us. He speaks in ways words can’t. His whole life is a narrative of sermons spoken in silence – and I’ve learned so much from them. His greatest lesson is in love. It’s because Noah doesn’t have to tell us he loves us – he just does.
As a result, the joy I experience with him today exceeds by leaps and bounds the joy I had with him in that hospital room six years ago. It’s because Noah’s nods and Eskimo kisses and grins and smiles demonstrate love to me so much more than a quiet whisper or cheerful exclamation of the words, “I love you.”
Noah doesn’t have to say he loves, because his life is evidence to his love.
So today I want to wish the happiest of birthdays to the boy who has taught me more about love than any single person I know. You’ve taught me how to sit in that awkward marriage of joy and grief and, somehow, come out on the other side more in love with you than before.
So happy birthday, Noah. Thanks to you, I can say “I love you” in ways words never could.