I’ve often written here that the only things I can promise to give Schuyler is love and the truth, and that remains true. She can always count on that, no matter how badly I might stumble otherwise. And I will stumble. I’ll make poor choices, and I’ll miss some of the big things. I’ll fail Schuyler, as I’ve failed her so many times before, but she can always count on me to love her, and to tell her the truth. My truth, and the larger truth as far as I’m able.
I try to give her more. I’m not just talking about advocacy, either. Obviously I try to give her a world where she might succeed despite her monster, a way to move through that world with confidence, and with the ability to communicate despite her very different brain and her very broken words. Society isn’t ready for her or the likes of her, so I advocate, I write and try my best to make her real to that world, to show that she’s authentic, a whole person with the same expectations and the same possibilities as any of her neurotypical peers.
But I attempt to give Schuyler some kind of normal, too. I have always tried to give her humor, which isn’t hard to do at all, because she has an easy laugh and is genuinely a very funny person. (Her current favorite is a knock knock joke, but it’s one that we spring on someone else starting their own joke. Question: “Knock knock.” Answer: “Come in!”) I’ve never spoken to her like a child, and I never will.
I try to give Schuyler what she craves the most. New experiences, a break from routine that borders on chaos. I try to introduce her to enough new people and new situations that she might just be distracted from the fact that she doesn’t have friends, that her school and her peers don’t get her, that her community won’t be able to let her live independently. I try to protect her from things that will ultimately be hers and hers alone to face.
I already gave her a genetic gift that turned out to be a gag gift, and despite all that I understand about that, I still feel inexplicably guilty for that. It’s a thing I need to make up to her, and I will spend the rest of my days attempting to do just that. I try to give her the encouragement to be the person she is, regardless of her challenges, which are many, or her difference, which is very great.
What can I give her? What can I as a father, and a friend, give to Schuyler? I honestly don’t know for sure. I’ve failed her so many times, but I’ve gotten it right sometimes, too. We’ve chased schools as we’ve looked for the perfect solution, but we’ve learned the hard way what a fool’s errand that is for a kid like her. Now we’re chasing the right community, looking for a better place, a place she can make her own.
And we’re giving her something like a sibling, and something like an expanded family.
I don’t know what I can give to her. Not a comfortable life of easy living, but then, I’m not sure that’s what she needs anyway. Not a life of unfailing wisdom, but I’d rather her watch me fail and make bad choices and occasionally disappoint, and if she sees all that and knows the person I am, and she loves me anyway, then it’s no longer about what I can give to her.
If she loves me in all my imperfection, than I’m the one who receives a gift. And not a small one, either.