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Stepping into life’s leading role

The first round of A’s Senior recognition events is in the books: soccer and band.

We also had his final homecoming dance, and a few other miscellaneous lasts. These events have not been easy. While A’s journey is really only starting, we are preparing to close a chapter and celebrate a milestone.

Years ago, due to his heart condition, this was something we weren’t sure would happen. Over the years, we celebrated preschool graduation, kindergarten graduation, 8th grade graduation, graduation from various youth sports teams, and probably a few others that I can’t remember right now.

Part of me thinks we’ve been doing graduation for so long that it’s not that big a deal anymore, but part of me also remembers thinking that each of those mini-stones (my word for milestones that aren’t really that big) was a day we weren’t sure we would ever have, and weren’t sure we would get again, so we did have to make the most of them.

Now, though, we’re getting closer to an actual milestone, and now, I have to deal with remembering when I thought this day would never happen, and not having Steve by my side to appreciate it.

So many times, over the course of A’s life, Steve met my gaze as A accomplished something the doctors said he never would. We didn’t have to say anything or make a big deal out of it, but both of us were thinking the same thing: he showed them.

Sure, there are family members and longtime friends who have faced the uncertainty with us, but it’s just not the same as sharing these remarkable moments with the only other person who understood what it was like to go through this as a parent.

Many times, over our journey, Steve was the optimist. Steve believed. I sat and Googled worst case scenario after worst case scenario.

When I came home crying because A had failed a relatively simple cognitive test for object permanence, where a plastic rabbit was placed under a cup and he had to find it, Steve was the one who immediately recognized that he hadn’t engaged because he “didn’t care about the stupid rabbit.”

Steve set up the same test with one of A’s favorite matchbox cars and he tracked it even after Steve moved the cups around like a 3-card monte dealer.

Steve and I had made a promise to each other and to A when he was born that no matter what life he had, we would make it the best possible life it could be. While I’ve done my best to continue to honor that promise, A is really the one who has carried it out on his own, seizing every opportunity he’s had and making the most out of every one.

Which brings me to the one thing that he has excelled at, possibly more than anything else, and the one thing that he claims he found on his own, without any parental interference: the drama club.

In yet another little twist of fate, the club was supposed to perform Disney’s Tarzan last spring, but due to scheduling conflicts, it had to be postponed until this November.

Having this be one of his senior year productions brings so many things full circle for me.

I was a big fan of the ’80s and ’90s Disney musicals, and Phil Collins and Tarzan were no exception. “You’ll Be In My Heart,” the breakout single from the movie, became “my” song for A before he was born, and for a little while after he was born.

“Come stop your crying” would be what I would whisper to him when he would cry as an infant, because until his second surgery, he wasn’t supposed to cry hard.

“Don’t listen to them, ’cause what do they know?” is what I would tell myself every time the doctors would tell us about the limitations that he could have.

Not only was the show incredibly meaningful to me, A wanted to audition for the role of Kerchak, the father gorilla who is torn between protecting his family and protecting his tribe. The role reminded me of both my own father and of Steve, men who were always putting the greater good ahead of their own needs.

As we ran lines, preparing for his audition, I had to fight back tears many times, as I saw A make the role his own, while still managing to evoke whispers of his father and grandfather, and all while still managing to convey his gorilla-ness.

So, yes, this has all been one big build up to encourage you once again to get out and support the arts in our schools and come see the Tamaqua Area Drama Club’s presentation of Disney’s Tarzan. (Tickets available for purchase on www.ticketleap.com, browse events, and search for Tamaqua, show dates Nov. 9, 10, and 11). It is more than that, though.

When I’ve got column writer’s block, I ask the kids what I should write about. They learned from Steve, and usually come up with ridiculous ideas, like “write about cleaning out the lint trap” (a scintillating tale, obviously) or “I don’t care what you write, when are you making dinner?” (That’s a real cliffhanger.)

Even though I was planning on writing about my own version of senior-itis, A asked me specifically to write a column about the show. I guess you could say it was “two ideas, one column.” I’m grateful that he trusts me with something that he holds so dear, and proud of him for seizing the opportunity to share information about a show and a club that I know means so much to him.

When it is all said and done, I know there will be a big part of this experience in his heart as he heads on to his next adventure.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing columnist who appears weekly in the Times News