What Hope Haven Means to Brandon.
By Cynthia Richey
Like all children, when Brandon was a baby he cried......from not getting what he wanted, as the result of something hurting, such as getting a shot, from frustration. But from the age of about three and on up, he never cried. There was still frustration and some tantrums from not getting his way, and shots, but no tears. I took that as a sign of being a good mom.
When he was two and a half he started going to "school". It was an Early Intervention Program, and he loved it. He had different therapies, and learned socialization by being around other children, and he progressed. From the age of two and a half until he was twenty one and walked across the stage at Rogers high school with the rest of the senior class of 2002, he progressed. The only time he didn't progress was during summer vacations. Those few months were long months for him. He lost some skills, he withdrew, got moody...but he never cried. I would talk to him, give him a weekly "School starts back in "X" number of weeks, and the bus will be coming back to pick you up" talk, and it helped. I would talk to him about everything he would be doing in school, seeing his friends and teachers,, and it helped. It gave him HOPE. And first day of school was always momentous. He would be so excited he'd be up and dressed an hour or so before bus time.
Then in 2002 it was over.
After going to school from the age of two and a half until he was twenty one, school was over.
I knew he would eventually be going to Hope Haven and talked to him about it, but didn't know when he would start. I even moved us from Elgin to Muscle Shoals to be closer to Hope Haven when the time came. As that first summer after graduation passed and he saw school buses, he got excited. Sadly, i had to explain to him that he wouldn't be getting on a bus that year, but one day he would. One day he would get to go back to "school" and be around friends and learn new things. I tried to give him HOPE. Soon, instead of getting excited at the sight of a school bus, he would get quiet. He got moody. And as usual during a summer vacation, he regressed in some areas.
One day close to Halloween, after coming back home from the store and passing a school bus along the way, he went to his room to change clothes and a few minutes later i heard a noise i hadn't heard in many years, i heard him crying, and i knew why he was crying. It was seeing the bus. And his crying wasn't just a few tears, it was a flood of tears running down his cheeks, accompanied by huge heartbreaking sobs that caused him to lose his breath. He reached for me and when i sat down beside him he wrapped his arms around me and we both cried. It took awhile to compose myself enough to talk to him and reassure him he would be going to school again some day.
He would have a bus to ride, and take a lunch box, and learn new things. His crying, our crying, became sniffles, he got under the covers, and soon was asleep. When he woke up i talked to him some more and told him it was okay to cry when he was sad. And as always, i tried to give him HOPE.
That was in October 2002. He didn't start Hope Haven until January 2004, and there was a lot of crying during that time.
Then we got the call saying he would be starting Hope Haven. January of 2004 i took him to there for a first day visit and to get to know the place, then told him the next day he would be riding a bus. That next day, when he got on the bus, he had an ear to ear smile. He took his seat and never looked back at me as the bus left. When i picked him up that evening he was tired, but still had that smile on his face.
That was over eleven years ago, and there has been a continuous eleven years of learning, eleven years of smiles and excitement because the bus is picking him up, eleven years of getting up at three or four on Monday mornings because he's so eager to get on that bus and back to Hope Haven. And most important of all.....eleven years of NO CRYING. If Hope Haven closes I won't be able to soothe his tears with the "someday" talk. I won't be able to give him HOPE.
I don't want to see my son cry again......
Hopefully Hope Haven and other places like it around the state can remain open. This is just a sample of what they do not only for the ones with disabilities but also the families that provide love and care for them.