The first New England snowfall is a beautiful thing as it covers the landscape in a soft blanket. Floating down to earth in silent tranquility, dressing the naked trees with a sparkling coat of white. Teeth chattering, scarves pulled up over frozen chins; no matter the age, the first snowfall is always a miracle. On this night, as plumes of lazy smoke billowed out of chimneys, a young woman’s moans of pain belied the miracle outside.
“Okay, Elizabeth, push!” the midwife instructed, “Come on, with all of your might, push!”
Letting out the guttural scream of a woman passing a child through her loins, Elizabeth Armstrong brought forth a small baby boy, wet and glistening with birthing fluids. She heard the midwife gasp, saw her panicked look as she whisked the child away.
“What’s wrong.” she cried weakly, “Where are you taking my baby? What’s wrong with my baby!”
Thinking she delivered a stillborn, she wailed like a wild animal, howling in anguish as her husband, Christopher, tried to comfort her.
“Don’t touch me! I want my baby!” she shrieked, slapping his hand away, “Find out where she took my baby, Chris!”
He left, and thirty minutes later came back into his and his wife’s bedroom accompanied by the midwife, a doctor, and a little bundle swaddled in a blue receiving blanket. Sitting up painfully, Elizabeth held out her arms as tears streamed down her face.
“Before I give you this infant,” the doctor said, “There’s something you should know. Your child is born with a rare condition known as Anophthalmia. Only one out of one hundred thousand babies are born with it. Your son, Elizabeth, was born without eyes.” He gently handed her the bundled infant.
Gasping at the tragic news, Elizabeth’s heart shattered into a billion pieces. Her mind tried to grasp the words, “born without eyes”, but couldn’t. She felt like she was suffocating as the world narrowed down to tunneled vision and it was just her and her blind infant. Unwrapping the blankets, oblivious to everything around her, time slowed to a crawl as she pulled it away from the baby’s face. As she got a glimpse of her child’s face, everything looked normal and she thought she was just having a bad dream, until she saw the smooth planes of his eye orbits and knew that she was, indeed, awake. She heard a high keening noise and wondered where it was coming from, until she realized it was her own voice making that sound. The baby was otherwise perfect in every way, right down to his tiny toes. With a cherubic face and a full head of reddish-blonde hair, the infant turned its head towards her breast, rooting for its first feeding.
Elizabeth went from absolute horror to an overwhelming feeling of unconditional love and protectiveness. Pressing her lips against his downy head, she breathed in the wonderful smell of him and her heart was filled with a fierce love. She looked at her husband’s concerned face, noting his tears, and held out her hand.
“He’s beautiful, Chris,” she whispered, “We can do this. We can teach and guide him.”
The midwife and doctor smiled, breathing a sigh of relief. Initial crisis over, they left mother and father alone with their child, closing the door quietly behind them. They would manage. The bond was already in place.
Elizabeth and Chris named their child Asher Alexander, Asher meant miracle and Chris’s middle was Alexander. They held their infant close during awake times, letting him bask in their scent and touch. Talking to him constantly during these times, Asher reacted to his parent’s voices with happiness, kicking his feet and waving his hands as he smiled. They told him what they were doing at all times, careful not to pick him up without letting him know they were there, and requested other’s do the same. He was a sweet, good-natured child with few demands. He grew quickly, a sturdy happy child who didn’t know he was supposed to see.
The evening Cody arrived was unforgettable. Chris arrived home from work as Elizabeth was preparing dinner for three year old Asher, who was sitting near the television listening to children’s songs. Hearing the door open and his father’s deep, booming voice greeting his family, he jumped up yelling his name.
“Daddy! Mommy, daddy’s home!” he called out, making his way expertly to the front hall.
Something was different. His father wasn’t standing as was his usual, he was kneeling instead. Asher stopped, cocking his head quizzically.
“What’cha doing daddy?” he asked, “did you fall?”
He heard his mother gasp, and then felt a large furry body wiggling and whining in his father’s arms.
“Daddy!” he cried out fearfully, jerking his hand back, “What is that?”
Reaching his small hand out tentatively, he touched the animal with wonder. “Daddy, is this a doggy?”
“Yes, Ash, and it’s your doggy,” his father said softly, “His name is Cody, and he’s going to be your eyes.”
Elizabeth had always wanted a dog and her eyes misted as she watched her sightless son touch and explore the German Shepard’s body. Licking the child’s face, the young dog seemed to know instinctively the child was special, taking extra care not to knock him over or scare him. He stood still as Asher’s hands roamed over his body in wonder, the only movement was his wildly wagging tail.
“He’s mine?” Asher asked in awe.
“All yours, buddy,” Chris answered, “But there’s a lot of responsibility having a dog. Think you can handle it?”
“Yes, daddy, I can,” Asher promised, “You sure he’s mine?”
Chris laughed, “Yes, son, he’s yours.”
“Chris, where’d you get him?” Elizabeth asked, kneeling down with Asher to pet the happy animal, “He’s beautiful!”
“A guy at work knew someone who trains dogs for the sightless,” he explained, “He came up to me last week and told me that a six month old pup was almost through with training and if I was interested and of course, I jumped right on it. I didn’t have to pay a dime, Beth. The Seeing Eye Foundation approved my application and bam, we got a dog.”
“Unbelievable!” she exclaimed, “This is amazing! You’re the best daddy in the whole world, right Ash?”
“Daddy is the best daddy!” Asher said, hugging his dog, “How will he help me?”
“Well, according to his handler,” Chris told them, “once Cody’s harness is on, it signals him that it’s time to work. His whole demeanor changes. Watch this.”
Taking the dog’s harness out of his coat pocket, Elizabeth watched and told Asher exactly what happening. Cody immediately came to attention, sitting prettily, ears perked to attention. She described him to Asher in complete detail, understanding that her son couldn’t really comprehend color. She had him feel Cody’s ears, explaining why they were standing up tall, and why the dog was sitting.
Chris slipped on the harness and Cody stood, tail high and wagging slowly as he waited for instruction. Chris told Asher to hold the end of the harness, placing it in his hand. Asher did, and Cody immediately sat down, waiting for the command to move forward.
“Okay, Ash, when you want Cody to move, you have say to say ‘forward’, and he will start walking. You ready?”
“Ready, daddy,” Asher told him, “Forward!”
Cody walked slowly, judging how fast he walked by his little charge’s actions. He led Cody to the front door, walking carefully around obstacles. With tears in her eyes, Elizabeth watched as the young, miracle dog kept her son safe from falling, something that was a daily occurrence.
“Daddy! I want to go for a walk!” Asher said, excited at the prospect of being able to walk with his own dog, “Take me outside, okay?”
Chris looked at Elizabeth with love. Now with Cody here, it would free up some time for his wife who had to watch every move her son made. Life was good.
© 2016, RissRyker518. All rights reserved.
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