I Love You

When was the last time you said “I love you”?

I didn’t mean showing or expressing love, but literally saying it. Verbally. Words. From your mouth.

They say actions speak louder than words. Yes, I will always agree. But I know of many people – I included – who would be willing to pay unreal amounts just to hear those words. They will sell their soul to the devil if they have to.

Imagine yourself in love with someone who can somehow show it, but cannot say it. That is how many families with children with autism feel.

Sam would occasionally give us a hug. And immediately looks for us and holds our hand when it gets dark. Jared would occasionally give us a kiss, with both his palms holding our cheeks. He would also run to us first if something hurts. They would sometimes ‘adorably’ shove cereal in our mouths, which would have been completely annoying if it was from someone else.

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Yes, they probably love us and couldn’t live without us. But we have not, and probably will never hear them say those words. If someone approaches me someday and tells me he can make my children speak, my soul will be on sale.

Being regular people, we take many ‘small’ things for granted. We do not see the beauty of being able to think, speak, read, or write. We do not appreciate the fact that we could attend a rock concert, a street party, or even just a stroll in the mall, without being overwhelmed by the crowd, noise, lights, and colors. We don’t know that being able to brush our teeth will be considered a feat for some. We don’t even have a clue how our being potty-trained is much coveted by parents who has children with autism.

These, and more, are daily things that we take for granted. They seem too ‘normal’ to be noticed. But there are people out there who would love to see a tenth of what we are capable of doing.

If you are capable of reading this, good for you. If you are blessed with thought, be thankful. If you have the gift of speech, use it. I love you. Mahal kita. Say it. Because actions speak louder than words, but words still speak volumes.

So, when was the last time you said “I love you?”

Car

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The Othello Principle tells us that the eye sees what the mind looks for.

I always give it the benefit of the doubt when Sam or Jared does something worth being called a milestone. Like when Jared says “wower” when he sees a flower. I celebrate deep inside, feeling hopeful that he will learn to speak sooner than later. But I almost immediately rain on my own parade, thinking that it could just have been one of the tens of non-words that he has in his vocabulary.

I always ask myself if what I just saw or heard was real or if my mind was just making things up to make me feel good.

Earlier today, we left Jared alone (within eye and earshot) with his alphabet toys. It wasn’t five minutes later when I saw him “spell” something on the table. It said C-A-R. I was just about to jump for joy, but stopped for a second. Othello Principle. “This is just an accident“, I told myself. I waited for him to add random letters to the queue. Children with autism like lining their toys up, and I have seen Jared do it several times.

But he didn’t.

He left the letters there and continued playing with the rest of the alphabet. Still not convinced, I returned the letters back to the pile.

Then my wife heard it. He softly pronounced “car“. She turned to look at Jared.

Holding the same three letters, and carefully placing them alongside each other on the table, we confirmed.

Jared now knows how to spell (and pronounce) CAR!

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Walk

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

It doesn’t matter whether you’re active or sedentary where you live. When you’re out there travelling, get out of that friggin comfort zone. Take the first step. Take a long walk. Trek. Traverse. There’s a reason why ‘off the beaten path’ exists, and it is full of surprises.

Surprises like a used pack of cigarettes with a quirky name;

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'Bastos' in the Filipino language means profanity or profane.

a nameless but exceptional fishball stand;

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Bugis Street, Singapore

a smiling old lady selling unripe mangoes with chili salt;

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Fruit vendor at Sai Gon

or a 1.5 Baht bumpy bus ride to Khaosan, which would have been 100 Baht if you took the cab at the cab stop.

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Local bus in Bangkok

You will meet a child who doesn’t have Lego Sets or iPads, but has a pair of wrestling beetles for toys, and temples as playgrounds;

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and you will realize that beauty is not always what you see over the bridge.

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Singapore

You will find people who share your passion;

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The Melting Pot at the Jonker Walk, Melaka

and places you will be passionate about.

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Angkor Wat

You will see more shades of any given color;

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Dutch Square, Melaka

and different versions of one dish.

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Pad Thai

You will discover how high you can climb;

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Batu Cave, Malaysia

before taking a well deserved break.

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You can even join the locals.

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Saigon

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You will make new friends.

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Silom Thai Cooking Class

And get to know your family more.

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Petronas Twin Towers, Malaysia

You will realize how rich and poor you are; how strong and weak, how proud and humble. Above all, you will see how big and small the world is.

So take that first step.

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