Alyssa sat across from me at G.P.’s Diner with a plate of scrambled eggs in front of her. She was picking it up with her hands and stuffing it into her mouth. If this were anyone other than my four year-old granddaughter, I would have lost my appetite for the ham and cheese omelet that lay before me. But Alyssa was different.
My daughter, Bridget, had adopted her a year earlier. The doctors had assured Bridget that there was nothing physically wrong with Alyssa. Her detached behavior and the fact that she didn’t speak was probably due to her being neglected and abused before she went into foster care. She spent the first three years of her life in a tiny room with white walls and no windows. We were told the conditions were quite horrible and she was rarely allowed to leave the room. Bridget had spent this past year teaching Alyssa how to walk and eat on her own. Her mother must have spent very little time with her.
Alyssa finished her eggs and took a few gulps of her orange juice. She rested her hands on the table and looked out the big window that separated us from the outside world. She was especially drawn to the shopping center right next door. There were signs in many colors hanging above the shop doors. Although it was just midmorning, people were already out shopping. Cars of every hue pulled in and drove away. These were our front row seats that we occupied every Saturday morning. Alyssa loved people watching. I took her to the park once. But here, tucked away in our little booth, I think she felt more at ease. It was my way of spending time with Alyssa and giving Bridget some time to recuperate.
“Look at that bright blue sky!” I hadn’t noticed how beautiful it was before. There were no clouds and it was the purest color blue I had ever seen.
Alyssa looked up at the sky. Then she looked at me. I repeated the words.
“Can I get you some more coffee?” The waitress had a coffee pot in one hand. She used her other hand to point towards my coffee mug. Alyssa followed her finger with her eyes.
“No, thank you. Can we have the check, please?”
By the time we got home, Bridget was already cooking lunch.
“There she is!” She reached down and hugged Alyssa. Alyssa didn’t respond. Instead, she headed straight for her bedroom.
“How was it?” she asked softly.
“Great! As always.”
We sat down on the couch and talked for a while. Alyssa’s doctor had said that it appeared she understood most of what was being said to her. The only thing holding her back from speaking was her.
“They say she may never talk, but if she does it’ll be when she’s ready.” My daughter’s heart seemed heavy as she said this. I felt a lump in my throat as I held back tears.
When it was time for me to go, I walked to Alyssa’s room to tell her good-bye. She was sitting on the window seat looking out. I walked over to her and sat down. She was looking at the sky.
I sat there with her silently, both of us looking up.
So many times I had wondered how God could let something like this happen to my granddaughter. As I sat there, looking at the beautiful cloudless sky I prayed.
Alyssa looked over at me. She raised her hand to the bright afternoon sky and said, “boo.”
My eyes grew wide and my heart pounded. I drew a breath.
“Yes. Alyssa, it is blue. It’s a blue sky!”
We tried to get her to say it again. We showed her things that were blue at first. She seemed uninterested. We tried getting her to say other colors. She just stared out the window.
“Well, I’m thankful for what we can get. I’ll let her therapist know tomorrow.” Bridget said as I was leaving.
I left that day knowing everything would be fine with Alyssa. Her mind had moved out of that white-walled prison from which she had come. I couldn’t wait for the next weekend when we went out people watching. There were so many things for her to see. Driving home that day, I said a prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for such a colorful world.
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