Ironically, I can’t speak.
“Well, what does it say?” my husband asks again.
My lips are trembling when I open my mouth, but I can’t get out the words. Tears are welling in my eyes, making it hard for me to breathe.
“Cry baby,” Peter gently jokes.
I’m sitting on the edge of the couch. I look away, down at Philip as he sleeps beside me. I gently rub his back to rouse him from his nap and to collect myself.
There will only be five words engraved on it, but they say so much more. That’s why I can’t talk. When I finally do croak out the words, I can only manage the last three words, “‘different, not less.'”
Exactly one week earlier, I was rendered equally mute. I know it was rude not to respond, but I could not speak.
My cell phone rang shortly after I arrived at work. I was surprised to see that it was my best friend’s number on the caller ID. We often chat during my lunch break and had done so just the day before. Curious as to why she was calling now, I answered. What she told me left me speechless.
“We are getting Philip an iPad,” she had said.
“Thank you” would have been the most appropriate response, but I was silent. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel gratitude, but that I was overwhelmed by it. I was sitting at my desk, struggling to maintain my composure, my mouth gaping open like a fish out of water. My friend, unable to see this but aware that I wasn’t talking, filled in the awkward silence asking for information she needed to place the order. Moving onto data loosened my tongue.
Exactly one week prior to this news, I had called this same friend in tears. I had just learned that my insurance would not cover the cost of an augmentative speech device for my non-verbal son. I could barely speak, but she listened. The day before, I had posted pictures and captions on Facebook showing Philip using one of the devices during a demonstration session. My friend shared in my frustration that Philip might not get a tool that so obviously could help him communicate.
I told her how we might have to settle for an iPad. The company had recently developed an app. It wasn’t our first choice due to issues of durability and technical support. I also admitted that I wasn’t sure how we were going to pay for it.
Over the course of the next week when we chatted, my friend asked me questions about the iPad and app. I began researching grants as a source of funding. The next thing I know, my friend is telling me that her cousin’s husband, an Apple employee, is helping us getting the device for Philip.
We’ve been tracking the iPad as it shipped from China to Korea and arrived in the United States through Alaska. It arrived in the Midwest over the weekend and was delivered early this afternoon.
I’ve been excitedly telling coworkers about its imminent arrival. They can’t get me to shut up about it. But I still get choked up and can’t speak when I try to tell them about the words my friend had engraved on the back. She had revealed this to me a week after her announcement. When I tried to tell Peter, I couldn’t talk.
On the back of Philip’s iPad, the following quote from Temple Grandin is engraved:
I am different, not less.