I keep waiting for the kind of miraculous progress you only find in movies or works of fiction. Every now and then I’ll hear a story about a child who has recovered (or as they say in the field – lost their diagnosis) but these are so rare they fall into the category of fantasy in my mind. Every now and then, when I find myself longing to wake up one morning and have Emma jump into bed with me speaking in full sentences, a look of cognition unmistakable on her face, I must remind myself of all the steps, the tiny steps of progress she makes everyday. It isn’t just about making myself feel better, it’s about charting her progress.
Last night she went over to the phone in the kitchen.
“Hey Em. Do you want to call Daddy?” Joe asked.
“Call Daddy?” Emma responded in her typically enigmatic way.
“I’ll say the numbers,” Joe prompted.
Emma dutifully found the right buttons to push and held the receiver up to her ear. “Hi Daddy!” Pause. “Hi Daddy!”
I stood next to her, wondering if she’d gotten the answering machine.
“Hi Daddy!” Emma said again.
I tried to listen to see if I could detect Richard’s voice. I didn’t hear anything. “Did he answer?” I asked Joe.
“Yeah. He picked up.”
“I’m fine,” Emma said.
“Yes. Glenwood rec center. Swimming, ice skating,” Emma said into the phone. A clear response to the question – What did you do today? “Sledding, skiing…”
“No, you didn’t ski today,” I interjected.
“No skiing,” Emma said. “Sledding.”
By this point I had my ear next to her cheek and could hear Richard’s voice. “I miss you, Emmy,” I heard him say.
“I miss you, Daddy,” she said.
The conversation went on a bit longer, but I was so overcome by the fact she’d said – I miss you Daddy – in response to him saying, I miss you. Usually when Emma repeats us she repeats us in total. In other words she would say – I miss you Emmy. An exact replica of his sentence to her. But she didn’t do that. She responded appropriately with the appropriate pronoun. I was impressed.
I know this is small, but to us, it’s HUGE. A huge step for Emma to express emotions regarding another person.
Later I said to Richard, “That was completely unprompted!”
“Really?” he asked.
“Yes! I wasn’t prompting her to say anything,” I told him. “She said it all on her own. It’s the Aspen air out here,” I said, referring to our theory that there’s something in the air out here, which seems to inspire an uptick in her language and cognition. We have seen it every time we come here. Blame it on Aspen, blame it on all the exercise she gets out here, blame it on anything, we’ll take it.