Nearly seven years ago we excitedly welcomed our sixth grandchild, Brinley Mae, into our family. Just like the lyrics from the 1974 hit song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” she “came to the world in the usual way.” That word “usual” disappeared from our vocabulary soon after Brinley was born. We began thinking in terms of unique. We were expecting the usual as her sister’s and brother’s births were without complications, and excellent prenatal care made it seem Brinley’s would be also.
Very shortly after her arrival it was noticed she had extra fingers and toes. While completely unexpected, it didn’t seem catastrophic. It was also noted she had low muscle tone. Whether those were the exact words used that evening, I’m uncertain, and likely wouldn’t have recognized it to be problematic. When my daughter’s good friend and I left the hospital later that night, it was with excitement about a new baby and joy at having three granddaughters and three grandsons.
I vividly remember my daughter tearfully detailing on the phone the next morning some of Brinley’s many challenges. Our expectations of normal, usual and healthy began changing. Brinley was moved to ICU where the diagnosis of various problems, both potential and actual, continued. Even more difficult was the absence of an exact diagnosis. She remained in the hospital for 16 days.
Babies are resilient, even those with special challenges. Brinley possessed generous amounts of determination, independence and surprises. She was six weeks old when she began therapies at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley in Illinois, and she continues going today. It’s an amazing place where miracles happen, lives are changed, and when the miraculous remains unattainable, improvements can still happen. I am inspired anytime I’m there with Brinley and see what can be achieved through conscientious staff working with children and adults. And every visit makes me more resolved to never take for granted the blessings of mobility and independence.
This year Brinley’s entourage of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins and friends participated in the 16th Annual Run For The Kids 2019 Superhero Hustle, an annual fundraiser for Easterseals. Brinley first participated as a nine-month old, and continues each year. It’s a wonderful event with runners, walkers and cheerleaders lining the streets to encourage participants. Encouragement is a beautiful word at Easterseals. Grace-filled moments are abundant while watching children and adults with varying degrees of challenges cross the finish line. Tears of joy and humble pride are part of the exuberant applause.
Brinley is in kindergarten now. She’s accomplished many milestones so uncertain at one time. She’s feisty, funny, smart and is reprimanded like any other “normal” kid. She cannot do all the physical activities children her age do, and she struggles to stay focused whatever the activity, but she can charm her way around most obstacles or charge through them. Thanks to her dedicated parents, teachers and aids, and countless encouragers, she’s seemingly unaware of her challenges.
Given that life isn’t fair, we need coping skills and watching others triumph over difficulties is an excellent way of learning. Thanks to Brinley and those helping her and others, I’ve learned volumes about compassion and faith. Children can show us much about accepting and overcoming adversities, and about optimism. I’m grateful for the lessons.