Friday, March 6, 2009

The Early Days, Winning Elaina..."envelopes"

Let's see, I think I left off on Monday morning. We were all at the breakfast table and enjoying breakfast when Geri handed me the lunch money envelope. Now I had been writing Elaina's name and stuffing the lunch money into the envelope for several weeks now. But today a new idea popped in. I have always been a doodler so I thought I might as well make a drawing of the goings' on on the front of the envelope. I left the table and retrieved my colored pencils. I don't remember the first attempt, but I think it was the dollies on the fan, however, that was one that did not survive the trip to school unscathed.

So as I finished my breakfast, I drew. Please keep in mind when reviewing the art work, I only had 10 to 15 minutes to do this. When I finished, I handed the envelope to Elaina and explained what I had drawn and that I would make her a special envelope every day. I got the "look". Can you believe it. I sit down and do a story tell on her envelope and she gives me the "look". Such is life.

Every day thereafter, I sketch a rendition of something that happened the day before, something we did together or a reminder of somewhere we have been. Every day she would take the envelope and head out...but the "looks" began to go away. I even got a laugh now and then and guess what else...Geri liked it. Even made fun comments to send Elaina on her way. It seemed to be working as Elaina started to come around. I didn't realize the full benefits for almost five months.

It was time to head back to school for parent/teacher conferences. I was really looking forward to it as my progress with Tony should really please his teacher. I was not disappointed. The same young lady who told me he could do far more if pushed was just delighted with our progress. My head was somewhat enlarged by her praises. But the best was yet to come.

Upon entering Elaina's room, I was greeted by a large pin up board with envelopes all over it. My envelopes. Seems that her teacher liked the art work and would have Elaina tell the class what each envelope represented. Seemed Elaina really liked that. She was the only kid in the school with a dad who drew pictures on her envelope. She was proud of it. With every day and every envelope, she began to fall in love with her new dad. As her teacher explained all this, I felt really satisfied (actually my head got big). This time my plan was working and as a bonus, Geri loved it too.

Over the next year and half, I kept drawing envelopes, Elaina continued to open up to me. The father/daughter relationship blossomed. Her teacher saved every one that was not too wrinkled, spilled on, or ripped and put them in frames for us. They hang in Elaina's room yet today. They are one of her prized possessions. Right up there with the dollies that do nothing. Along the way, Elaina was able to "dump" her flyswatter friend and her "go everywhere" Dollie. She had a new friend. Dad.

Now I still hassle Elaina. I still push her out of her comfort zone. I refuse to settle for black and white. I make her go into the dreaded "grey" zone. She, in turn, has matured into a fine young lady. She now sings in the choir (bless David's heart, as well as the gals who help her) and has become quite outgoing. I still get the "look" every now and then...but the "stomp on your face" expression is gone. Game over with a winning home run, at last.

I could not write this without having some very sad memories. You see, I have three daughters by a previous marriage. When they were growing up I had "places to go and people to meet". There was no time for "envelopes". In fact, there was no time for anything other that my career and my pleasure. If I had learned earlier what I learned later in life, I probably would not be in a second marriage. I would probably not have such sad memories and a wet pillow so many nights. I probably would have a much better relationship with three of the most beautiful girls in the world whom I love dearly. So, Tammy, Amy and Debbie, if you read this, I'm sorry. I never had the time for "envelopes" for you. I could say I did the best I could, but that would not be true. So just know I'm sorry and I love all three of you.

One more thought. The current worldview of handicapped children. In today's age, we have places that will let you "customize" your children. Tests to determine if your child is "normal". Doctors and politicians that lobby to abort any child that is not. The thought process is that we can eliminate " Downs" via early testing and then abortion in the next five years. How sad. If I tried to write all the wonderful things Elaina has brought to my (ours as well as others) life, I couldn't even begin to tell them all. She helped shape me into the man I have become. Winning Elaina over was a long process, but I learned that she was a special child from God and what she needed was to be loved, made to feel special, be admired, be pushed, be praised. What normal kid doesn't? The next time you see a family with a handicapped child, don't feel sad for them. Maybe you can get introduced to a gift most folks never get to open. I'm so very thankful to God that He gave me a second chance, and envelopes.

That's it for now. Next time I will be back on lessons from Tony with "Nightmare at Disney", Geri's test.


Scott said...


Thanks for being willing to post this stories. They always bring a smile to my face. I am most thankful that I have a friend who will allow himself to be vulnerable, even when it hurts. I admire the man you have become and pray that I can incorporate the lessons that you are sharing with my children. I, too, have "wet pillows" over the absence and ignorance of my youth!

Joanne Sher said...

What an incredibly moving post, Randy. What blessings you have reminded us of in the lives of our imperfect children. Bless you for sharing your joys and sorrows with us--with me.

Denise Dykstra said...

Hey there Rockin',
Your post looks great.
And if it looked terrible, I'd tell you.
And if it looked terrible, it'd still be great. It's that good.
You have loved your "new" family so that Big Jake and I never believed that they were not always your family. You have loved us like family so that I don't remember what it was like to not be in your family.
We are forever grateful for you...and it's not just because you fix our computer and figure out a way to get us 'highspeed'. :)
We love you. And I'll check out those envelopes next time we are over!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being so transparent and for challenging us all to do right y our kids, whether special or not. We all have regrets that we have failed them in some way, but isn't it great to know that we have a perfect Heavenly Father who is always working on us. Thanks for being such a great friend.
Love ya!!

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