Once upon a time there was a very happy little family living near Roswell, Georgia. Dan worked with the Sprint Corporation, while I happily stayed home with our beautiful little daughter, Jenny. Jenny was born in the spring of 1990, just a few months after my mother passed away from complications of diabetes. Jenny was a bright light during this difficult time, and brought joy to her very proud parents.
Jenny was healthy, inquisitive, bright, and rarely fussed. We took this to be a sign of her wonderful genetic pool. But there was a day when I noticed that she wasn’t talking much. In fact, she was talking less. I remember having to fill out one of those progress forms at the pediatrician’s office during a regular check-up, and struggling to find words on the list that Jenny was using. And the beginning knot in my stomach that something might be wrong.
But I was still grieving my mother, and didn’t want to think anything could be wrong with our little darling, who bore my mother’s name as her own middle name. My mother died on December 15, just before Christmas. I was home alone when I got the call that she had passed. She had spent the last 2 1/2 years of her life in a nursing home, missing out on so much, including our wedding, and suffering so that I was sad but thankful and relieved that she was now peaceful and free with our heavenly Father. But I had hoped that she would live long enough to see her granddaughter; Jenny was due in March.
While Dan was on the way home to me, I got dressed, waiting for the expected visits from our church friends. Dan got home, and helped me prepare. And we waited.
No one came.
My best friend in Alabama drove up later that evening. She wondered with us why we were alone. Dan finally called the pastor and asked him to come over. He did so, the next day, and grudgingly. Later we were told that it was, after all, just before Christmas, and that there were so many dinners and parties planned already. It was just an inconvenient time for a death in the family. I was dreadfully hurt, but determined to go on and try to be understanding. My mama raised me that way.
The following Sunday, we went on to the morning services. There we learned that one of the deacon’s wives had lost her mother on the same day I lost mine. So I went to her, hoping to console her, telling her that I too lost my beloved mother. She then told me how the entire service that morning was in honor of her mother, even the selected songs and sermon. The sun shone that day, too, in honor of her mother. And how wonderful it had been to have so many people come to her home on the day of the death, and so much food brought. (That’s what southerners do when someone dies — bring food. Usually.) I crept away, found Dan, went home, and wept. It was a hard lesson to learn; some people are more important than others, even in the church.
But I digress. Jenny received an MMR shot when she was 15 months old. After that, her speech declined, and she didn’t notice things like before. A family friend and Jenny’s first babysitter kindly suggested that her hearing might be a problem. So the next day, when Jenny was in her crib with her back to me, I shouted her name, clapped, and made as much noise as possible. She stayed focused on her favorite pink bunny until I walked over to her, where she gave me her usual happy smile. I hugged her tightly as I gathered her into my arms and called the doctor.
He didn’t believe that she had hearing loss. He was convinced that she was instead, autistic, and pushed us to put her immediately into a program for autistic children. I knew in my heart that he was wrong. And so the fight of my life for my daughter’s future was on.