Thunderstorms finally brought some relief from the heat wave that for two weeks registered 100-plus degrees on the heat index. Having been quarantined for a fortnight because of the danger high temperatures pose to my son, he bristled to escape as soon as lunch ended.
Earlier in the day, he had begged me to ask my friend to round up the neighbor kids when she came down to play with her own brood. Bobby had watched them come and go for days, from one house to another, bikes discarded carelessly in front yards, only to be reclaimed when another adventure beckoned.
My friend Ann had not yet arrived, but she clearly dispatched the message, as a dozen kids arrived to play soccer. They quickly suggested picking teams, at which my heart sank momentarily: They were all schoolmates and excelled at soccer. Bobby had just recently met most of them and lacked their skill-set because his health condition kept him more confined.
But everyone wanted Bobby on their team.
Then came the first play of the game. I chatted with one of the summer-time sitters, while I kept half an eye on the field, a vacant lot abutting our house. Bobby was dribbling toward the goal. He passed one of the defenders with a surprising move, then another, and then the third, Carter, whose footwork amazes me, tumbled. Bobby scored.
The scene had a strange sense of unrealness to it. Then I realized why: Carter’s pratfall was planned, and the entire play had been staged. The boys had kindly allowed Bobby to score a goal in a match several weeks past, but this elaborate effort amazed me. My eyes teared up as I saw my sweet not-so-little boy bounding with joy and the other kids celebrating with him.
When Ann arrived a little later, I told her the story. She smiled, adding “Wow, they did that all on their own.” Ann then shared that she had read the neighbor boys the text I had sent her after Bobby’s first afternoon playing with them several weeks earlier. My quick text shared that as my husband put Bobby to bed that night, our son beamed: “This has been the best day of my life.”
Why? “Not Disneyworld or Christmas,” as Ann put it. But a “normal” day playing with kids, not thinking of medicines, or treatments, or doctors, or making up school work. Not thinking of the things he couldn’t do or that they could do. Just being one of the boys.
My imperfect son with cystic fibrosis turned a dozen grammar school kids into more perfect children. Kind. Compassionate. Empathetic.
How many more days like this does our world possess? The Bobbys are aborted. Down’s Syndrome is eliminated by eliminating those with Down’s Syndrome. Why? Because they aren’t perfect.
None of us are perfect. None of us ever will be in this life. But those less perfect than others—those who have less and suffer more—they make us all more perfect. I know Bobby has.