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Special Meals With A Special Child

Posted on: May 11th, 2011 by Ashley


In what seems like a flash, they were gone: the family dinners and most of the family.

Our two little boys who sat on opposite sides of the rickety kitchen table are now grown men, eating dinner at different tables with different people. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear to me that the family dinners we had together were a priceless experience. It was the one time of the day that brought us all together, for face-to-face conversations.

Then, as now, communication like that was all too rare in most families. It was perhaps more of a challenge for our family because our older son is mentally handicapped. I think “developmentally disabled” is the term of art today. The developmental differences between our boys created a much wider gap than the three years that separated their births. Realistically that big gap made it almost impossible for them to play together or have traditional conversations.

But the nightly family dinner was different. As trite as this might sound, those meals were a time for sharing. Sometimes my wife would translate something shared by our younger son into terms our handicapped son could understand. But our older boy had plenty to say on his own. And I’d like to think that the fact that he was listened to and his thoughts treated with respect might have been something of a life lesson for his younger brother. We didn’t plan this, we just came together for dinner and the human dynamics around the table developed on their own.

What I remember and miss most about those family dinners is the laughter. Our shared laughter was as nourishing to all of us as the wonderful food my wife prepared. I still savor the sound of that laughter, and the family connectedness it brought.