Friday, December 14, 2018

Autism in Photos




I've been working on a photo project: Familia Guzman, the New York City Days. I have photos from that time period scattered in boxes, on my external hard drive, in random emails, and I wanted to put them all together into a book with some creative order so we could enjoy looking at it. I imagined us all snuggled together on the couch as a family, the glow from our fireplace lighting our faces as we laugh and reminisce. Or something like that.

So last week, I started compiling photos on blurb.com in hopes that I could create a family photo book in time to wrap up and put under the Christmas tree.

Spoiler alert: Due to a minor emotional breakdown, I did not make my deadline. It's gonna be a Valentine's Day gift now.

Instead of creating a cute family photo book of memories and nostalgia, I've had a week-long flashback to the hardest couple years of my life.

Because I gave birth to Noé six months after we landed in NYC, and Asher was born two years later, and we were only there a total of four years, much of the book is Noé-centric. We collected hundreds of photos of Noé from ages 0-3. I began to pick through all of his earliest moments with a fine-tooth comb.

I'd always wondered if I had given him enough love and attention during those earliest years. Maybe I was a frigid mom? I wasn't ready for kids. I was finishing up my MBA when I discovered I was pregnant. The reality of my pregnancy surfaced after I ran out of a class presentation just seconds before throwing up outside the University of Oregon Business Administration building. A blood test confirmed it soon after. Noé was kind-of dropped on us, like an Amazon package arriving on your doorstep that you were sure you hadn't ordered.

I wondered if he smiled. I wondered if he was disinterested in me and in his surroundings and had other obvious autism markers, but I was too absorbed in my own life to see this reality. I just couldn't seem to remember anything with exact certainty from that time period.

It was a huge relief to unearth a happy baby from those pictures. And, for the most part, a baby that interacted normally with the outside world. I held him and he liked being held. He smiled, laughed, pointed and played. He looked at his board books, stacked his blocks and played peek-a-boo like a boss. Sure, looking back, there were some obvious differences. He was obsessed with certain things: watching the ceiling fan in our apartment, putting his hands in running water. He was the worst sleeper in the history of babies. He didn't babble nearly as much as other babies his age.

I now have photo evidence of when everything changed for him - shortly before his second birthday. He no longer looks at the camera and smiles for pictures. He looks slightly disheveled and confused.

I remember taking him to an easter egg hunt with many of his little pals from church when he was 2 years old. All of the other toddlers are running around filling their baskets with bright, plastic eggs, but there is Noé, alone in the corner, peering through the wrought-iron fence, mesmerized by the cars racing past on the adjoining street. I hand him a plastic egg and he throws it down. Then he picks it up and throws it down again. I show him how to put the egg inside his basket and how to pull it apart to discover the treat inside. He toddles away.

It is now time to take group photos. All of the kids smile brightly at the camera and show off their overflowing baskets. Noé has turned himself away from the camera, his basket hastily discarded in the grass.

It was so easy to dismiss his strange behaviors and ever-growing developmental deficits. Oh, his world was just rocked with a new baby brother. Oh, he was premature, he's still catching up. Oh, his father was a late talker.

By age 3, our new reality has set in. Most of the photos of Noé are taken during his many therapies.

There is Noé with his morning ABA therapist matching letters!

There is Noé with his afternoon ABA therapist imitating with playdough!

There we are on the subway, headed to Occupational Therapy!

And nothing about our lives has been normal since. Look right here, the photos tell it all.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Mom....






When Noé calls for me, the sound echos from deep inside himself. It's a plea that stops me cold. It is also a call of affection and love.

We fought many years for verbal communication. We had some talented, optimistic teachers and therapists dedicated to making it happen for him. We made Noé repeat his words over and over, from morning until night, hoping that initial sounds would morph into full words and then into sentences and life would suddenly click and we would have a verbal child!

After years of watching him fight and struggle for every sound with really no marked progress, and growing increasingly frustrated by not being able to truly communicate with him, we looked for new answers.

When we moved to Seattle five years ago, his new school team pushed for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) delivered from an iPad. The iPad would be his voice.

We'd always shied away from this - we were told previously it was not implemented well in the schools. Teachers weren't properly trained on it. AAC became a crutch rather than a tool for true communication.

We were also warned that he would likely lose the few words that he had learned to say.

BUT WE NEEDED TO ABLE TO COMMUNICATE WITH OUR CHILD.

So we handed him an iPad, secured training for his teachers, found a speech therapist who specialized in kids like Noé, and hoped for the best. It wasn't a magic bullet. He was still lacking some of the fundamental skills of communication. But slowly, he started making independent requests using his iPad. Soon, he was doing much of his school work and greeting others using his iPad as his new voice.

And he lost all of his spoken words.

Except 'Mom'.

Usually he calls for me when he needs something and he's frustrated. Or when he's hungry. Sometimes, just before he goes to sleep and I'm giving him goodnight kisses, he'll look at me and mouth the words.

Mom....

I have recurrent nightmares. Noé is lost in a forest and he's pleading for me to come to him! We are in a large crowd and someone is taking him away from me! He is struggling in the water and I can't reach him! It is always dark and murky, like a bad made-for-TV movie. I fight and struggle but I can't reach him. I jolt upright from my sleep, that three letter utterance pounding in my head.

MOM!!!


So many people have asked. How does it feel to have a child who can't talk to you?

It must be lonely.
It must be frustrating.
It must be heartbreaking.

Being non-verbal was often described to us as the worst-possible outcome of an autism diagnosis, and it become our reality.

Today, I don't understand the question.

Of course he talks to me.

He talks to me with his eyes, his body language, his actions and behaviors, if not with his iPad. We've learned to listen to him in the silence. To talk to him in the silence. To love him in the silence.

When we were moving down to Portland this past summer and Noé gathered all of his most prized possessions and put them in a box and carried the box around with him everywhere we went for an entire month, we knew exactly what he was telling us.

We tried to calm his fears with soothing words, but also with as much immediate stability as possible. We put together his bedroom before our own, and even before we unpacked our kitchen. We toured his new school and met his new teachers. We took bike rides and walks around our new neighborhood and visited all of the local parks and shops.

THIS IS YOUR NEW HOME. YOU ALWAYS HAVE A SAFE PLACE HERE WITH US.


It can be frustrating.

When Noé won't sleep, for example. Is he sick or in pain? Is he anxious? Is he just being a jerk and refusing to go to bed? Sometimes I'm not sure. Sometimes I guess wrong.

But it is not any less frustrating than when my other son has a bad day and won't tell me what is wrong.


I hear from so many fellow moms who get tired of hearing their children call for them all day long. I get it. There is a lot of mundane, thankless work (and lost shoes) in the frayed edges of parenthood.

But will I ever tire of hearing both of their voices call for me? Never. It's complicated bliss.

Mom....






























Thursday, September 13, 2018

Portland

Ramona, Grant Park


We've lived in Portland for a month now. It feels both strange and wondrous.

When we get on the freeway after visiting my mom, it is still weird to exit back into Portland onto I-84 rather than continue on towards Seattle on I-205. It was eerie to take Noé to school on his first day to the school building my dad attended. I, of course, have no memories of his high school years, but I always try to picture him walking those hallways circa 1969.

A lifetime full of memories in the city that has always had my heart. I was at the post office a couple weeks ago and I had this instant flash bulb memory of waiting in line as a 21 year old at that same post office on no sleep and sporting sweats. I had just finished my Washington Seminars DC internship and I was mailing off final papers in exchange for a college diploma. I was so relieved. BYU was hard for me and I was glad to be done.

We pass Blind Onion Pizza and I remember that first impromptu lunch with Ed when we both worked for The Oregonian. We discovered we were both reading Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops and both followed women's basketball religiously. It's amazing where one slice of above-average pepperoni and sausage pizza can take you in life.

We take the boys on a bike ride down to Saturday Market for elephant ears and I am once again a little girl and my Grandpa Razz is handing me my very first taste of the cinnamon sugar and doughy goodness wrapped in wax paper and only found in Portland.

I feel relief because the boys are settling well. Noé has been doing really well since school began and Ed arrived from Seattle. The special ed department at his school seems well-organized and the activities they have done, like making slime for science class, keep him engaged. Asher, although he misses his friends in Seattle, is enjoying his new school and all the activities. He made friends from the first day and he likes most of his teachers and classes. It isn't perfect - they didn't have a Spanish class to accommodate him and his core teacher sounds like she is working overtime to instill a hatred of reading in her students. But other things are really outstanding - such as the music program. He is playing in two jazz bands as well as the symphonic band and running cross country and loving it all. He will thrive and I think he will make even better friends here who will take him through high school.

After a hot, smoky beginning couple of weeks, the weather has been glorious. Sunny during the day, cool at night, with hints of autumn in the air.

Ed and I sit and stare at each other across the table and then laugh at our ridiculous life. We go to bed and we wake up together as a family. That itself feels magical after years of uneven, grueling work schedules and swapping childcare responsibilities. We both work from home. No commute, one aging Honda CRV that lies dormant on the street, an arsenal of bikes in the garage. A tiny charming home in the coveted Grant Park neighborhood. We're making less money than we have in the past, but we cover the bills just fine. We bike up to Alberta Street for warm croissants and raspberry jam at Petit Provence and ice cream at Salt and Straw.

A bus whisks Noé away to school and brings him home late each afternoon. Asher rides his bike the mile to his middle school early in the morning with his sheet music and stick kit for early morning jazz band. Next year, the renovations for the high school around the corner from us will be complete and they can walk to school, through Grant Park and past the bronze statues of Ramona and Henry and Ribsy (this is Beverly Cleary's neighborhood after all), for their final years of public education. The symbolism of my kids trudging past their childhood book heroes each day and entering the doors of the large, historic high school will not be lost on me.

I feel the pull of my kids, the waning years of intimacy with them and any remaining influence on their world view. This is our final sanctuary. I aim to regret nothing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

HTC

Beginning of my second leg, Hawthorne Bridge at dusk.

Last Friday and Saturday I ran the Hood to Coast.

At one point, sometime in the dark, blurry-eyed hours of Saturday morning, my team sat in our van and declared, "We discovered hell. A HTC race that never ends." And then it ended and it was the best thing we had ever done.

On Sunday, I rested. I rested because it felt like someone had violently beat my legs and back and feet with a rolling pin, nonstop, for an entire year.

On Sunday, Asher said, "This is the last day of summer and of my freedom. LET'S DO SOMETHING FUN!"

I said, "Asher. If you can find something fun to do in this house, I'm all in."

Asher said, "Well, how about a board game."

I said, "PERFECT!"

He walks back into his room and brings out ... Twister.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Un tributo para mi tia Cira

My tia with Juan Gabriel, not when we went to his house in Cuidad Juarez.
My tia Cira died on Aug. 13, on the eve of her 68th birthday. The cause was complications from cancer. We celebrated her life this past week, and I was lucky enough to give a eulogy for her on Thursday night, in Spanish. I share it here, in English and Spanish:

Good evening. Father Jose, thank you for all your remarks tonight. Among the many things you spoke about was the Holy Spirit. Well, now I'm going to share some thoughts about the spirit of my tia Cira.

It's a little strange to say this, especially on such a sad occasion, but it gives me such great joy to be here with all of you. Especially cousins, aunts and uncles, some of whom I haven't seen in so many years.

But it just shows you that even in a time of death, when we remember my tia Cira, there is life.

There is life in this building.

There is life in the memories that we have of her.

There is life in the actions of her experiences, a joy that she brought to everything she did.

And especially, at such a profound volume! Who is going to forget that voice? Every time I called home, my father and I always said the same joke when I would hear talking in the background, usually in the other room:

"Tell her I can't hear her!"

It almost pains me to retire that joke, but well, that's how it goes.

Life and joy. Remember those words, because that's how I'm going to choose to remember my tia Cira.

But first, let me quickly acknowledge why I do feel pain and sadness over the death of my tia Cira. As Juan Gabriel, her favorite singer, said in "Amor Eterno":

"How I wish, that you were still living, that your eyes had never closed, so I could keep on seeing them..."

I always explain to all those who meet me and get to know me that I lived with three mothers. And thus, to this day, I also say my two sons have three abuelas. Now, I'm not going to tell you how they rank them, because I don't want to offend anyone here...

My mother, Aurora; my tia Teresa; and, of course, (motioning to the open casket), my tia Cira.

They all lived with me and raised me ever since I was a baby. And that's why I feel this loss so profoundly.

From my mother, I learned the importance of family. "Family is family," she always told me. And we are this way with my immediate family to this day.

From my tia Teresa, I learned the importance of education. She always pushed me and helped me with my homework, and she was the first one to mention Stanford University, back when I was 15 years old. Seven years later, I graduated from there, and I'm happy to say my three mothers were there for that occasion.
My tia and me on my graduation day from Stanford in 1999. That was a good day.
And from my tia Cira, I learned the importance of joy. She taught me to enjoy and have an enthusiasm for life.

This manifested itself in many ways.

As I've mentioned, my tia loved Juan Gabriel. When I was 13 years old, she took me to Torreon to see my tia Lupe, who is here tonight, and her family. We went on the bus, because as you all probably remember, she hated to fly. We had a stop in Cuidad Juarez and some time to kill. Well, Juan Gabriel has a house in Cuidad Juarez, and my tia was determined to find it!

We had also taken a camcorder with us on this trip, and she wanted me to record the moment she knocked on the front door of Juan Gabriel's house. I'm reasonably certain this video is still somewhere in my parents' house...

We get there and she knocks on the door. Some guy comes out, a personal assistant probably, and she asks him:

"Good morning! Is Juan Gabriel home??"

I imagine that she really, truly believed that she was going to see Juan Gabriel that day.

But oh, how she loved his music. And all kinds of music, really. She liked it so much that she loved to sing as well. If there was a mariachi band, she would for sure be singing. Without fail. She was going to tell it to you "borracha y en su juicio." For example, she sang at my wedding. (Next week, we celebrate our 17th anniversary.) We had a mariachi band, and we apparently had a singer. And the nice thing is, she'll always be on my wedding video, singing happily at our wedding reception.
The wedding singer. Always and forever.
I also remember how much she loved the Dodgers. Her favorite teams were the ones from the 70s and 80s. The teams of Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Monday and "her boyfriend," as she referred to him, Dusty Baker. Until her final days, any time I mentioned Dusty Baker in any context, she would always correct me and say, "my boyfriend Dusty Baker." When "Fernandomania" hit in 1981, she was front row for all of that. That team managed to win the World Series and that was always her favorite moment related to the Dodgers. But she always loved going to games and watching them on TV. And that made me a fan for life. When she died last week, by pure coincidence the Dodgers were playing in Seattle, where I currently live, the following weekend. So I went to all three games, Friday-Saturday-Sunday, because I wanted to do something in her memory. My tia would have enjoyed seeing the Dodgers play, and win.
Some newspaper clippings my tia had saved from that championship season. Sweet, sweet memories.
One other memory I have of my tia has to do with her citizenship. I was pleased to see her wearing a scarf with an American flag print on it. My tia came to this country at 19 years old in 1969, and she became a U.S. citizen during the 90s. I was so incredibly proud of her for achieving that goal. And she took her citizenship very seriously, voting in every presidential election since 1996. During 2008, the year President Obama won, she had great enthusiasm. She went to the annual Mexican Independence Day parade in East L.A. sporting her Obama button. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the grand marshal and when his car came up, my aunt ran out to the street to go shake his hand and hug him. He sees her button and starts a "viva Obama" chant, and the crowd is chanting back. All of this from my aunt approaching him! On Election Day, after she voted, she stood outside the building and asked everybody who came out: "Who did you vote for? Who did you vote for?"

As I said, life and joy.

It's certainly easy to see and remember what we lost: an aunt, a sister, a grandmother, a friend.

But what will be hard, dare I say impossible, to forget will be all the memories she shared with all of us.

And I urge all of you to hang on to those memories, remember the good times, because she would have done the same for all of us.

Because her life and joy bore out an Eternal Love ("Amor Eterno"), to call back to a theme I mentioned before. I love you, tia, and thank you so much for all you gave me. And as Juan Gabriel said in that song:

"Sooner or later, I'll be with you again, so we can keep on loving each other."

Thank you very much, and may God bless you all.

My tia's quinceanera in 1965, four years before she came to the U.S.
Buenas noches. Obispo Jose, gracias por todo sus observaciones. Unas de las cosas que usted menciono era el Espirito Santo. Bueno, ahora voy a compartir unas observaciones sobre el espirito de mi tia Cira.

Es un poco raro dicir esto, especialmente en una ocasion tan triste, pero me da tanta alegria estar aqui con todos ustedes. Especialmente primos, tios, tias que no he visto en tantos anos.

Para que miren, hasta en tiempos de muerte, quando reordamos a mi tia Cira, hay vida.

Hay vida en esta iglesia.

Hay vida en las memorias que tenemos de ella.

Hay vida en las acciones de sus experiencas, una alegria que trajo a todo que ella hacia.

Y especialmente, a un volumen profundo! Quien se va olvidar de su voz? Cada vez que yo llamaba a la casa, mi papa y yo siempre deciamos el mismo chiste quando la oiamos hablando en el otro cuarto:

"Dile que no la oigo!!!"

Hasta me da lastima retirar ese chiste, pero bueno, ni modo.

Vida y alegria. Recuerdense de esas palabras, porque asi es como yo quero recordar a mi tia Cira.

Pero primero, quero reconocer rapidamente porque si suento dolor y tristeza sobre la muerte de mi tia. Como Juan Gabriel, su cantante favorito, dijo en "Amor Eterno":

"Como quisiera, que tu vivieras. Que tus ojitos jamas se hubieran cerrado nunca y estar mirandolos..."

Siempre les explico a todos que me conocen que yo vivi con tres madres. Y hoy dia, tambien digo que mis do hijos tienen tres abuelas. Bueno, yo no voy a decir en cual orden ponen las abuelas ellos, porque no quero offender a nadie aqui...

Mi madre, Aurora; mi tia Teresa; and, claro (senalando a mi tia), mi tia Cira.

Ellas vivieron conmigo desde pequeno. Y por ezo, siento esta perdida tan profundamente.

De mi mama, aprendi la importancia de la familia. "Familia es familia," siempre me dice. Y somos asi en mi familia hasta este dia.

De mi tia Teresa, aprendi la importancia de la educacion. Ella fue la primera que menciono la universidad de Stanford, cuando tenia quince anos. Siete anos duespes, yo gradue de alli, y estoy feliz en diciendo que mis tres madres estaban alli para la ocasion.
Mi tia y yo en el dia de mi graduacion en 1999. Ese era un bien dia.
Y de mi tia Cira, aprendi la importancia de la alegria. Ella me enseno a disfrutar y tener un entusiasmo para la vida.

Esto se manifesto en muchas maneras.

Come he mencionado, mi tia amaba a Juan Gabriel. Cuando tenia trece anos, ella me llevo a Torreon para ver a mi tia Lupe, quien esta aqui esta noche, y su familia. Fuimos en el cameon, porque como ustedes recuerdan, no le gustaba volar. Teniamos una parada en Cuidad Juarez. Juan Gabriel tenia una casa en Cuidad Juarez, y mi tia la iba encontrar!

Tambien llevamos una camera de video, y ella queria que grabara cuando ella tocaba la puerta de la casa de Juan Gabriel. Estoy seguro que todavia existe este video en la casa de mis padres...

Llegamos a la casa y toca la puerta. Alguen sale, probablemente un asistente personal, y le pregunta:

"Buenos dias! No esta Juan Gabriel??"

Me imagino que ella de veras pensaba que iba a ver a Juan Gabriel ese dia.
Mi tia y Juan Gabriel, no en el dia que fuimos a su casa en Cuidad Juarez.
Pero como amaba su musica. Y todo tipo de musica, en realidad. Le gustaba tanto que le gustaba cantar tambien. Si habia un mariachi, de seguro que ella iba a cantar. Sin falta. Te la iba decir borracha y en su juicio. Por ejemplo, ella canto en mi boda. (La proxima semana, vamos a celebrar diecisieste anos de casados.) Teniamos un mariachi, y aparentemente tuvimos un cantante. Pero lo bueno es que ella siempre estara en mi video de boda, cantando alegremente en la recepcion.
Mi tia cantando en mi boda, 2001.
Tambien me recuerdo cuanto amaba a los Dodgers. Sus equipos favoritos fueron los de los anos 70s y 80s. Los equipos de Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Monday y "su novio," como ella lo nombraba, Dusty Baker. Hasta sus ultimos dias, cada vez que mencionaba a Dusty Baker en caulquier contexto, ella siempre me corrigia y decia: "mi novio Dusty Baker." Caundo la "Fernandomania" pego en 1981, ella estaba primera fila para todo eso. Ese equipo logro ganar la Serie Mundial y ese siempre fue so momento favorito de los Dodgers. Pero a ella siempre le encanto ir a los juegos y verlos en la television. Y eso me hizo a mi un aficionado por vida. Cuando se murio la semana pasada, por pura coincidencia, los Dodgers estaban jugando en Seattle, donde vivo actualmente, el siguiente fin de semana. Asi que fui a los tres juegos, viernes, sabado y domingo, porque queria hacer algo en su memoria. Mi tia hubiera disfrutado ver a los Dodgers jugar, y ganar.
Recuerdos de 1981 que mi tia guardo.
Otro recuerdo que tengo de mi tia tiene que ver con su ciudadania. Me alegre de verla con una mascada con una bandera americana. Mi tia llego a este pais a los diecinueve anos de edad in 1969, y se hico cuidadana americana en los 90s. Yo estaba tan increiblmente orgulloso de ella que la logro. Y tomo su ciudadania muy seriamente, votando en cada eleccion presidencial desde 1996. Durante 2008, el ano que gano el Presidente Obama, tuvo un gran entusiasmo. Fue al desfile anual del Dia de la Independencia de Mexico en el Este de Los Angeles luciendo su boton de Obama. El alcalde de Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa era el gran mariscal y cuando su carro se acerco, mi tia corrio a la calle para saludarlo y abrazarlo. El vio su boton y comienza un canto de "viva Obama," y la gente repite el canto. Todo esto porque mi tia se acerco! El dia de la eleccion, el cuatro de noviembre, despues de que ella voto, se quedo afuera del edificio y les pregunto a todos los que salieron, "por quien votaron? por quien votaron?"

Como les dije, vida y alegria.

Es facil ver y recordar lo que perdimos: una tia, una hermana, una abuela, una amiga.

Pero sera dificil, y dire imposible, para olvidar va ser todos los recuerdos que compartio con nosotros.

Y yo les exijo a todos ustedes que detenganse de esas memorias, recuerden los buenos tiempos, porque ella viera hecho lo mismo para nosotros.

Porque su vida y su alegria crio un Amor Eterno, para volver a llamar a esa tema que mencione antes. Te quero bien mucho, tia, y muchas gracias por todo lo que me diste. Y como dijo Juan Gabriel:

"Tarde o temprano, estare contigo para seguir, amandonos."

Muchas gracias, y que Dios los bendigan.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sick


Noe is sick. He has a fever, probably a summer cold, but I'm keeping an eye on it.

I hate it but I also secretly love it when he's sick. He doesn't get sick very often. The last time I remember him running a fever was when he was in sixth grade and in bed for over a week with a bad flu.

It is remarkably obvious when he is ill. His constant movement and OCD behaviors grind to a halt and he lays eerily still in bed and stares up at me with his sad, moist eyes.

I've been trying to analyze why I secretly love it. This has to stay a secret because I am a mom and moms aren't supposed to enjoy seeing their children ill. I don't enjoy seeing him suffer ... at all. It's not about that. But. I do enjoy having a problem surrounding him that I can actually fix.

I can give him medicine and liquids. Make him comfortable with blankets and pillows. Put a cold washcloth on his forehead to take down his fever, or rub his back. I can read him a story or put a vinyl record on to help district him from his discomfort. Eventually his fever lifts and his energy returns. I can't cure autism, but I can take down a fever.

I also get a glimpse of him without all of his autistic behaviors. Sadly, I think he looks most like a typical kid when he is under the weather. It makes my mind wander a bit, thinking about what he would be like without the yoke of his autism. It is futile wander, always leading to disappointment when he recovers and inevitably resumes his stims.


Postscript: It wasn't a summer cold, but strep. Confirmed at the doctor for the both of us when I woke up with my throat on fire a day before our move down to Portland. Another challenge of raising a nonverbal autistic kid - figuring out when to see a doctor. Unless he gives his illness to me, I don't always know what is going on in his body. We are now recovering together in our new Portland home stacked high with unopened boxes.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Belief

It is almost bedtime on a warm July night. The open bedroom window offers a gentle breeze. We are snuggled into our summer book of the week.

A sentence grabs his attention. The teenage daughter in the story is rebelling from her Catholic upbringing.

"Is it really ok with you if I choose what I want to believe about God?"

"Yes, mijo. As long as it does good for others and is true to your heart, I will always support you."

I watch his face relax. He reaches for my hand.

I can offer him this gift.