This past Thursday Ozzie turned 13.
It was a day of hard, mixed emotions as we accepted that this birthday would be different than the birthday celebration he desired and what we wished it could be.
It was hard to lay aside our family tradition of waking the birthday child up to a cupcake and song.
It was hard not beginning the birthday boy’s day with a hug and a kiss.
It was hard to set aside my vision of what Ozzie’s 13th birthday would look like and accept what it was.
Ozzie is still at an in-treatment program to take part in more intensive therapy to address his early childhood trauma and abuse, as well as the behaviors that have resulted from that trauma. It is an exceptional program. It is where he needs to be. I know God led us there and I believe God is using this time to heal deeps hurts.
I have peace about him being there, but that didn’t soften the pinch I felt in my heart when I opened my eyes on his birthday morning. I knew it was going to be one of those sad/glad days.
As I moved through the morning battling the waves of mom guilt and sadness that kept crashing over me I had to remind myself that while this birthday did not have the makings of a Hallmark TV special, it was rooted in love…
Rooted in a love far deeper and meaningful than any Family Channel movie.
You see, this birthday we showed Ozzie love in a manner far more significant than any birthday party or gift that could be unwrapped. We showed him the type of love that has staying power. We showed him that we love him deep enough, pure enough, and powerful enough to get him the healing help he is crying out for, even though it may not be what he thinks he is asking for.
We love him enough to sacrifice the “picture perfect” birthday for something a bit harder and heartbreaking, because we love him that much.
Through our actions we are showing him that we are committed, we are sticking, we are willing to sacrifice our time, money, energy and our vision of what we thought our life would be, all for the sake of helping him believe he is worth loving.
Thursday couldn’t be the “ideal” birthday celebration that I might have planned for Ozzie’s 13th birthday, but God used the circumstances to create a birthday far more meaningful and personal…a birthday that had a much more loving impact on Ozzie than any traditional birthday party would have. It was quirky and weird, but so imperfectly perfect. It was a birthday for the history books…one that won’t soon be forgotten, because it was, at its root, all about love…
Love for Ozzie, acceptance of who he is, a declaration of our devotion, and a promise of forever.
It was our opportunity to stand up and say, “It has been one hell of a ride, Ozzie, but we aren’t going anywhere. We will ride it to the end of the line with you. You never need to ride alone again!”
If you haven’t guessed the theme of the day was transportation. 🙂
Since his check-in date we have been able to talk to Ozzie multiple times a day. We have also been able to visit him a few times a week. But on his birthday we were able to pick him up and take him out for the evening on a community pass. I was so glad we were able to get to spend a portion of the day with him. It would have been a much harder day had we not been able to.
Ozzie knew for a few days leading up to his birthday that we would be picking him up for a five hour evening pass. We told him that we could pick anything in the area to do for his birthday (going home wasn’t an option quite yet in his treatment plan.) We laid out some options including using our Carnegie membership for a trip to the Natural History Museum or the Science Center, or going to see the new Lego Batman movie, but Ozzie had something different in mind…something so perfectly Ozzie.
When we arrived to pick him up he was beside himself with excitement and joy. He quickly filled me in on his birthday activity wish list. And while a bit unorthodox it was perfectly Ozzie so we followed his lead and had the best time showing Ozzie love by doing the things that Ozzie loves.
Ozzie loves transportation vehicles. As a child on the autism spectrum he has highly focused and developed interests to a few specific genres. Some of his hyper-focused interests include weather, maps, and vehicles (cars, trains, construction vehicles, etc.) And for his birthday he pleaded and begged that we, as a family, ride some of the transportation in Pittsburgh. It seems a funny birthday request, but not if you know Ozzie, and granting this birthday wish, and doing so as a family and with enthusiasm was one more brick laid in the foundation of attachment and trust-building we are trying to help Ozzie with.
Our Pittsburgh adventure began with a ride up the incline.
Here in Pittsburgh we have two inclines that carry passengers up and down the steep hills. Originally built back in the 1800s to carry steel workers from the row homes on the hillside down to the city, they still are in use today by both tourist and commuters traveling into the city.
Ozzie was beside himself with excitement.
He quickly established that we needed to ride in the front, (he wanted an up close look at the mechanics of how the vertical train system worked,) but the added benefit of our seating choice was beautiful, unobstructed views of Pittsburgh as we climbed up the hill.
We got to the top and walked outside to the overlook platform for magnificent views of the city.
While there Ozzie caught sight of a construction machine being loaded onto a trailer for transport and begged that we stay long enough to watch. We willingly agreed and were rewarded with unbridled Ozzie enthusiasm as Ozzie shook with excitement and said, “This birthday couldn’t get any better!”
After taking the incline back down we only had to walk a half a block to get to our next activity of the day. Ozzie’s second request was to ride the T in and out of Pittsburgh for a while.
I can honestly say we have never had need to ride the T so this was a new experience for us.
Once again Ozzie was beside himself with excitement. When we stepped on the T we had the train compartment to ourselves so Ozzie tried out various seats (as well as riding standing up) before he picked the spot he wanted to stay for the remainder of the ride. As the T stopped at various stations the train quickly filled up with commuters heading home. For some reason they didn’t have the same air of excitement as Ozzie did about the T-riding experience. There was more than one knowing smirk exchanged when Ozzie yelled to me over the din of the crowd, “Mom, this is SO COOL. I wish I could ride the T everyday!”
We took the T into the center of Pittsburgh to grant Ozzie’s third request. For his birthday he “wanted to ride an elevator to the top of a Pittsburgh skyscraper.” This wish was harder to grant as we soon discovered all the elevators in the tall office buildings in Pittsburgh needed a security code to get them to move upward.
So Ozzie came up with a plan B. “If I can’t ride a elevator up in a skyscraper,” he decided, “then I want to find a spinning door to walk through.”
This was an easier request to fulfill. We quickly found a revolving door much to Ozzie and Tyler’s delight. Tyler, too, is a huge fan of spinning doors!
Much to Ozzie’s disappointment we had to end out Pittsburgh adventure there if we were going to have time for dinner and cake before he had to return back. (He was hoping to experience a few more public transportation options like the city bus, a taxi and maybe Uber.) 😉
For his dinner request he wanted to go to Golden Corral. He had high recommendations to share with those of us who had never been there before.
We spent the final hour of his visit grazing on delicious food. (Ozzie was so excited to discover they had a chocolate fountain on the dessert table,)
and eating the birthday cake we brought with us.
It was a birthday unlike any other, but ended up being one more special and appreciated than any other.
Happy Birthday, dear Ozzie. Happy Birthday to You!