The trust afforded to Zach (mentioned in the 5/1/21 post) was not something that came automatically. Zach earned every bit of it. Before truly “trusting” him he first had to demonstrate his intelligence and awareness. May sound silly (shouldn’t we all just trust our kids unconditionally?). But special needs and all, Zach was a rambunctious pre-teen. We joke to this day, about the time Zach went out of his way to show us he knows everything that goes on. He just doesn’t show it by talking much.

One morning, over a decade ago when Zach was 9 or 10 years old, I’d helped him board the school bus as per our usual routine. His Dad was on his way to work when he asked me if I’d seen a particular ring of his, which he wore daily. To say a little more, we’d learned to store all “valuables” at a height above Zach’s reach. Knowing his affinity for clenching small objects, we didn’t want to lose things like our wedding bands.

On this morning like most, Zach had mulled around our room while all three of us got the day started. When the bus pulled away, Zach’s Dad was sure, he’d put it on the dresser in the habitual place he’d put his watch and wedding band before bed. The watch and the wedding band were there, but the second ring was missing. We decided to text the bus aide for fear that perhaps Zach had it in his hand on the bus.

To no avail. The bus aide reported he had his marble, but no ring. “It will turn up” I assured him. “It’s not like it could just disappear.”

When Zach returned from school that day, I asked him directly: “Zach, have you seen Daddy’s ring?” He replied slowly, but intentionally “Daddy’s ring?” His tone neither confirmed, nor denied any knowledge of what I was talking about. Over the next couple of days, life was busy as usual and we didn’t think much of it. I was sure it would turn up, and there was no time to “spend” on a search.

But every so often, Zach would utter “Daddy’s ring?

UGH!” Ok we needed to conduct a full on search. Between Zach’s repeated utterances of “Daddy’s ring?” Combined with an authentic fear that this sentimental gift of his Dad’s was actually gone, a sense of urgency arose. We turned that town house upside down. Toy bins dumped and cleaned out. Cupboards (at least as high as the shelves Zach could reach) were unpacked, wiped down and searched. Carpets were scanned on our hands and knees. We looked under the refrigerator and all cracks and crevices hoping to find it.

All the while, it was hard to imagine that this young person who had limited verbal ability and until this point hadn’t ever shown us how well his mind actually worked, could have not only taken that ring, but intentionally stashed it somewhere. Seemed beyond his level of intellectual functioning. I told his Dad “You must have lost it. It is no where in the house and Zach certainly isn’t playing hide and seek with it.”

Weeks passed. I somewhat forgot about it. Certainly, Zach’s Dad did not. But we were both reminded every so often when Zach would do things like come into our room in the morning and slowly say “Daddy’s ring?” It began to feel like a taunt, like he was reminding us of this unsolved mystery and he wanted to keep playing the game.

Seriously Zach?” His Dad would say. It was like a wound being reopened again and again, but with a hint of playfulness like Zach knew something we didn’t.

More than a month later, I was preparing for a business meeting one morning. Both Zach and his Dad already left for the day, and I went to my home office which was the bottom floor (and not a space used much by anyone but me) of our town home. I had a few different briefcases there, which spanned from casual to formal, depending on the client. That day, I chose the Kenneth Cole black leather bag, the one with several compartments for different files (pre-digital world of course.)

As I emptied the bag to clear it of anything I would not need for this particular meeting, I felt in my hand, a heavy, circular, cold object that felt exactly like, you guessed it: Daddy’s ring!

Perplexed, I tried to imagine how it got there. Could I have somehow put it there? Didn’t make any sense.

Until it did. I remembered Zach’s playful taunts and how he wouldn’t let us forget about it. “Daddy’s ring?” Again and again, at the seemingly most random times. I was blown away by the unmistakeable reality that Zach’s brain was functioning just fine! It might have been how parents feel when their child first rides a bike, or walks or talks. An indisputable demonstration of a skill that until that moment, hadn’t revealed itself.

This was a celebration indeed! Yes, great to have the ring which was a sentimental piece for Zach’s father. But for me, it was the realization that despite a lot of perceived evidence to the contrary, Zach had intelligence that enabled him to engage in such an intentional, playful act. We would never again assume his mind was any less active than our own. Maybe he couldn’t speak it out, but his actions were proof that higher functioning was not only possible, but happening.

To this day, we still joke about “Daddy’s ring” and how Zach played his parents for weeks, even though he couldn’t say much. This was the beginning of the trust he’d earned, in a devilish plot to prove he knew, and knows now, exactly everything that goes on, exactly all the time.

Little bugger!

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