Today is a momentous day in the Watson household. On this very day, the youngest member of our family, Sean David Watson, turns ten years old. We will have a grand celebration for the ages at none other than Chuck E. Cheese’s. Sean will hop from game to game like a jumping bean and we will follow him around until he gets tired. Then he will feast on pizza and milk until he gains his second wind. Some time later, he will decide that he has grown weary of Chuck E. Cheese’s and its denizens. We will thus repair to the car, where he will fall asleep and dream dreams of giant singing rats and skill cranes.
It’s hard to believe that ten years have gone by. I remember the first time I ever held him. I remember holding our older son Luke’s hand in the neonatal ward of the hospital as we marveled at his little brother. I remember the pediatrician telling me that Sean had Down syndrome, and the bottom falling out from under me. I remember telling my wife, calling my parents, and trying to explain to Luke, who was four, what had happened.
I remember learning that he had a heart defect, as is common with kids with Down syndrome. He couldn’t gain weight, and we tried to fatten him up a bit with a formula that I called “liquid gold” because it was so expensive. It didn’t work. He couldn’t keep it down. I remember handing him over to a heart surgeon at four months of age. He weighed ten pounds.
I remember how good to us our friends and family were. Our church family supported us. The seminary community gathered around us. People made us meals and came to see us. They sent us cards and called us and encouraged us. My parents drove up from Texas to help us after Sean was born and during his surgery. Those first months were hard, but we were held up by the community of faith.
I remember when he first laughed, as his grandfather was rocking him. I remember him learning to stand, and then walk, and then run, and then to wreak havoc on all that stood in his path. I remember his brother giving him the nickname “Beetle,” and although the origin of this moniker is yet a mystery, it has had some staying power through the years. There are some things that only older brothers can do.
Sean took the microphone at the Buddy Walk, and he had no intention of giving it back.
As Sean has gotten older, it has become clear that he has a penchant for mischief. On one occasion, he dropped my iPhone in a glass of water. Make no mistake: this was an intentional act of rebellion. I suppose I should have taken that as a sign that I was using my phone too much. Fortunately for me it survived. On another occasion, he placed my glasses in the fireplace, and, yes, there was fire burning at the time. Alas, they did not survive, but thanks be to God, I had become wise enough by that point in my life to have purchased the insurance, or, as I like to call it, the “Sean plan.” Once when we were visiting friends, he took a silver duck he found in their house and dropped it down the ash chute behind the fireplace. It did take some doing on their part to locate said duck after the fact. Why did he do this? What else would one do with a silver duck?
Sean is mischievous, but he is also very compassionate. He is funny, with a silly and cheeky sense of humor. He idolizes his big brother (who, I must admit, is a pretty cool kid, no matter what his mom says). Sean evokes love in other people. He loves babies. He becomes deeply concerned when anyone around him is crying. He gives incredibly wet kisses. He likes to be close to people. Love is one of Sean’s gifts to the world.
Luke and Sean hanging out together in the hospital, when Sean was experiencing some GI problems.
There are people who would think of Sean’s birth as a tragedy. When they look at him, they see a disability, not a person. They would probably feel sorry for us, parents of a child with these disabilities. But in truth, we should feel sorry for them. We should pity them because they cannot see the beauty of his life. They have no eyes to see that he is one of God’s masterpieces, nor can they perceive the signature of the divine Artist upon his soul. Though life with Sean has not been without its difficult times–some of them quite difficult–he has enriched our family beyond measure, and the love and joy he has brought vastly exceed any pain or hardship we have experienced.
Ten years ago Sean was born on Thanksgiving Day, and nothing could be more appropriate. Throughout the years, I have given thanks for him, often as I lay beside him in bed, helping him go to sleep. He is a treasure, a gift from heaven, and my family and I thank God for him today.