his voice

by lani

how can i describe his voice to you? almost inhuman, its slightly husky, high-pitched tone mutters or screeches, never in between. his babble is complex, foreign. his accent is from no land and from every land at the same time. his voice is unmistakeably his; i could pick it out in a roomful of toddlers, even when i can’t distinguish a single word.

his voice is precious.
his voice is unique.
his voice is crippled.


how can i describe what it is like to watch him as he gazes intently at a toddler his own age, and she is speaking? the sentences form themselves, whole and beautiful, from the thoughts in his bright little mind. as they travel, though, they fragment into sounds and expressions, unintelligible babbles. his eyes darken, his face falls … my heart breaks.

how can i describe what it is like to listen as someone asks, over and over, “ash, can you say…?” his body sags as he shakes his head. he cannot say it. he knows he cannot say it.


how can i describe what it is like to watch his interaction with his world become increasingly withdrawn, as the thoughts that flit across his intelligent face are far to complex for his broken voice? my little introvert, my sensitive boy, with the huge emotions and the huge heart. the child who is always the first to hear a dog bark, to see a squirrel twitch, to see pain in the eyes of another. his world is a place of great beauty and great feeling, but it is locked within him, expressed through a few signs, grunts, and unintelligible word approximations.


how can i describe what it is like to hear this child, with his voice and his private world, utter, unmistakeably, “mama?” he spoke his first “mama” at almost 2, and hasn’t stopped saying it since then. he says, “dada,” too. many times every day he repeats them, “mama, dada, mama, dada” … we jokingly refer to it as roll call. he speaks, “mama” in a voice of fear, a voice of joy, a voice of wonder. he has a whole language of “mama’s,” of inflections and expressions, packed into two little syllables.

how can i describe what it was like this week when my little boy, the boy who barely speaks, told his first joke? the joke was “dada.” (you kind of had to be there.)

he now repeats it, giggling at his wit.

“ash, what does a train say?”
“NO, silly!”

how can i describe the way the pit of my stomach felt when his speech therapist camille pulled out a tablet and started playing games with the speech replacement software, and said, “you should consider getting this app,” and i thought she was hinting that my child would never speak. i stuttered … “will .. he need it … long term?” her face lighted with understanding, and she said no, oh no, he won’t need it forever, it’s just a game, and i exhaled with relief.

how can i describe what it is like to drive him to speech therapy every week, to see his face light up when he sees camille, and to feel the reassurance of her security. she believes in him. she knows how to help him. she knows he will speak. and when my hope flags and my heart hurts, i hear her voice in my head.

“he’s so cute it makes my eyes water.”

she believes in him. and so do we.