During the funeral service of Uncle Dave, I leaned over to Todd and then to Pam and said, “I miss his echo.” During the next choral response, my sister waited a split second after everyone else and said, “Church.” It was at this point during the service that my hand instinctively flew up to cover my mouth and my laugh. It wasn’t Dave’s voice, but that memory still makes me chuckle as I write this.
Growing up and standing next to Dave in church was embarrassing at first. His voice mocked me throughout the entire mass. After each “Lord have mercy,” Dave’s voice echoed a half-beat behind, “..cy” while the entire church was quiet. I’m sure Father LaPine purposely waited for Uncle Dave’s echo before moving on. During the Profession of Faith and Lord’s Prayer it was sometimes difficult for me to say the right words because I’d start listening to the mockingbird next to me. Luckily it taught my ADD mind how to focus and not be distracted by outside stimuli.
Singing, in church or at sporting events during the Star-Spangled Banner, was the same except Dave not only mocked those around him, he held the last note a little bit longer than everyone else too. Luckily, unlike my own, Dave’s voice was beautiful.
While in church trying to ignore the mockingbird next to me, I would pray for an answer to a question that hounded me for years: Why did Dave have to live at my house? Then my own daughter was born, and we discovered her special needs. At that point God answered my prayer; Dave provided me 22 years of experience.
Once Amy entered grade school, she participated in her classes’ musical performances. It was tough to attend the first performances and see her not being “normal” like the others. Her differences became more apparent as she moved up in grade school. The other kids’ became comfortable in front of a crowd and could focus and remember the words. Their gestures were right on time, but not Amy’s. She might do a few gestures but she’d also be more than a beat behind. I knew there were parents wondering, “How could we, her parents, allow her to perform and obviously show her differences and even maybe ‘ruin’ the performance? Weren’t we embarrassed?”
I’ll admit it was difficult to watch at first but I thought back to those years in church with David and knew we were doing the right thing. I learned to love the performance and know that I am example for other parents of children with special needs. We shouldn’t be embarrassed and withhold the opportunity for Amy to perform.
In January of her sixth grade year, Amy performed on the big stage–Kaufman Auditorium–with the other sixth grade students. Prior to the performance, Amy had shown me the movements, and I’d heard her singing in her bedroom or the bathroom during the weeks before the big night. Todd took off from work early and drove straight to Kaufman. We waited in the balcony, worried about just how Amy would perform on the big stage with spotlights. As she walked on to the stage, I saw her peering into the audience trying to find us. I had reminded her numerous times not to yell out, “Mom! Dad! Ali!” and give us that full-arm wave as she did in the past. This time she didn’t. Once she saw us, she only smiled and moved on.
When the music started she looked up at us in the balcony and smiled. After the first phrase of the song, I heard my newest mockingbird. Just like her uncle, her voice rang out a half-beat longer than the rest singing that last syllable. Todd and I looked at each other and smiled. Amy continued belting out each of the songs and doing all the hand gestures, some actually right on time.
Today, five years later, Amy’s singing gives Todd, Ali and me a reason to glance at each other and smile. She’s a One Direction fan, thanks to her sister, but in the car she’ll turn up other tunes too and start singing, a half-beat behind. I’m thankful now for this mockingbird. Her singing, just like Uncle Dave’s, causes me to stop thinking of life, focus and just listen and learn to enjoy the song.