Jackson is my rock pile

23 Mar

It was shortly after we were married that my wife and I had our first real conversation about children.  We had talked about names, how many, and that we were not homeschool parents, but never when it would happen.  In fact, it might have even been on our honeymoon.  She had that twinkle in her eye that said she was made for this, and I had that pale face that indicated I needed a bit more time….like eight or nine years.  Together, Shara and I agreed that, though we wanted kids eventually, we were excited about life as a couple and there were many benefits to being dual income and no kids (other than our tax status of D.I.N.K.s)

We made the “deal” that we would not discuss the thought of kids until our third anniversary.  If it happened, so be it, but we would not aggressively pursue parenting.  As timing would have it, our third anniversary landed on a Mexico Mission trip with our church.  The team was kind enough to allow her and I to go out to dinner for the evening away from the team.  Because we were in the party town of Rosarito Beach over spring break, it was hard to find a place serving dinner that didn’t include glow sticks, techno music, and body shots.  The location we decided on served both steak and lobster for the low, low price of $20.  We ate our surf and turf with two bottles of diet coke (no ice), and were serenaded by a mariachi band singing “Besame Mucho”. (which means “kiss me a lot”)  I know how to lavish the romance.  This woman was swooning in her missionary dress that went below the knees!

After dinner, as we were sitting there, she clasped her hands together and said, “It has been three years.  Let’s talk about kids.”  Honestly I didn’t feel any more ready than I had three years ago, but I was also figuring out that parenting was similar to sky diving.  You never feel ready, you just have to jump and hope you packed your chute right.  We agreed that we would welcome children into our family and that we had slept enough in the first three years of our marriage.  We didn’t need any more.  As the process began we never realized the journey we would go on.  It seemed as if everyone was pregnant and not even trying.  I am sure that is not totally true, but perception is a strong convincer.  For the next two years we experienced a range of emotions because we didn’t get pregnant.  There was fear, crying, ridiculous scenarios, frustration, trips to fertility clinics, and lots of questions.

Almost two years to the day later, we had our first child.  Jackson Orian Bachman was born on March 23rd, 2006.  He was a joy to receive but proved to be difficult even before he was out.  He was breech, and so the decision was made that we would be giving birth to him by C-section.  It was the safest choice for both baby and mama.  Whether it was parental instinct or a stirring from God, I knew from the moment he was born that something was different.  He didn’t look wrong, but something didn’t feel right.  So we lived the first year of our lives getting less sleep than we ever imagined and receiving more blessing than we could have ever hoped for.

When God told Joshua to pick up his stuff and tell everyone else that it was time to go, he did it.  Joshua walked around the camp, notifying people that they would begin moving at the point that they saw the Ark of the Covenant.  Don’t get too close to it or you can’t see it and you will be misguided.  Stay about 2000 paces back and you will be fine.  When the men carrying the Ark stepped their first toe into the water of the Jordan River, the ground became dry and the people crossed over a river that was dammed up by the hand of God.  I don’t know if something natural was used by God’s hand, but I know that the river stopped and these people crossed over a mile of river onto the land that was promised to them.

Around Jackson’s second birthday, Shara and I individually came to the same conclusion that something didn’t “feel” right about his development.  We agreed that we would take him to the doctor and begin to investigate.  Sadly, she confirmed our concerns and helped us start the process.  Because of his young age, most assistance would not come in the form of diagnosis, but rather by addressing the symptoms and aiding in the areas he was deficient.

For the next three years we have seen significant progress and improvement.  Jackson is a young boy who loves life.  He sings, plays any instrument he can get his hands on, loves to read stories about animals and plants, and never met a pancake he didn’t love.

Regardless of our love for him, we continued to notice that though he progresses as a child, it was delayed in most areas and significantly slower than his peers.  Our observations have never come from a desire to have the best or fastest child, but rather that our children are getting all they can out of life and being provided for from us as parents and everyone they come in contact with.  This wasn’t happening for Jackson.  We sat in countless meetings with people who loved Jackson and wanted what was best for him, but as a group we could not specifically identify what was going on.

As Jackson got older we saw the gap between him and his peers increasing.  Not only was there a lack of progress but we were also noticing frustration on the face of Jackson.  He would often give up or say “I don’t know” because he didn’t know how to say something or complete a task.  We have always had a suspicion in the pit of our stomach that we knew what was going on, but if you say it out loud then that makes it more real. We were beginning to realize that our worst fears and discomfort was secondary to getting our child help.  Last October, we talked to his teachers about the idea that he might be Autistic.  From there it was a 4 month process of collecting evaluations, writing our own, and then taking all the testing that had been done and creating a file that would then constitute the need to be tested by a neuropsychologist.  By the way, neuropsychologists don’t come cheaply so we had to try and get it either approved through our insurance or through a free service of the state.  Tired yet?  We were.

At the point that the got to the middle of the river God instructed one person from each tribe to bend down and pick up a rock from the bottom of the river bed.  They were then to take those rocks and make a small rock pile in the middle of their camp.  God instructed them to use this as a reminder for generations to come.  When your children ask you what these rocks are for, you can tell them of the day that God stopped the waters and allowed you to cross safely into the land that I had promised you over 40 years ago.

February 22nd, the day to get tested, finally came and I have never felt such an overwhelming sense of dread and anticipation all at once.  We had pushed for this.  We wanted to know, even if it wasn’t good news.  We needed to know, so we could give our child everything he needed to succeed in life.  We watched as our four-year-old boy took a two-hour test.  He was brave, and silly, and even proud when he got answers right.  When he was stumped he would simply fold his hands and give you that sweet look as if to say, “that’s all I got doc.”  The doctor immediately went into his diagnosis after the test was done.  I was under the impression we would have to wait 4-6 weeks.  I guess that is only good for stuff like the TVs you order from and things from infomercials.

The doctor proceeded to tell us that Jackson would be considered a high functioning autistic child.  Which, to anyone who is not his parents, is totally good news.  50% of all autistic children never speak.  They never move out of their home.  They never contribute to society in the way you and I would.  That, most likely, is not the case for Jackson.  He has much to work for and lots to hope in.  He can be taught how to act and what looks normal.  He can learn to hold a pencil and how to make eye contact for more than ½ a second.  His story is just going to be different than other people.  More difficult than some, and way better than others.  Truth be told, most of the time he doesn’t have any inclination that he is different.  As I mentioned, he loves life and lives in the moment much like other 4-going-on-5 year olds do.  We know he will begin to know that he is different, and we will deal with that when it comes around.  Though we have not talked about this, it would probably be much like parents who adopted a child and inform them early in life.  He will know who he is and how God made him.  He will know what he is good at, and we will help him improve in the things that prove to be a bit more difficult.  So, as I stated… he is fine.

I am not.

I would use the word was, as this is a recollection of what has happened, however, that is still a present tense statement.  I am beginning to see the forest, but I am not above tree line quiet yet.  People assure me that the blessings will outweigh the difficulty, and this is just as much our story as it is his.  This is the portion that God has chosen.  I am ok with what I have.  My struggle comes in being an active participant in God using a small child with blue eyes and a smile that melts linebackers to teach me and other people around me joy.

It’s as if God knows that we suffer from the sin of forgetfulness.  I know it seems hard to believe that anyone’s memory could fade from the day that God stopped a raging river.  However, even if those who were there didn’t forget, there will be new people who will come along.  Someone will be born, and the account will change.  It is this physical and tangible reminder of God’s faithfulness to the people He loves so dearly.

I, too, am forgetful.  I am in the process of replacing an entire wallet because it is somewhere in the house and will not show itself.   So until my one year old comes crawling out of her bedroom with it in her mouth, I am getting new credit cards…because I forget.  About the little things, but especially about the big things.  God has done great things in my life, and yet there are days I don’t feel him.  I doubt His ability.  I shrug my shoulders and actually dare to say maybe God is not who is written about in scripture.  So God helps us remember.

I am reminded of God by all my children, but this is about Jackson.  Jackson is my rock pile.  As a reminder of how faithful God is, how He provides, and usually not in the ways that I expect Him to.  Jackson’s joy is simple.  His love is pure.  It’s not based on what he can get out you.  It takes us about 10 minutes to get to class everyday because we stop and say hi to the bus driver, and the yard duty lady, and especially the vice principle Mrs. Allen (who Jackson just calls Allen).  He will always remember if he has visited your house and what cool stuff was there.  And he will always check to see if you have a dog or not.

So we stand at the base of a very tall mountain with a very small boy with a very big heart.  I often clench my teeth and look through tears when I feel he is suffering or struggling.  You know what he does?  He sings.  Ask questions.  Gets scared.  Then he does it, and might even ask to do it again.

…Dear God, I know Jackson is a large part of our rock pile that is too heavy for me to carry by myself.  I would have not chosen this, and I am still having a difficult time carrying it.  I see you picking up my rocks, and oftentimes the whole pile.  I am not yet at the point where I can thank you for this, but for now I thank you for my boy, who you have entrusted to my wife and I.  No one else gets him like we do, and I like it that way.  I would give my life for him, I will use my life to serve him, and I will remember you as good all the days of my life.


6 responses to “Jackson is my rock pile

  1. Luke Mundy

    March 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Jeff!

  2. Jennifer Johnson

    March 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Beautifully written, Jeff. Every child is a gift from God to be cherished!

  3. Lori Ciccarelli

    March 25, 2011 at 3:10 am

    This post was so beautifully written; thank you, I am blessed. I have a 21-year-old with autism that has led me on the most amazing journey. It was difficult most of the way, but God revealed Himself all along the way. I prayed for patience, for compassion, for kindness and for unconditional love. God wasn’t going to just hand those traits over to me, He gave me opportunities to grow; He blessed me with a special needs child. You will see the forest, but it takes time. It will be crystal clear to you why God has called you to His autism mission

  4. Amy Earl

    April 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I would love to correspond with you. I have been down this path you are going down. I am now going down it alone. It’s tough, but there are tons of resources out there…and I am finding that there are several of us from Modesto who have children with similar needs. Wierd huh? Anyway, I’d love to “trade notes”.
    Amy Earl


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