I can’t believe you’re 21 today, son. I can’t believe we made it this far.
Many times, over the years, I often wondered if we would ever get past those years of heartbreak and violence. I wondered if we would live to see this day, if we would ever reach this point when we could look back with relief and, yes, gratitude, that we made it through those long stretches of heartache. And mind you, son, we have lived through much.
We’ve had times when our whole world was in shambles, when we lived in sorrow and darkness. We wept for days and clung to each other in helpless surrender. We forged through your terrors and rage. We loved you, always, even when anger blinded you and fear made you reject and push us away.
Now, here we are. Twenty one years into a life we never knew could change us so much. A life with you. A life with autism. A life shaped by adversity, tempered by grace, made whole by love.
Thank you, Alphonse, for all that you have brought and continue to bring to our lives. Thank you for teaching us to love unconditionally, without hope of return or reciprocation.
Thank you for showing us the limitless spools of our patience. We have learned to wait and find joy in the waiting.
Thank you for teaching us to endure, to be steadfast and unwavering in our fortitude and faith.
Thank you for teaching us to bend, to kneel, and to submit wholeheartedly and with all humility to the One who gave you to us.
Thank you for bringing out the best in us. Who knew that Mama, your scaredy-cat mother, had strength and courage? That Papa, firstborn and strong-willed, came with an inexhaustible supply of steady, constant patience? Or that your Kuya Alex, your big, burly full-bearded brother, was capable of so much spontaneous outpouring of gentle love? Your presence in our lives allowed us to find these wellsprings of kindness in our hearts.
Thank you for showing us the pleasures of little things, the wonder of tiny miracles, and the sheer delight that comes from just being alive.
And thank you, for knowing and finally accepting our love, and for loving each one of us back with your kisses, hugs, and many more quiet acts of tenderness and love. Yours is love in action, our son.
Happy 21st birthday, Alphonse. Ours has been a journey of unbelievable, unimaginable adventures and it has only just begun.
We love you always.
Alphonse as a newborn, two weeks early, two days late.
Loved since birth
and loved always, even when autism came (diagnosis at 18 months old).
Cute and cuddly, (and wearing Mama’s baptismal dress), falling in love with this little baby was always easy.
But as he grew older, he developed differently. While typical little boys play, he would prostrate himself on cold floors for hours at a time.
Our baby went to school earlier than most, his days revolving around therapy centers and special education.
At his school, he was the youngest child to be diagnosed then.
Alphonse was different. His fascinations were different. He loved twirling the plastic rotor blades of his Fisher Price helicopter.
But there were times we could almost pretend we were “typical” and “normal,” and have our pictures taken like regular people…
Even as his interests grew differently from his peers. He has always loved water and could spend hours playing with the hose.
And pieces of string and twirly slinkies could keep him preoccupied for hours.
With autism came periods of stress too, of self-injurious behavior, which caused us grief and endless worry.
But his gorgeous smiles always made the hard times worth it.
Bestowed with the gift of beauty,
yet often fierce and funny,
this boy spreads joy with just a smile.
And as he grows older,
wiser and stronger,
may his smiles remain with us
to give us light when darkness comes
and to bind us in love and kindness always.
Happy birthday, Alphonse!
We love you so.