My Valentine

A mom whose son has moderate autism writes about her Valentine's Day present from him.

My eldest son Justin, who has moderate autism, rushes in the door. He stops for several seconds to ditch his sneakers so my cry of “Shoes!” won’t follow him down the hallway to the refrigerator, where he's searching for his after-school snack.

After almost tripping over his coat, that I’ll remind him to hang up for the millionth time (in some ways, all kids are the same), I walk into the kitchen with his backpack to check on his progress.

He's already munching away contentedly, so I take the moment to reach into his backpack for his iPad and any goodies hidden within. As I delve into the bag, my hand brushes construction paper bundled in with his softest gloves. I extract it from its warm nest and smile.

It’s my Valentine.

The boys’ teachers have always been great about finding the time in school for the kids to create their exquisite constructions. Over the last few years my youngest son Zach has presented me with hearts of multiple shapes and sizes, with loving inscriptions proclaiming his feelings for me, and brightly colored drawings to accompany the sentiments.

He has proudly proclaimed, “He did this!” every single year since he started pre-school, and has made a point of bestowing his gift to me with great gusto. Zach completely understands the ritual, has hounded my husband two years straight to make sure he got Mommy “something."

I love this child.

Justin, however, has been a different story. Every year he’s come home with his own version of Valentine’s treasure, but try as I might, he’s shown no interest in watching me open it.

I’ve tried at mealtimes when he’s more focused. I’ve attempted to have him hand his original creation to me, but to no avail. The giving of gifts has been a non-event to him (receiving being far more fun in his opinion), so I’ve let the Valentine’s exchange go.

Except this year, I don’t have to.

As my son’s rectangular message escapes its confines I see Justin’s head whip around, and the whisper of a smile graces his mouth. He abandons his much-preferred DVD to walk the few steps across the kitchen to me, and gently takes his masterpiece from my fingers.

He closes it along the crease, smiles, looks me straight in the eyes, and returns it to my grasp. I open it and exclaim over both its beauty and the message within, the “I love you Mom” I can see he’s had assistance scribing, but it has still been wrought by his own hand.

Justin throws his arms around me, inclines his head for the “forehead kiss” he sometimes prefers to the real thing, and retreats to his favorite film. Connection made, moment concluded.

Happy Valentines Day to me.

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Nancy Mastola February 15, 2012 at 12:54 AM
sounds like the most wonderful Valentine's Day gift anyone could ask for. Nancy
KC February 15, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Awww, that is so nice.
Kerri Mc Cormack Licini February 15, 2012 at 12:22 PM
A perfect Valentine!
Linda McCaffrey February 15, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Thanks for sharing this wonderful moment! Love this!
Maryanne Adams February 15, 2012 at 01:57 PM
What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful Valentine's Day gift!
Alice Tulecki February 15, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Kim, what a beautiful personal story. Thanks so much for sharing. You touched my heart as well. God Bless you and yours.
Janet Tumelty February 15, 2012 at 04:22 PM
That is awesome, couldn't hold back the tears while reading. I'm sure it's a Valentine's Day you will always remember!
Norma palmarella February 15, 2012 at 08:42 PM
That is what valentines day is all about!
Michelle Wolfson February 16, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Now that is a perfect Valentine!
Shelly Selva February 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Beautiful! Autism robs us of the intimacy most moms take for granted... A hug, kiss or even eye contact are rare moments we share with our children. What a wonderful love day gift!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
It truly was, thank you!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:45 PM
So are your Valentines!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Thanks for responding!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Thank you!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:46 PM
You're welcome, and same to you!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I will, and thanks!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:47 PM
So true!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:47 PM
It really was, thank you!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 16, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Those moments are truly precious gifts. Thanks for your response!
Steve Catando February 17, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Very nice story. And well written :)
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 17, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Thank you!


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