Today was Anna's day to shed her braces and headgear, at least for the next year or so. She now sports a nifty, thin, clear plastic retainer that is nearly invisible and way cooler than the plastic and metal one I had as a kid. We are in a holding pattern now, where she wears the retainer to keep her teeth from moving and we wait for the rest of her remaining baby teeth to fall out before starting a second phase of braces. She is getting orthodontic treatment at a university - we get a substantial discount and the orthdontic students get training. It's been a great experience. I didn't know how Anna would react to the manipulation of her teeth, the hands in her mouth, the palate expander, the headgear worn all night for months on end. She is high functioning but still is very sensitive to touch and sound. I told her student-in-training about the Aspergers and he took it in stride. He was very kind and took every opportunity to tell her how well she'd done sitting in the chair for long periods of time enduring the discomfort of having hands and equipment in her mouth and impressions taken of her teeth. He just exuded patience and grace. Even though I thanked him every visit, he will probably never know just how much I appreciate his kindness. Just like nobody really ever knows how they affect others. Things that we don't think about, our words and body language and deeds, can have a profound impact on others.
The university building where Anna saw her orthodontist-in-training happens to be just a two block walk to the outpatient facility where Anna received speech and occupational therapies after her diagnosis at age three and a half. Every time I drive by, it tugs at my heart. Anna has no memory of the building and maybe no memory of the therapies. But I remember everything about it. I remember dragging a small rocking chair with us to Anna's first appointments because rocking was the only thing that would calm her. I rememer hearing her scream bloody murder through the hallways and past closed doors when she didn't want to do the activities her therapists tried to get her to do. I remember the fear. I remember dragging poor bored baby Megan with us, who wondered why she never got to go do 'fun' things like her sister. I'm sure the therapists who worked with Anna then have no memory of us now. But I remember the difference they made in Anna's life, their kindness and dedication, which live now in my heart and mind.
The present finds me working at a school for children with learning differences, which I love. I do my best to be for others the goodness I've received, but I never know what's hit or what's miss. So I was surprised by a parent the other day. Months ago I had said something to her that I had forgotten about completely. She caught my attention and thanked me for reaching out to her and helping make a decision that turned out to be a really good one for her child. She told me how much she appreciated it then and how much she appreciates it now. She spoke to me as parent to teacher, but I received it as parent to parent - because I know how she feels.