Ryan just celebrated his 8th birthday and a good friend made him a spectacular t-shirt with the words ‘Meems Rule’ emblazoned on the front. He was still wearing the shirt today – three days after he received it – because the meem (omnipresent in our house) is Ryan’s signature invention.
Ryan coined the term ‘meem’ when he was probably three-years-old and it’s been part of our family lexicon ever since. A meem is any kind of a happy face, but without a nose (this is important…happy faces with noses do not qualify.) Puffles are meems. Ugly dolls are meems. Monster Factory toys are meems.
I find it fascinating that a boy who is not supposed to ‘get’ faces recognizes and celebrates them in all their various forms. Yet another reminder that a diagnosis is just a collection of symptoms – not a definition of who a person is.
Preschool was sometimes tough for Ryan, but I remember one day hearing the kids in his class talking about meems and I had to smile. His little language was finding its way into their hearts and minds, just like it had in our own household. In Grade One the ‘meem mystique’ took hold once again – with the entire class creating and talking about meems. The word is still part of that classroom’s vernacular and even though they’ve all advanced to Grade Two I still hear them mention meems on the playground.
To me, a meem is a celebration of Ryan’s unique way of looking at the world. His experience doesn’t defy description – it just has his own personal definition.
After I wrote my post about Enough House, a neighbour wrote to me about Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche movement. Vanier deeply believes that people with disabilities are our teachers. They are here to transform us – not the other way around.
Ryan’s meems have taught our household so much – they don’t judge. They love unconditionally. They right wrongs. They comfort and calm. They make us giggly and goofy. They even help us eat our peas and brush our teeth.
Oh to have the powers of a meem! Every now and then I hear Ryan apologize for some transgression (usually minor) and I catch myself – am I correcting him again? Am I asking him to alter his behaviour again? Is it really necessary? Is it really important?
At times like these it is abundantly clear that I still have a lot to learn from Ryan and his menagerie of meems. But that’s okay. I’ve got the will and Ryan is clearly going to show me the way!