|Photography by Mary Allison Tierney|
One warm spring evening, when my younger son Oscar should have been practicing his lines for the class play or working in his vocabulary book, I allowed him and his older brother to shoot hoops after dinner. I figured these rare moments -- when Oscar is willing to join in typical play, when Abe is willing to adjust the game to Oscar’s level – are way more important than the class play and vocabulary words. I didn’t know if Oscar’s teacher would agree, but something told me she would.
They headed down the kitchen steps through our box-filled garage and out to the street, bubbling with excitement. I heard Abe tell Oscar that they were going to work on the “catch and shoot” to help Oscar in his lunchtime basketball games. Oscar’s low tone and slow processing speed make him neither fast enough nor coordinated enough to play on a real basketball team, but with help he can play in the informal school league.
After a few minutes I snuck downstairs and peaked out at them from behind a tall stack of boxes in the shadows of our garage. It was one of those warm evenings where the light settles on the neighbor’s house and casts a pink glow. The sky was painted with pink, orange and purple bands and I felt the tension of the day melt away as I watched my boys.
Oscar stood patiently while Abe positioned his arms. “Here Oscar, point your right elbow toward the hoop and keep your forearm straight. Put your left hand under the ball and just barely touch it. That hand acts like a guide as you shoot.”
But something had shifted and Oscar was willing to listen that night on the street. He smiled and nodded while Abe demonstrated how to flick his wrist to maximize backspin. Abe’s voice was light and animated and Oscar glowed from the positive attention. I just wanted to stay hidden among the boxes, memorizing that moment.
Mary Hill is the mother of three, a writer and a medical and educational advocate for her middle son who was diagnosed at birth with Prader-Willi syndrome. She writes about raising a child with special needs and his two so-called typical siblings in between soccer and baseball games and all those darn medical appointments.