I believe that some of the best stories begin with, well, you see, there was this girl….
In 1992, when we moved out to Carnation, Nick was 13 and he fell in love. That is pretty normal for a teenage boy. To Nick, Emilee Jo Soptich was the most beautiful girl he had met. When saw her at church each week, he would run over to her, grab her hand and kiss it. You might be thinking, “Such a gentleman!” However, Emilee didn’t seem to mind that many times the kiss was very wet. You have to understand that Nick finds it funny to see how long the string of drool could go from his mouth to the back of her hand. She would laugh at him and say, “Oh Nick!” as she wiped her hand off on his shirt. He was always very excited to see Emilee at church. I was always very grateful for her tenderness with my son.
Life was even better for Nick when he was finally enrolled at the local middle school here in Carnation. He got to see Emilee every day at school. She told me that, for her, the best part of middle school was hanging out with Nick in the resource room.
As the years passed, I would often ask him about her and he would always say, “I love Emilee, she loves me.” Their’s was a special relationship. Nick didn’t seem to mind that Emilee and his friend Paul had fallen in love and were dating. He knew that they were a couple, and he knew that she loved him. I was a little concerned for his feelings. I didn’t need to worry. You see Paul loves Nick as much as Emilee does.
When things followed the natural progression in their relationship and they had decided to marry, an incredible, unexpected thing happened. After the traditional talk that Paul had with Emilee’s father, he and Em came out to our house to talk with Nick. Nick was very excited to see both of them.
I will always remember with great emotion, Paul quietly explaining to Nick that he and Emilee were in love and wanted to get married. He told Nick that he loved her very much and that he wanted to know if it was ok with Nick that they get married. Nick didn’t say anything. And of course, none of us knew what he would say. All of us were looking at one another, wondering what would happen next. Paul further stated his case. He is an attorney now, so this was good practice. Still Nick didn’t answer him. Finally Paul was begging, “Please Nick, Please. I want to marry Emilee. Please.”
Nick looked Paul straight in the eye, and taking a deep breath, said, “It’s ok, you marry Emilee.” We were all relieved. Paul and Emilee both hugged Nick, thanking him. As they drove away, Nick said to me. “I love both Paul and Emilee.” I told him that they loved his too. And they still do.
When I hear professionals talk about full inclusion in educational and social settings, I wonder if they really understand the beauty of fully including a person with special needs, immersing them in all aspects of life, love and learning. Full inclusion has been my goal for the past 37 years with my son and I love sharing these stories with others.
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