It’s that time of year again – prom season. It’s the time of year when I avoid my Facebook Newsfeed like the plague. The pictures of my friend’s teenagers eat away at me. I look at my friend’s son who was born around the same time as Mike and feel the giant gap between our boys. This year, the pain is compounded by the reality that Mike is a senior. He should be preparing for graduation, packing for college, and attending the prom like the rest of his classmates. He is not.
If you follow my blog, you know how deeply I love, accept, and celebrate Mike. I’ve rejoiced with every milestone; knowing how much effort basic tasks are for him to master. I do my best to approach each day with acceptance. I have mastered the art of burying my pain and remembering that each day is a gift. This year, I’ve been having a difficult time pushing away the painful realities. I’ve received college brochures, been solicited for graduation announcements, and even received a call from a military recruiter. There have been countless little ‘hits’ that I’ve had to push out of my mind and heart. At the beginning of the year, I was provided a graduation packet that included a form to order Mike’s cap & gown. I glanced at it and stuck it in a pile of papers on my desk. I haven’t been able to open the packet since, and the deadlines have past.
While I’m proud of Mike’s accomplishments, I’m also feeling melancholy. He is graduating, but returning to the same school for four more years. He will be there after his younger sister matriculates to college. He will be there until he is twenty-two years old.
After painful consideration, I’ve decided to skip Mike’s high school graduation ceremony. While I have no doubt that his school and teachers would provide whatever accommodations necessary to ensure that his participation would be without incident, I’m just not sure that there is anything that could accommodate ME.
I know that I won’t be able to sit in an audience and watch his typical peers transition to life without feeling immense sadness. I don’t want to listen to speeches about opportunities and the future. I don’t want to see Mike sitting in the crowd of students with headphones on and playing on his iPad. I don’t want to spend his Graduation day mourning for his reality.
I’ve decided to celebrate Mike’s accomplishments in a manner that he will enjoy. I’ve decided to have a private party with his friends and family. I’ve decided to avoid the traditional and opt for the personal. In all honesty, a private party is probably the greatest graduation present I could give him. It’s an accommodation that will let him be ‘Mike’.