Tomorrow, Andy will be 20 years old and I'm making him a wedding cake for his birthday. That's what he wants, so that's what I'm giving him. Maybe it's just coincidence, but it wasn't until I got sober that I started really listening to him.
Since Andy was born, I went out of my way to try and make things as normal as possible for him. As a single mom of an only child with a disability, I tried particularly hard to make Christmas, Easter and his birthday special. I wanted him to experience the traditions my brother and I had as we were growing up: believing in and waiting for Santa, the excitement of presents under the tree, the surprise Easter baskets from the Easter bunny, egg hunts, special birthdays...
But Andy never got it. He never understood those abstract concepts, and to make matters worse, he's never cared much for candy, so stockings and baskets filled with chocolate and jelly beans meant nothing to him. That didn't stop me from trying, though. I kept thinking that one year, it would click with him and he'd get to experience the magic I remembered as a child.
I bought him a tricycle for his fifth birthday and and spent the entire night putting it together complete with a little license plate with his name on it. I tried to teach him to ride it. Other people, his grandparents and therapists, have tried over the years to teach him to ride a bike, but he doesn’t get it.
I’d watch other kids do all the things kids are supposed to do, and I’d secretly resent them. I’ve never cared about the Down syndrome. I just wanted him to have a normal, happy childhood.
One Easter, when he was ten years old, I designed an extravagant basket heaped with solid chocolate bunnies and all the other required goodies that any good parent would provide in attempt to disguise themselves as a giant, invisible rabbit. I spent hours dyeing elaborate eggs.
On Easter morning, I brought him out to the living room and could barely contain my excitement.
"Andy, look! The Easter bunny was here! Look what he brought you!" I was so giddy, I could barely stand still.
Andy took one look at the basket, waved his hand in dismissal and said, "Oh, no fanks, Mom," and padded off toward his room in his little yellow blanket sleepers.
I was crushed.
Now, in my defense, I was also exhausted from having been up most of the night dyeing and designing, so I blame what happened next on temporary insanity: I yelled.
"Fine! You know what? It's been me the whole time. There is no Santa Claus! There is no Easter Bunny! It's just me. It's always been me!" I sat down in the middle of the living room and started crying.
Andy turned around and looked at me, his head tilted to one side. He came to me, wrapped his skinny arms around my neck and kissed my nose. Then he patted my cheek and said, "It's awright, Mom. It's okay," and padded off down the hallway to watch Star Wars in his room.
I least I bought the kind of candy I liked.
So this year, he wants a wedding cake for his birthday because his favorite movie du jour is Mamma Mia. He keeps saying he's getting married tomorrow. To who? I don't know. I think to the movie itself. I guess he thinks if he has the cake it's a done deal. So that's what I'm getting him. For better or for worse, I'm making a three tier wedding cake with each tier a different flavor and filling. It certainly isn't what I would want. It most DEFIANTLY isn't what his grandfather wants for him, but it's what Andy wants more than anything. And it's his birthday.