Earlier this week, David asked me a question. Actually, it was more of a statement—something said in the hope that the mere utterance would make it come true. "Naybe Sunday…we go to church!"
It was not at all what I had expected him to say.
Please don't get the mistaken impression that David was feeling particularly pious. There is a brand new playground that was installed a few weeks ago at our church, and I would like to think that was the reason for David's statement, but that is not what David was interested in seeing. I am sorry to say that he spends more time opening and closing the gate of the fence that surrounds the playground than playing on the actual equipment.
David's real reason for mentioning church, his ulterior motive, was to go see the elevator.
It has only been fairly recently that David will sit through even part of a church service after we went to church on Ash Wednesday, about seven months ago. It sounds comical, but David is worried that someone is going to try to put something on his forehead, for him a very real fear.
For months, we have been reassuring him and today, he will sit for most of a service. He will walk to the front of the church to receive a blessing, but he is still reticent. As we nudge him forward, he will turn to us, give a little wave and offer himself encouragement by telling us, "It's okay Mom-mom. It's okay Daddy."
Part of the reason that David has been willing to go back is because we have bribed him. Yes, we have bribed him with rides on the elevator. He is allowed to ride to the basement once before church starts and then if he sits still and is quiet he can ride it a few more times when the service is over.
I sometimes struggle to know how much David understands. Does he take anything else away from a trip to church aside from having had a fun elevator ride, or eaten a fresh glazed donut? I do not know for certain, because David cannot tell me.
I want to believe that he does. I know that he has always enjoyed receiving a blessing. I know because he can frequently be found cutting in the communion line to position himself for a blessing from Father Tom, who has been particularly kind to him since we joined this Episcopal church shortly after David was diagnosed. I know because David gets excited, often flapping his hands as he is being blessed.
The last time we went to church, David waited in anticipation of his turn. Tom bent way down to David's level, leaned toward him, called him by name and began the blessing in his soft Southern accent. David leaned in like they were sharing a secret and for a moment I was afraid he was actually going to touch his forehead to Tom's. They looked like they were in a huddle, having a sort of prayer pow-wow.
So, here is what I do know. Although David may not understand the full meaning of the words, he does find comfort in them.
As autism moms know, sometimes you do what it takes to get the job done. So for now we'll skip the stairway, because we are taking the elevator to heaven.