The youtube clip posted above is the story of Leslie Lemke. It is one that I watched in 1981 TV show called That's Incredible! It was one of my favorite shows when I was in elementary school. I think back to when I first saw this, watching it in our living room in the old red farmhouse with my mother and sister. I felt at that moment something. I can't say what exactly in words typed on this screen because there are no words when you get a feeling like this and you're ten years old. I knew after watching that story that there was for sure, undoubtedly, without question, a God. I was at the age when I was questioning about everything in my mind, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. But God. No way. Only God could give someone a gift like that.
But who's gift was it? Leslie's or his adoptive mother May's? Did God say, Leslie, because you were born with so many physical problems and you have struggled your whole life, I am going to give you the beautiful gift of musical ability. Or, was God rewarding May? May, you took on a lot adopting this child. I brought him to you because of your great strength and determination. You believed May. You held on to the hope even when there seemed to be no hope to hold onto. For this I am giving you Leslie and his gift of song.
Here's an analogy for you (Eloise loves analogies): May Lemke is to Leslie as Annie Sullivan is to Helen Keller. I love the story of Helen Keller. I've read that one several times throughout my school years, too. As humbled as I am to think of the gifts God gave both Helen and Leslie, I am more in awe of Annie and May. They never gave up on something they believed in. These women knew in their hearts there was more inside those handicapped bodies than what was showing and they worked tirelessly to bring out the beauty.
It took Leslie Lemke 12 years to be able to stand and another three on top of that to walk. In Leslie's sixteenth year, the Lemkes were awoken in the middle of the night to Leslie playing Tchaikovsky. Leslie could not talk, but his first words were in the form of song. How beautiful. In fact, you will hear Leslie singing Everything is Beautiful. Leslie, I very much agree.
In the case of Helen Keller, to think one could learn to communicate being blind and deaf is beyond what I could comprehend at the time. Look what we would have missed if Anne Sullivan wouldn't have opened the door to communication. Keller writes, Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light. That's a good one to frame and hang in the Lamp Post, wouldn't you say? And that's just one example. Check out Helen Keller quotes to find many, many more.
Raising Natalie & Erik (and I speak of my nephew like that because my sister's children are like my own) has left me thinking if either Karen or I will be that woman. Will either of us have the strength or fortitude to will miracles of our own? We have an inside joke between us, my sister and I, about the kids having extraordinary gifts we have yet to discover. Once I dumped a box of toothpicks out in front of Erik just to see if he could instantly count them. No luck. We have dreams about Natalie waking at night and coming to the piano to play Moonlight Sonata. However, now that she has her iPod and is more current, I think it will be Lady Gaga's Marry the Night instead. But alas, that has not happened yet. Or has it?
Natalie's art from my previous blog post is what brings me to the point of this message on this cold, January, double blog post weekend. I posted a picture of her watercolor she painted this past week. After viewing it on my blog, I got a late night, strong response from TSouthern (my South Carolinian Tracy-friend), insisting that Natalie was a savant. Didn't I SEE what she painted? she asked. According to Southern, it was a fairy. Eloise twisted and turned. I winked one eye and brought the picture up close to my face then pulled it out as far as it would go with my two arms. Hmmm.... Could it be? Here is the painting:
What do you see, Readers?
This is Southern's pencil sketch rendering over top of Natalie's original work. TSouthern and I go way back. She was my kindergarten comrade, elementary school chum, high school pal, college roommate, and current soul sister. She is an artist and has one of the most creative touches of anyone I know. TSouthern thinks it's a fairy but now is wavering between that and a lioness. Today is her birthday and who's to argue with a girl on her birthday. But a lioness? Where did she get that from? From my facebook, of course. I put the picture on there this morning, intrigued as to what others would see. Would you like to see the other responses? Read below.
- a pair of hands cradling the world. and obviously the sky in the background.
- a lioness
- A snail or brontosaurus
- A rabbit trying to break out of its box
- I see a drumstick...maybe a turkey or chicken?
- I see a person on a cliff standing with arms wide open.
- a puppy's face.
- elephant with trunk turned up for luck..
- Chicken breast
- a sand dune
- Natalie, herself, with her arm raised to the world!
- It's a cat facing away with tail up in the air.
- Face of animal with nose pointed down. Tan left side of picture. Dark eye lid, nose, & mouth. Maybe Sadie!!
- I see the back of a woman with long curly hair. Her left arm is up and she is looking to the left, resting her face on her arm. I'm guessing she is in the shower. The blue is the water running down on her. That's what I see!
- A girl doing the backstroke in a pool
- A basket of fruit
Those were the posts through midnight. Me, myself? I thought maybe it was a tree gone bad, as Ellen was painting a tree right next to her and Natalie mimics everything Ellen does. I thought about each one of those above responses from my facebook friends. I thought how kind they were to give Natalie's art a minute of extra thought and try for a minute to see if there was something beyond the obvious. And what's funny is I saw what you saw in every single one. I saw beauty through all of those interpretations. Thanks to those of you who caught the post in time enough to respond.
No one got it exactly right, but one person came very, very close. GRANDMA!!!!!!!!! Oh, Lord. I can hear her whooping and hollering next door now. She's jumping around the kitchen with her sneakers on. Glad she wasn't on Fosamax or she would have surely busted her femur by now. Had to give her credit for knowing her grandchild, even though I won't be able to stand the I Told You So's for the next week. But kudos to Grandma. You were the closest.
Now for Natalie's response (also on facebook, posted as a video--check my wall if you are a friend of Eloise): a wolf. I even asked her twice to clarify. Look again. Do you see it now? What do you think?
Even me, her mother, is quite baffled. It is very unusual for Natalie to say the word "Wolf" anyway. To her a wolf, a puppy, a coyote, and anything of the like, is a dog. When she is exposed to an animal she doesn't have the world for, albeit a monkey or a centipede, she calls it a cow. Some autistics similar to Natalie use generalized terms sometimes because their vocabularies are not as big. Ellen even said, "That was from out of nowhere." Nicely put Ellen.
Here are a couple more pictures of Natalie from the basketball game this afternoon (see below). She is on the Sparkles Squad, an inclusive cheerleading opportunity led by the girls on the varsity squad. They got t-shirts and had them printed with the clever saying, and they all wore them today. It was great. Natalie even got to do a lift this week and she pumped her fist high in the air and yelled Go Huskies! AND I MISSED IT, because I was home with the bugger, I mean booger, I mean Sam, because he was sick, but I did make it over to the second half. You can see we lost a heart breaker.
I'll end with a happy attitude of optimism tonight, knowing I am doing the very best I can for my daughter, my nephew, and our entire family. I will never stop looking for miracles in them and in me. In fact, Helen Keller conveyed this message in her unique way, far better than I can. Keller writes: When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
Eloise--see below for more pictures
Harbor Creek Sparkles
Cheer For A Change
Deserves a Chance to