A Laughing Party

Last Thursday Kevin turned 18…a milestone.

Kevin anticipates his birthday like no one else I know. He blows out pretend candles for an entire week before the day, wakes up several hours earlier for many days ahead, plays the birthday song on his iPad in case we might forget, and hauls out every photo he can find to check out who he will see.

Maybe it is the fatigue from the hype and the preparations that set in, but for me there is usually  a “what if”part of the day. It can catch me off guard because I don’t tend to think in “what if” terms about Kevin, but on his birthday I wonder. What if Kevin could talk, could read, could write? If he had gone away to school this fall like many other kids his age, where would he go, what would he study, how would he act?  Would he play hockey or basketball or ride the horses that he loves so much?

Eighteen brings about a whole new category of wondering and thinking about how to plan for the future, so much so that I felt like Kevin turning 18 would mean many mixed emotions for me.

The lead up to the big day started with a celebration at the cottage. Kevin entertained us all with his belly laugh as he was surrounded by his favorites: grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins; horse magazines, chips and dip, tomato sauce and pasta; good food and cake with lots of candles that you blow out four or five times.

The New York celebration began at a school with a classroom party with cupcakes baked at school from Cafe Rebecca. The weekend party had us all scavenging through Carl Schurz Park counting the park benches, visiting Peter Pan, and finding the jogger who would kindly pose for a photograph so we could check that last box on the list. More cake and more candles were blown out with the help of friends and family.

Attending the Autism-friendly performance of the Lion King on Sunday was a perfect end to the weekend. Kevin loved the rhino, elephants and birds as they walked down the aisles. I loved that he could share the occasion of a theatre production with his brother, cousins and Grandma.

Thomas, a friend of Kevin’s, often remarks in the middle of a gathering that we are having a LAUGHING PARTY. It has become a favorite expression because it tells me that not all parties are laughing ones and they should be. From such simple words, I am reminded to enjoy the simple pleasures of a laughing party.

Kevin’s month-long birthday was a laughing party beginning to end. I wondered about none of the things I expected. Instead, I thought of where we’d be without Kevin’s goofy sense of humor and his love-of-life laugh. I felt thankful for the support we count on from family and friends and his team that challenges him at school. As it often does, what crossed my mind is when I came to realize that from this world of disabilities emerges a group of people with amazing spirit, determination, perseverance and ability. With many more actions than words, Kevin draws us all in because there are many more very important laughing parties to plan.

Happy Birthday Kevin!