Our third child, son #2, will be leaving the nest this summer. He will graduate from high school at the end of May and turns 18 a couple weeks from now. I reminded him this morning that he’ll be old enough to vote and he replied, “Really?”, and then followed that up with the comment that he didn’t know if he’d really want to bother with voting. I find that to be a common theme for 18-20 year olds that I know. In fact, he seems to fit in with a trend I saw this morning in the news about the youngest voters. The news story for that is here, the 4th point in the article.
Our son has done well in school. He has always gotten math concepts quickly and took two years of Chemistry, earning A’s in those classes. That amazes me because I managed to get out of high school with no chemistry under my belt. I do know what H2O and NaCl are and who Marie Curie was, but that’s about it for my chemistry knowledge. With his strong understanding of higher math and science, I just assumed that he was going to announce that he wanted to be an engineer like his dad, but no, he has surprised us all with his announced plans of studying Culinary Arts. He has told me several times, “People gotta eat!”, and he’s right about that! He has been accepted to attend a Culinary Arts program at an area community college and is waiting to hear if he’s been accepted into a 4 year Culinary Arts program at another college his older sister attends. The 4 year program also focuses on the business aspects of restaurants and I have teased him a bit that if he graduates from that school then he can come back to Rolla and open up a Penn Station, a restaurant we miss eating at and one that a college town with a majority of male students needs!!!!
Our third son is unique, in that he has red hair…none of our other 6 children have red hair, so he often gets teased about being the “ginger” in the family. I’m just glad it’s a darker red, not a bright, orangey color. Our older daughter studied genetics in a science class her senior year and informed us that if we had had an 8th child, that that child would probably have had red hair too! This third child was born on George Washington’s actual birthday, which I have liked to remind him of from time-to-time. He’s a lefty, a trait he shares with one of his younger sisters and my dad and when at age 3 he showed an eagerness to learn how to move the mouse on the mouse pad to play preschool games on the home computer he was quickly able to master that with his right hand. It was the same for guitar when he took lessons and I didn’t realize left-handed guitars existed, and had bought him a guitar for right-handed people. He cheerily went on his way and learned how to play that guitar, never complaining to me.
A main reason he might seem unique is that he was born with a birth defect in his left eye. The pediatrician caught it the day our son was born, during those early tests that are conducted on newborns. The pediatrician explained that when a light is flashed in a newborn’s eye, a “red reflex” is looked for. The red reflex was there in our son’s right eye, but not present in his left eye. This meant that our son would need to be examined by a pediatric opthamologist immediately and a retinologist. There were two possible causes of our son’s eye defect, one serious but not deadly and the other deadly: PHPV or cancer. Cancer??!! In a newborn baby??? I was in a state of shock on hearing this news, but the pediatrician and later the pediatric opthamologist reassured my husband and I over and over that our son had a healthy heart, lungs, kidneys, reflexes and that he would grow up to do most activities that boys do: run, climb trees, swim, ride a bike, etc. Our late minister happened to be present for a visit when the doctor came in to discuss the possibilities of the diagnoses, and after the doctor left, our minister stepped up and prayed with us and for our son. God’s timing was perfect in that our minister just happened to choose that time of day to be at the hospital to make visits, to hear the doctor’s words, and knew what to pray for , to give us peace and comfort at that bewildering time.
The Retinologist was from Scotland and was a very kind man. He did the initial tests looking for white spots that would mean cancer. After we left his office, having been told that it would be several days before the results would be known, our pediatrician called us that afternoon with the results: no cancer, it was definitely the PHPV. Persistant Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous, a rare eye defect that hits 1 out of a million babies, according to the doctors. There is no known cause for it, and it usually effects only one eye, which was what our son had. He underwent 5 surgeries before the age of 7, a lensectomy to remove the lens of his left eye which was a large cataract, several eye muscle surgeries to correct strabismus that had developed, and a surgery to open up the drainage channels in his left eye-his left eye being somewhat smaller than his right eye, and an eye’s drainage channels need to be able to drain out fluid build-ups in eyes, a naturally occurring event. If the fluid can’t drain out properly, it will build up and put pressure on the retina, causing glaucoma, which is something our son has his eye pressures checked each year to keep on the alert for.
We have gone through eye patching, to try and force his left eye to strengthen visually. That went well while he was a baby but when he was a toddler, he discovered that he could rub off the patch and suddenly see much better and the eye patches became a daily battle. He also wore glasses,( really just safety glasses as his right eye has always had perfect vision), when he was younger to help keep his right eye safe. If he ever lost his right eye’s ability to see, than for all intent and purposes, our son would be blind..he can see light and dark and colors with his left eye, but everything is very blurry. 3-D is also not there for him, which I find annoying when we want to see a movie and only the 3-D( and more expensive) version is at the theatre. I wish theatre owners would realize that offering the 2-D version is a benefit for movie-goers who can’t see the 3-D effects!
The doctors predictions for our son’s future proved true and he did run and swim, climb trees and ride bikes. He tried t-ball and that proved trickier for him due to depth perception when trying to hit a ball with a bat. He also played soccer for a couple of years, which didn’t seem to have as much depth perception difficulties for him. Learning to drive was also accomplished and the ladies at the dmv office in Rolla were kind and explained that he’d have a mark on his license that alerts officers to a visually impaired driver, but becoming a licensed driver was not a problem. He’s been able to hold down a part-time job, be in the school musical this past Fall and this year’s Spring play, all while maintaining good grades.
As I sit here and look over our son’s life so far, he is unique to me for the medical problems he had to deal with as a newborn and preschooler, he is unique to me for his tenacity in wanting to figure out how a machine works, for accidentally getting in a commercial television shoot at The Arch in St. Louis when he was 4 years old and due to that he was included in the commercial and has a nice little nest egg that accrued monies for him whenever that commercial was shown! He has been an excellent big brother to his younger 4 siblings and a friend to his older 2 siblings. I have to smile when I contemplate his turn to walk across the stage to receive his diploma in May. I am glad that it is his turn to fly from the nest, ready to take on the world with his talents, his faith, and to know that he realizes the blessings that are very apparent in his life.