My first reaction was to correct him and say “No it’s actually a stop sign.” But something happened on that day, and I finally seemed to have a moment of clarity, finally learning from the thousands of similar experiences over the previous 4 years. Instead of correcting him, I simply agreed and said “sure is, buddy.” And with that simple phrase I allowed myself to see an entirely new world. For just a moment I was able to see life through my son’s amazing eyes. I was able to see a world that is in large part created by the imagination of a 4 year old. I closed my eyes for a brief second, and when I opened them the big metal red stop sign had suddenly transformed into a red balloon just hovering there for us to see. We both smiled and laughed, and I realized that while his eyes do not work as well as mine, he very often has the ability to see a much more beautiful and exciting world.
In the 4 years that have passed since that innocent car ride, I have constantly had to remind myself to be quiet and see the world through Patrick’s “misperceptions”. It is these misperceptions that make up part of his reality and allow me to see things that I could have never imagined. But as a parent there are also times when I must force my reality upon him. A reality where you can unfortunately get hit by a car if you mistake a stop sign for a floating balloon. Our life is a constant song and dance between my reality and his. My reality is aimed at keeping him safe, while his seems designed simply to add magic to mine.
You see Patrick was born 4 months premature and as such his eyes didn’t develop as they should. His right eye is completely blind, and his left eye has 20/220 vision (legally blind). I imagine it to be like going through life with a pirate patch over one eye and a piece of parchment paper over the other. Patrick gets around well, but he also lives in a world that doesn’t seem to recognize body language and facial expressions in others. Books are incredibly difficult to read, and tv, movies, and video games certainly don’t provide the same entertainment they do to everyone else.
What Patrick has taught me though is that if you remove these staples of entertainment, the only thing left to do is to use your own imagination, to create your own world. And the world that Patrick has created is absolutely incredible. Where part of his vision was taken away, it has seemingly been replaced with an abundant love of life that overflows from his little body. He lives in a world where people are good (except maybe Reid sometimes) and where magical things happen all the time. He has an undeniable passion for life, and it is this passion that seems to make a permanent impression on everyone that he meets. It is this passion that gives him far more vision then what his eyes can actually see.
It was on this day 8 years ago I became a Dad for the first time, and Patrick’s entrance into the world was certainly not the way I expected to enter fatherhood. At the time I was completely overwhelmed with the complications of his birth. I would lay in my bed at night worrying about how this little guy was ever going to lead a “normal” life. How was he going to be able to see all the things that I wanted to show him? As time has passed though it is painfully clear that Patrick is here to show me much more than I could have ever imagined showing him.
Happy Birthday P! I love you!