Happy Birthday! Today our beautiful little Sammy turns five! We’ll be celebrating the big day tomorrow, actually, so some of our out of town family can come join the festivities.
As I sat thinking about this last night, I started thinking about how bittersweet of a day it is.
Why bittersweet? Well … we have so much to celebrate, but there are still those nagging little reminders that turning five for Sam isn’t like it was for his brothers or like it was for the little boy at the Cubs game a few weeks ago.
It was always a tradition in my family that the birthday boy or girl got to pick what was for dinner. As my siblings and I have gotten older, we’ve moved away from that a bit for the bigger family gatherings, usually just leaving it up to the host to pick what the dinner faire will be. Now, I still try to let the “big boys” pick for their special days here at home. We’ve had pizza, steak, Chinese, lasagna…
Sam doesn’t get to pick.
At least not yet.
You see, one of the first changes we made with him after his diagnosis was to his diet. We removed gluten and casein from it. And like many autism families, we saw a real, significant improvement within a short time after doing so. We’ve since learned about lactose intolerance (which he has), gluten sensitivities (which he has, as do I), and celiac disease (gut biopsies couldn’t confirm because he was off gluten already and didn’t draw enough blood to test while he was out for his colonoscopy). And we’ve learned about organics, free-range and grass-fed meats, and GMOs. Although we effectively tripled our grocery bill each week, I think it is helping us all eat better and healthier, and be better stewards of the bodies God gave us.
But the grocery bill does kind of bite.
Anyway, we’ll be having a cookout with grass-fed burgers (from a local farm picked up at the local farmer’s market), fresh fruit (much also courtesy of the farmer’s market), chips (hey – they’re naturally gluten free when you get the good ones), organic lemonade (Whole Foods loves us now), and Sam will even have a gluten free bun that, as my dear husband has said, doesn’t suck. (It’s been a long time in finding one that fits that bill!)
We have another tradition in my family. It’s a little odd. Well, a lot odd. And no one can seem to recall where it originated. After dinner is over and it’s time for birthday cake, we light the candles and sing the song and the birthday boy or girl blows out the flame. What’s odd about that, you ask? Nothing yet. But there’s more. So, once those candles are out, if you’re the birthday boy or girl, you can’t talk – not utter a word – before you take the first bite of the cake (which is served to everyone else first) or you have to eat your cake sitting under the kitchen table. I think we have pictures of every person in the family devouring their traditional birthday dessert faire from the floor, surrounded by table – and people – legs.
Now, I’m actually very excited that Sam will be able to enjoy a gluten-free, dairy-free birthday cake made by a local baker that is really quite good. For a while when we first started the diet, I thought he may never be able to enjoy such treats again. At least not ones that didn’t suck per Dad.
But I know he wouldn’t understand our bizarre birthday tradition.
But I refuse to believe not ever.
Now, I do think he will understand the concept of presents this year. We weren’t even quite there this past Christmas, and certainly not last birthday. Just a week ago, we were shopping for a birthday present for my best friend’s son, and Sam really took an interest in the present, and even more of an interest in the gift bag. And he was excited to see his friend open the gift and play with it. The gift itself even held his attention for a minute … until he discovered the giant roaring remote control dinosaur that he could make walk across the floor and put things in its mouth.
So, this year’s birthday is a little bittersweet. We get to have a celebration with good food and yummy cake. But Sam can’t yet experience some traditions (however silly they may seem) that the rest of the family has. Sam can’t enjoy a baseball game with his Dad, but he will be surrounded by people who love him and cherish each day with him. And I’m hoping we get to see real joy in his eyes when he gets to open and play with his gifts.
Sam’s fifth birthday marks Day 170… still just past the starter’s gunshot of our marathon. I can’t wait to see what strides he’ll make in the next year. Perhaps he’ll even eat that cake under the table on Day 535 when we celebrate six.