We signed Fiver up for his school's CYO cross country team this year, and every Monday and Thursday evening he has been going to practice with Rob and running his little heart out.
Fiver wanted to be on "a team", and we thought that cross country might be the perfect fit for him. It's a team sport with individual participation. No one is counting on him to catch a ball, or kick a ball, or throw a ball. No one is going to miss a play because his arms and legs aren't strong enough.
It's hard to tell if he likes it, because Fiver is not a big talker, but he goes to practice happily and doesn't ask us if he can quit. We take that as an endorsement on his part. Rob enjoys running with him because Rob used to run cross country, and he is one of those people who likes to "run for fun and exercise." (A genetic defect, I think.)
Fiver's first meet was this weekend, and I didn't know what to expect. Kindergartners run a half mile, and Fiver had done it at practice in 6:08. But there were so many variables at the meet -- unfamiliar field, his first meet, his first year on the team -- I wasn't even sure if he would finish the course.
I knew he was nervous because all his quirks were coming to the surface. The head shaking, the repetition of other's people's speech, the low, atonal humming, all of it was displayed at some point. I looked around at the other kids and their parents, stretching, laughing, sipping water, and I just prayed that Fiver could finish. That's all.
While my mom and my sister kept the other kids, Rob took Fiver over to the starting line, and I stood behind the fence to watch him go. All the kids took off in group, and I saw Fiver near the back of the pack, running his head shaking, arms and legs flying kind of run with a smile on his face.
After he passed me, I turned and ran up the hill so I could cheer him on when he passed. One by one all the other kids came jogging by, and there, at the very end, was Fiver. He was half running, half walking next to the eighth grade boy who was at the back to make sure no one got left behind. He wasn't smiling anymore.
I called out to him and when he looked up, I waved and shouted and clapped. He smiled, and then he cried out, "Mommy! Mommy! Where is Daddy? I don't see him!" And he started to cry. He was so used to Rob running with him in practice that he was sort of lost without him.
The eighth grade boy, God bless his heart, was gently encouraging and jogged right along with him, but Fiver wanted his dad.
I started jogging with him and stayed with him until we met up with Rob, who took him through the middle part of the course. Meanwhile, I ran down the hill so that I could see him finish. If he finished at all.
I stood by the chute with all the other parents. Again, I watched the other children run past and heard the parents cheering. I clapped as the stragglers came in, but there was no sign of Fiver. I started to think that maybe he didn't have enough steam to finish and that Rob had taken him off the course.
Figuring that the kids were done, many people stopped clapping and started to drift away to watch the next race. I wondered if I would be the only one left when Fiver finally made it through the chute. I wondered if he was even going to make it.
Then I saw him. Red faced, but running, he and Rob came around the corner. I yelled out his name and started clapping. When they realized that there was one more runner, the other parents and fans started cheering wildly. As Fiver passed me, he was beaming.
And that's when I started to cry. He was dead last, but he finished the whole course. He had given it everything he had, and he was greeted like a conquering hero. I wanted to hug every person who cheered him on.
There were very few people at the race who know how far Fiver has come, but for those who do, the difference cannot be denied.
Two years ago he couldn't put on his own shoes, he didn't look people in the eye or speak to them, he couldn't jump, and he didn't have the strength to hold a pencil.
This weekend he ran half a mile in under seven minutes.
Thank you, God, for this child who shows me that being first is the least important goal. Thank you, God, for this child who has a smile about three sizes too big for his face. Thank you, God, for this child who works ten times as hard for things that come as easily as breathing to most people.
He finished the course, my prayer was answered, and my heart is full.