It's also three years since the humming started - loud and anxious and usually accompanied by pacing nervously from room to room. Soon after, he shocked us by spelling his name with letter blocks, leaving the J-O-H-N neatly lined up on the floor and then moving on to other toys. A host of other surprises followed, each a tiny glimpse into his knowledge of shapes, numbers, letters, colors. Little bits of information picked up and locked in his brain, rarely escaping for the world to see.
It's been two years since he fell in love with signs. Stop sign, No Parking sign, Odd-Even Parking sign, Street, Caution, Yield, Deaf Person in Area - any placard on a post. For two years our walks around the neighborhood have been a zig-zag from sign to sign, with a pause to touch each rusty post, look up at the sign, and move on to the next.
And it's been two years since he waded into the ocean for the first time, holding my hand as the gentle but icy waves knocked him over again and again, uncontrollable giggles following each swell.
It's been a year since he's been able to form the overly loud, one-word commands or brief fragments of language that express his wants and needs. Shouts of "MILK!" or "ALL DONE!" have allowed us to replace our trial-and-error appeasement.
It's been only a few days since he climbed atop his new bike, facing the wrong direction, before I had finished assembling it, repeating over and over "A new biy-ke! A new biy-ke!" And only a few days since he plucked the strings of his new guitar, playing it on the neck and sending it out of key within minutes.
Five years of firsts. Five years of diapers, tears, frustrations, embarrassing tantrums, and concerned talks with therapists and doctors. Five years of giggles, funny endearing looks, courageous and joyful trips down the waterslide, and shocking little glimpses into the thoughts trapped in his mind.
Five years of loving my little boy.
David Tyler is the publisher of Eagle Newspapers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.