Immeasurable Gifts

On the day after Thanksgiving, I threw myself into Christmas.  I woke up my husband early and insisted he go and get the tree and ornaments out of storage.  It is our first Christmas in our new home, so I was determined to make it a good one.  It is awfully hard to not have fun decorating with little ones.  I loved every minute of it.

But for all the tree-trimming and elf-on-the-shelf fun, this year it is bittersweet.  It is the first Christmas without my beloved daddy, who died in May.  Daddy loved Christmas.  He was one of those rare people who get the true spirit of the season.  He whistled Christmas tunes everywhere he went and put up tacky decorations everywhere just for the joy of it.  He couldn’t care less about gifts.

But he did give me a gift that I will always treasure.  Anyone who loves you can give it as well.  But few do –an unrelenting acceptance and a determination to take joy in that child, wherever he or she may be in development.  Did that mean that Daddy didn’t value therapy and progress?  Of course not.  But more than those things, he valued Callum.  The delightful, smiling little boy he was right then.

Autistic children often don’t give a hoot about presents or typical toys.  Their parents can be inundated with others’ requests for suggestions for what to buy a child that doesn’t play.  What hurts parents is the somewhat disappointed reaction we sometimes get to the suggestions.  The intention, of course, is not to upset us.  But, when you see a look of disappointment on Granny’s face when you suggest she buy him a pack of plastic hangers, it is hard not to feel sad.  I call it The Look of Tragedy.  And we parents of special-needs kids see it a lot.

We see it when our kids won’t play with cousins at the holiday get together.  We see it when our kids show no interest in gifts.  Woeful glances when our children are happily stimming away in a corner on Christmas day – away from others.  An expression of “Oh, how sad.”

But what my Daddy understood was that there was no reason to not delight in him.  Callum doesn’t care about gifts?  Fine.  But he loves the lights.  Callum isn’t interested in posing for a holiday picture?  Okay.  Instead, get a great action shot of him giggling while being tickled.  Daddy just adored him “as is”.  And he didn’t fixate or spend one moment looking contemplative for what Callum was missing out on.  That was a gift of immeasurable value –a perspective on life that enables me to cope with having an especially vulnerable child in a big, bad world.  That was a gift that keeps on giving every day –the wisdom to take joy in what we have.   He not only gave me life, he taught me the easiest way to go about living it.

How I will miss him this year, sitting on our couch wearing his reindeer antlers and enjoying his grandchildren.  But I feel his presence around me.  I like to think I am enjoying the excited shrieks, snuggles, and sticky kisses for us both.

This Christmas, I thank those friends and family who affirm our happiness when we have it –rather than negate it.  In doing that, they give a gift that has no equal.

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons.”  – Ruth Ann Schabacker

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About Leigh

Leigh Merryday is a school media specialist and autism parent blogger. She is married with two children – a typical five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, she vehemently denies being addicted to Facebook, reading, and peanut butter fudge. No one believes her.

43 thoughts on “Immeasurable Gifts

  1. Pingback: Immeasurable Gifts « Flappiness Is…

  2. Leigh this was so touching. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man, how lucky you were to have him in your lives. Thank you for this really timely reminder of the most important kind of gift.

  3. This was beautiful. I know this will be a hard Christmas but I love that you are finding the gifts he left with you. You are giving your children something precious.

  4. Oh this brings back memories of my grandfather, he always understood Ashlyn more than others. I remember once she was dancing and laughing on Thanksgiving and I said “she’s so silly” and he said “she’s just happy to be alive.” Sniff. Sniff.
    Thinking of you Leigh as I know the holidays will be tough.

  5. Leigh, this is perfect…and you made me cry. I am the mom who has stopped decorating and maybe celebrates much more low-key than I ever wanted to. I’ve had such sadness over this for so many years; my son just isn’t interested and doesn’t get it. Your words, your sharing of your daddy’s gift to you is a very timely reminder for me that it’s not only okay to celebrate the holidays in ways which work for my child –and maybe don’t meet the expectations of others, it’s necessary. My child deserves to enjoy the holidays in his own way. Maybe it’s time for me to let go of my feelings of guilt and grief.

    Thank YOU for that gift.

    • It came from my daddy’s way of looking at things. I wish more people could have known him. He was beloved by many. Thank you so much for those kind words. This year, may it be a merry holiday for you and your sweet boy!

  6. You had to do it, eh, Leigh, bringing me to tears before 9:30 a.m. I only wish that all family could love our children as unconditionally as your wonderful Dad. What a lucky boy to have a grandfather like that, what a lucky woman to have such a lovely, supportive father. I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain you will be feeling this holiday; it will take years but it will get easier, I promise. Know that you are honoring your Daddy’s memory and keeping his spirit alive by writing this eloquent piece. I’ll be sharing.

  7. Your blog is inspiring to others and you encapsulated perfectly the meaning of this Season. Your father lives on in you and Callum, who is, by the looks of him, your own little angel.

  8. A touching tribute to a father who gave his daughter the gift of being able to parent her child in the best way possible-enjoying them for who they are and not losing the moments by longing for something else. Also a valuable reminder for all of us to be open to those around us and not squelch their joy by placing our own expectations on them.

  9. I laughed about the “Look of Tragedy” I know it well. I miss your Dad I have things to tell him. Guess I’ll just have to tell you.

  10. You daddy reminds me of the special bond that my dad had with Riley. The first times after such a loss can be difficult. You have such wonderful memories that I am sure will help you through the holiday season. Thank you for sharing!

  11. What a beautiful post. I can relate to what you are experiencing…my mom was accepting of my son..quirks and all, and I really felt her absence during our first Christmas without her. Thinking of you…

  12. Hi Leigh

    What a beautiful post.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Your father sounds like he was a wonderful man with a heart of gold.

    My heart goes out to you and your family as you miss him this Christmas.


    Michelle :o)

  13. I forget that there are other souls out there who know exactly how I feel when they look at my daughter. The holidays can be so overwhelming when I see those glances from relatives we seldom see. Thank you for sharing a part of my heart. I know I am not alone and I know I can be happy appreciating the things most people ignore.

    • It’s funny, Ana. All of us (parents of special needs kids) come from so very many different backgrounds and beliefs. But when you have one of these babies, suddenly you know something about the hearts of people you’ve never met. Thanks for sharing that.

  14. Treasure those memories Leigh as they will always bring a smile to your face through the tough times. He would be so proud of you:)

    Merry Christmas:)

    Jim and Vicki

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