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At Last!
It took me longer than I really expected, but I am finally beginning. I'm tired of waiting for that quiet inspired moment to arrived. I believe God told me to create that moment myself. So, here I am, late on a Saturday night in early September, 1995. I'm beginning the story that I have wanted to tell for several years now.
The story is about Tabitha, who is my older daughter. She is now 14 years old and she has a peculiar neurological disorder called....well, something. Several different names have emerged over the years, many of which have mostly fit her condition, but none perfectly.
A Tabithism, by the way, is an action or saying that is unique to Tabitha. There are hundreds of Tabithisms, it seems. We will mention several as the story unfolds.

We call it crabwalking, I suppose, because no one has bothered to think of a better name. But when Tabitha is in the midst of this behavior, she is actually in a upside-down three point stance. That is, both feet and the top of her head are on the ground. The rest of her body is arched upward. Despite the name, she doesn't move.
Her eyes are closed and she seems to be in deep concentration. While she is in this position, her hands seem to be moving some invisible object from her mouth down both side of her face.
This behavior lasts an average of one minute. When complete she gets up and continues whatever she was doing before. Then, she seems rather normal, although she often claims to have no remembrance of the behavior.
She can be interrupted, and we often do so. Sometimes she cooperates when we pull her to her feet. When she doesn't, she'll groan or scream and then collapse to the floor and attempt to continue. (I now recall that a counselor at the Mustard Seed Camp, a summer camp for handicapped and special ed kids, said that a water pistol was helpful for ending her displays when the group was scheduled to move on to another activity.)
Once I tried to discourage her by imitating her behavior. I discovered that I didn't have the strength or flexibility to hold this position more than a few seconds. Remember that I said the top of her head made contact? She bends her head back so far that her eyes, if open, would look along the floor. I couldn't bend my head that far. I guess that months of practice have perfected this Tabithism.
Those same months of practice have worn a bald spot down the middle of her scalp. This makes me sad because she has such beautiful hair.
Tabitha has the wisdom to perform this behavior only on a well-padded surface, such as our downstairs carpet at home. When such a surface is not available, she performs the "standing crabwalk", during which she backs up to a vertical object, such as a wall or post. Then she bends her neck way back so that the top of her head touches the wall. Again the manual/facial movements are obvious.
Stress Factor
All of her obsessive, compulsive behaviors, or OCBs, seem to be a reaction to personal stress. I'm tempted to call it an involuntary reaction, but it doesn't always fit.
She never "OCBs" when circumstances are favorable for her. For example, her behaviors are never seem during a meal that she is enjoying or when her social plans are working out the way she wanted.
A typically stressful moment for Tabitha happened after church this past Sunday morning. To understand this incident you must understand that being with as many of her friends as often as possible is a constant compulsion.
Like she does at every possible moment of every waking hour, she asks to be with a friend. This time, she asked her Aunt Debbie if she can come over to her house this afternoon after church and play with her cousin April. (If Debbie says yes, this does not necessarily mean that Tabitha will have an acceptable afternoon. It simply means that her afternoon is likely to be nominally better than if her aunt said no.)
April wasn't in church this morning due to illness. Tabitha was reminded of this several times before her initial question. Didn't matter. She asked anyway.
"I'm sorry, Tabitha," Aunt Debbie explains, "April is sick today. Maybe another time."
"But Aunt Debbie, do you think that if I'm really good that maybe I could come over and play with Kaitlin?" (April's sister).
"No, Tabitha, you see..."
"Aunt Debbie, if I don't pester you and I don't crabwalk, do you think I could see April this afternoon?"
Tabitha is quickly entering a phase of relentless pursuit. What follows is a series of nearly identical questions, all of which have the intent of being with April. She not only seems to ignore each negative response, but she seems to be almost oblivious to her aunt's answers. Her entire body is trembling during this period.
Finally, she sees Aunt Debbie's family getting into her van and it appears inevitable that she will return home with her father. When she sees that her social plan will fail, she launches into an OCB on a nearby car in the church parking lot. She leans backward over the car as far as possible, while using her hands to grapple with unseen forces in the vicinity of her face. (By the way, she has the wisdom to perform the crabwalk on a soft carpet at home and not on an asphalt parking lot.)
This OCB will not be interrupted gracefully. Debbie and I struggle, at first unsuccessfully, to move her to our car. She drops to the pavement like a mule that will not cooperate. Finally, I pull with all my strength while pinching her skin. She moves in the right direction, yelling and hitting.
Though I wasn't looking, I'm sure that we were stared at by much of the congregation. But perhaps not as much as last week, or the week before. After all, it's the same show every Sunday.
Junkie Lookalike
Tabitha has some disturbing characteristics that remind me of a serious drug addict. Any lie, any manipulation, any deed that she perceives will accomplish her short term objectives (i.e., her fix) are acceptable.
"Mom said that I could call Tara", is a typical lie that is intended to achieve her goal. Her lies are very poorly planned. Often, she will openly and falsely quote someone who is present. Her surprise when they say, "I never said that, Tabitha" frequently appears genuine.
Her "fix" is being with her friends, or getting to the telephone to talk to her friends.
But the substance abuser at least has a brief interval of serenity when the chemical overtakes his/her mind an body. Not so with Tabitha. For all her obsessive desire to be with her friends, she is often unhappy when her friends are present. She doesn't seem to know how to be a friend.
April, Tara, and Susan are her three best friends and she would do anything to be with them. I know that because many times I would be physically restraining her from the telephone, when she would say, "Please Dad, I'll do anything"!! Her face would have the expression of an overdue junkie. Her body would shake.
Yet when they are with her, she would often withdraw to the next room, hide in the bathroom or basement for a very long time. When we threaten to take her friends home if she won't be friendly, she protests, sometimes to the point of hysteria. But it's only her voice. The rest of her body won't respond.
I just reviewed the monthly phone bill. Tara's number is a toll call. Tabitha racked up $9.31 in calls this past month just to Tara. On August 10, 1995, she called Tara six times. Her third call was at 4:04 PM; her fourth at 4:06.
The Bus
Like other days, Tabitha went to school on Monday, September 11. It was the typical fight to get her on the bus. I dragged her across the living room in the middle of a Tabithism. She groaned. I used a hammerlock to move her across the front yard to the bus. As she was about to board, she dropped to the ground for one more crabcrawl. While she uttered ghostly moanings, I finally pulled her to her feet and pushed her on the bus. I smiled to the driver and wished him a nice day.
That morning there was a emergency Tabitha summit meeting at her school. Because Kathy was sick, I went alone. (That was the first school meeting she ever missed.) I left for her school shortly after her bus left with Tabitha.
On the way, I was driving along Route 38. It was rush hour and the road had lots of traffic. There was a school bus traveling in my direction just ahead of me. It was not Tabitha's bus.
The bus had to pick up a kid. The bus pulled over and all its red lights came on to signal all traffic to stop. A child came running across the front lawn and quickly boarded the bus. By the time the bus pulled away, traffic was backed up by nearly 100 yards.
Suppose our family lived at that house, I thought to myself. Suppose the bus picked up Tabitha at that house each day. Imagine Barry and I pulling, pushing, and dragging Tabitha across that wide front yard while fighting those non-stop Tabithisms.
Our audience might be backed up for 1/4 mile, or perhaps a 1/2 mile, or even a full mile. Rush hour traffic on that major roadway would come to a total halt for three to five minutes. Imagine drivers swearing, Tabitha spacing, and myself straining.
As I would finally shove her through the bus door, I might hear a radio traffic report. "We have a tie-up westbound on Route 38 in Moorestown...."
I laughed for the remainder of my drive to school.
The Girl who couldn't stop calling
This is a paraphrase from the title of a book about kids like Tabitha that is written by Dr. Judith Rappaport. Her title was "The Boy who Couldn't Stop Washing." My title is closer to home.
As we discussed earlier, Tabitha is a phone hog. She has behaviors that drive her to call her friends in rapid-fire regularity. I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard the following phone "conversation."
Tabitha is twirling on one foot, tapping the phone and shrieking when April answers. "Oh, hi April, do you want to come over to my house and play and stay over night"?, she blurts out with her usual frenzied desperation.
Due to prior plans, April must decline. Since I'm not on the phone, I can only guess what April's words are. "I'm sorry, Tabitha. Tonight I must iron my shoe laces". Although April is far too considerate to offer such a frivolous excuse, my point is that April can say anything, even accept the invitation. Tabitha's intensity is unchanged. But what she does next is clever.
"April, do you want to talk to my mom"? Tabitha does have the smarts to know that her social plans work better when Kathy arranges the occasion. She quickly puts the phone down before April can answer.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Tabitha!!!!!!!!!!!! But it doesn't matter because Tabitha never hears April's answer, which, again, is more polite than my extreme one.
"Mom, April wants to talk to you."
This has been a challenging issue for us. She is the most defiant, the most rebellious, the most disobedient child that has ever had a childhood. (Perhaps I feel this way because I'm her dad, and her problems seem more severe to me. Yet it seems that no other parent has had this type of problem before.)
Because we are Christians, we believe the Bible to be God's perfect guideline for all human existence on earth, including child discipline. Because the book of Proverbs is part of God's Word, it, too, is God-breathed. Consider what God says in these pages:
   He that spareth the rod, hateth his child (13:24)
   The blueness of the wound cleanseth away evil (20:30)
   Chasten thy child while there is still hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying (19:18)
   Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him (22:15)
   Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (23:14,15)
Some of these passages, especially the last one, might make many liberals shudder. But Kathy and I have tried to apply this guidance in a Godly manner. We have used the rod, and I know that the physical pain must have been severe. I'm a big guy, and, with few exceptions, I used the rod with all my strength.
We strive to pray with Tabitha before this punishment is applied. The prayer would typically be, "Lord, please help Tabitha to obey."
There were two reasons for praying. First, Tabitha might understand that God cares very much about her behavior. Second, that the Holy Spirit might have an opportunity to control me as I carry out the punishment.
I must confess that I don't always remember to pray. Sometimes spanking is administered with too much anger and not enough love. I feel very badly about this.
Tabitha greatly resents spanking. She is becoming more physically violent toward others. Is this due to physical punishment of her?
I need to add two more very important passages to my earlier list:
   Fathers, provoke not thy children to wrath, lest they be discouraged (Colossians 3: 21)
   He that ruleth his spirit is mightier than he that taketh a city (Proverbs 16:32)
I made a discovery today that I believe that I knew for some time now. But to accept it, I needed to see an unmistable demonstration.
Yesterday evening (10/11/95), Tabitha, Barry and I were sitting in the car in the IBC parking lot. Tabitha was in the midst of a most compelling Tabithism. She was arched over the back seat and pulling desperately at her mouth. Nothing, I thought, would interrupt her this time.
A cat ran across the parking lot. We saw only her silhouette. "There goes a kitty", I said with a disinterested tone to my voice.
"Where?", said Tabitha. She immediately snapped out of her trance, opened the car door with the intent of following the cat. Barry had to restrain her from running off into the night.
Since this discovery I have been using the kitty trance-busting method with diminishing success as Tabitha is getting wise to me.
I guess that my brain is a little slow at simple associations, but as I finished writing this, I recall that on several occasions we would all leave the house as a family, or I should say at least four of us. Tabitha would be in her inverted 3-point stance while the rest of us were hurrying out the door.
We would let her think that we would leave her there. But after we all climbed into the car and started the motor and pulled to the end of the driveway, Tabitha would usually coming running out the door.
She can control it!
   He that ruleth his spirit is mightier than he that taketh a city (16:32)
More Violence
Today (10/16/95) was Tabitha's worst school day ever. Ms. Bernacki called at about 3:30 to report that Tabitha spent almost the entire day in never-never land, and when she returned, she attacked and injured two staff members.
When she called, we were being visited by Ms. Susan Fatman, a representative from New Jersey's Division of Development Disabilities. She was trying to help us find relief from Tabitha so that all of us, especially Kathy could heal. (Kathy, by the way is currently suffering from Fibromyalgia, a stress-related illness that causes arthritic-like pains throughout the body.)
Harder than I thought
On October 23, 1995, Tabitha returned to the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center for the third time in seven months.
Although we were very grateful for the relief that we received at home, we knew that she was returning to a place that really hadn't helped her very much in the past. We believe that the Philadelphia Seashore House may have been better suited for her needs. She had an evaluation there on the same day that she was admitted to PCGC, but the waiting list there was two to four months long.
This time, I vowed, our visitation policy with Tabitha would be different. Because Kathy needed almost as much healing as Tabitha, we both agreed to no more than two visits per week. More than that would introduce more stress, which is exactly why Kathy's health is now suffering.
A few days after her admission, she called us while we were away from home. In fact, she called twice and left two messages on the machine. In both messages, I could hear her frustration after the recording answered her call. I heard her unhappiness over her surroundings. I heard her crying as the staff member had to restrain Tabitha and remove the phone from her grasp.
I overestimated my ability to keep this vow.
The Roller Coaster
Dr. Edgar Hernandez called from PCGC on Monday, November 6. Tabitha had been on Prozac for just a day, and he already reported improvement in Tabitha's behavior. It was the first positive news we received since...well, I can't remember.
The next day, Kathy and I, and Cherish, Barry, Scott, and April went for a visit. Tabitha was a wreck. Obsessions, persistence, food-mongering, and a dramatic display when we departed left us very disheartened.
The next day, Dr. Hernandez said that Prozac was being stopped, and replaced by Clozaril, a powerful anti-psychotic drug with a dangerous side effect. Unless blood is measured regularly, the white cells can plunge dramatically.
Dr. Simonson says that about a week and a half will be needed to see the result. That's about how much insurance time is left. Stay tuned.
The Summit Meeting
My guess is that Tuesday, November 22 will be remembered as one of the more significant days of Tabitha's life.
The day began at Burlington County Special Services School, where another Tabitha summit meeting convened. Present were ...
   Dr. Harry Veahy, the head of the Maple Shade Child Study Team;
   Mrs. Shirley Maglietta, the BCSSS psychologist;
   Mrs. Susan Fatman from DDD, a state agency for the disabled;
   Mrs. Jill Gibson, an aide hired by the Maple Shade school district for exclusive purpose of controlling Tabitha;
   Mrs. Denise Scott, a BCSSS counselor;
   Mrs. Rosalind Kind;
   Kathy, and
Also present by telephone was Dr. Edgar Hernandez, who has been Tabitha's doctor at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. Although he was sick at home, he made an extra effort to participate; for which we were quite grateful.
Dr. Hernandez began by recommending a one month trial period at BCSSS, during which Tabitha would be subject to a carefully measured behavior program. Next, Mrs. McGuffin read Dr. Andrew Simonson's hospital report aloud, which suggested a similar program.  
For the remainder of the meeting, Dr. Veahy lead the brain pool to complete that customized program, just for Tabitha. It was to be a highly structured guideline for both school and home with behavior evaluations every half hour. This part of the meeting made me just a bit uncomfortable. This plan would require just a bit more consistency and organization in my own life.
Finally, the meeting was almost over. I had something to say, the words for which I had been practicing for some time.
"Before we adjourn, I just wanted to share my thoughts about our objective. The people who are the most familiar with Tabitha and her wild and crazy and sometimes dangerous behaviors are seated at this table. Dr. Veahy, knowing what he knows about Tabitha, is recommending this school for Tabitha. The rest of you, who are equally understanding of Tabitha's behaviors, are agreeing.
"The purpose of saying all this is simply this: I'm going to feel just a little disappointed if Mr. Freeburn calls me some morning next week and tells me that Tabitha has to come home. Her behavior is out of control.
"Before she went to PCGC, Tabitha frequently came home early due to her behaviors. Now we know that until medicine can help her, these behaviors are part of what Tabitha is. So if you call me, I will remind you that BCSSS was the recommended place for the complete package called Tabitha. So get back in there and give that kid an education.
"Please let me emphasize that I have the highest regard and respect for the professional skills of everyone present this morning. I know I speak for Kathy also. But if you guys can't make this plan work for six hours, what chance do a pair of untrained parents have for 18 hours, plus weekends and holidays?"
The Great Escape
But Tabitha will remember 11/22/95 because that's the day that Tabitha broke out of PCGC, hopefully for the last time.
Before her discharge, Dr. Simonson gave us exhaustive instructions about Tabitha's medication., which includes heavyweights as Clozaril, Luvox, Cogentin, Depakoate, and Benedryl. More information is provided about these later.
Finally, Kathy, Tabitha, and I pulled out of the driveway and headed home. Although I knew that struggles were waiting for us, it felt good to have Tabitha with us.
"It's great to have you with us again, Tabitha. Despite all the difficulties, I missed you very much."
Before she went to bed that night, she was using scissors to cut hair off Cherish's doll. Then Tabitha would tape the doll's hair to the ends of her own hair. Her hair isn't long enough, she said.
"Dear Jesus, please intervene for Tabitha's sake."
The Pills
A wide range of "psychopharmacological" medications have entered Tabitha. Melloril, Anafrinil, Prozac, Rittelin, Risperidal, Loxipine, Cogentin, Lithium, Depakote, Luvox, to name a few. When Tabitha had symptoms of no more than autistic spectral disorder, she was taking the Melloril and the Anafrinil.
But in January, 1995, her OCBs arrived. By March, she made her first stay at PCGC. That's when her medications escalated, in both intensity and quantity.
But none have been helpful. Several side effects have come and gone while looking for the right mix. (Loxipine, for example, caused a mysterious rolling of the eyes upward. Cogentin seemed to fix this.)
I decided to maintain a tabular record of Tabitha's medications, beginning on 11/21/95, the day Tabitha was discharged from PCGC for the third time in eight months. (I use a logarithmic scale so that I can include all medications on the same table.)
After one week on Clozaril, Tabitha is showing very noticeable improvement. Her obsessive habits, such as twirling, crabwalking, hair-pulling, etc., are less frequent, of shorter duration, of less intensity, and more easily distractible. "Keep those prayers coming", is what I told the Wednesday evening prayer service.
The Blob
Tabitha has a brain tumor. It is located on a gland in the center of the brain called the thalamus. This tumor was first identified by an MRI at CHOP in April, 1995. The following July, a second MRI showed that the tumor is really real.
It's called a low-grade glioma. This means that it's growing very slowly, if it's growing at all. The size and shape in July was very close to the size and shape in April. This is both good news and bad news. Because it's so quiet, it's not considered life threatening. However, it can't be touched surgically; not just because it's so deep. Because it's not growing, radiation will not have any affect.
But is the tumor causing the Tabithisms? Dr Michael Needle, a neuro-oncologist from CHOP and Dr. Douglas Hyder, a neurologist from CHOP seem to feel that there is not a clear relationship between Tabitha's behaviors and the location of the tumor. Dr. Needle said that even if the tumor could be removed safely, Tabitha's behavior may not improve at all.
But all the doctors seem to agree seem to agree on this. The odds that there is no relationship between a tumor of this nature and behaviors of this nature is very, very remote.
But the tumor's location does explain Tabitha's eating habits.
And Many More...
Our family zealously protects the ritual of the birthday party. No matter how old or how young you are, if you're a member of the Barben/Ford/Yarnell clan, you get a birthday party, complete with cake, candles and song, and that's it.
Tabitha adds her own little spin at the end of every rendition of the birthday song. After the final "happy birthday to you", Tabitha would always add:
"And many more, on channel 4; and then again, on channel 10
and scubie-doo, on channel 2; and GI Joe on HBO", and a big fat lady on channel 80, etc.
And usually, all the younger cousins would join in. This is how Tabitha would build upon the family tradition of birthday.
All this being said, we now move to the 1995 Christmas Eve service at Immanual Baptist Church. All five of us were there. It was a moving celebration of the birth of our Lord. The traditional Christmas music, the voices in the congregation, and the message all contributed to the significance of the season.
On most Christmas Eve services, we would normally conclude with a candle-light singing of Silent Night. Because the message stressed the meaning of Jesus' birthday, this year we sang "Happy Birthday, dear Jesus" instead.
I didn't realize what was about to happen until the final few notes to the last line. I turned to Kathy and pointed to Tabitha. Kathy didn't know what I was trying to do as I desperately tried to stop Tabitha. I was too late.
When the last note ended, Tabitha began her solo:
"And many more, on channel 4..."
I'm commonly asked whether Tabitha is responsible for her behavior. Does she know what she is doing? Or is she a powerless victim of that knot that's stuck in her gray matter?
My personal opinion is that she is fully accountable for her words and deeds just as all the rest of us are. An incident from my own personal life helps me to understand this.
Way back in 1969, I was on leave from the Navy. I wasn't a Christian then and my activities would sometimes show that. On a Wednesday evening while I was home, Rex, Corky and I had a "hump" party. You see, when Wednesday evening arrived, the work week was more than half gone; "over the hump", so to speak. Clearly, observance of the occasion was needed.
On this warm Wednesday evening the three of us were drinking beer under a dark summer sky behind my Alma Mater, Moorestown Friends School. I was not an experienced drinker and I quickly had more than discretion would permit.
Soon I found myself celebrating my chemically induced euphoria by running, no, make that floating, across the MFS soccer field. The moon was at least five times its normal size. The cool night breeze made me invincible. Nothing, I thought, could possibly interrupt the unparalleled bliss of this moment.
Nothing, perhaps, except for the flashing lights of a recently arrived police car containing a pair of uniformed gentlemen who wanted to know how we were spending this beautiful evening.
At that moment, on that evening, I learned a lesson about inebriation that I have never forgotten. Despite how detached I thought I was from reality, I discovered an uncanny ability to sober up instantly when there was a clear and compelling reason in my immediate best interests to do so. I had to work harder to do it than I normally would have. But I did it all the same.
"Good evening, Officer. May I help you", were my remarkably steady words. Seconds earlier, I would not have been able to even enunciate any of those words.
Now, back to my original point. Tabitha also has that uncanny ability to behave normally when circumstances are clearly to her advantage to do so. Despite the physical difficulties, she can "sober up", and quickly too. A considerable effort on her part is necessary, just as mine was one evening many years ago.
Oh, in case you're interested in how that incident ended with the police. I showed him my leave papers and my armed forces ID and they told us to move along and behave ourselves for the rest of the night.
What Cup do you want?!!!
Tabitha usually sets the table for dinner. When it's time to put out the cups, she gathers many cups in both hands and walks around the house.
When she finds someone, she will ask, “What cup do you want for dinner”? She won't leave without an answer. The response, “Tabitha, you decide.” or “Tabitha, surprise me.” are not acceptable. Each of us must pick a cup so that dinner preparation can continue.
This particular Tabithism is reminiscent of the “boy fork, girl fork” era back when Tabitha was around six or seven. Each piece of tableware had a gender way back then. Tabitha's highest indignation was felt when the gender of the diner did not match that of his/her tableware.
The Questions
Nobody asks hypothetical questions like Tabitha. Here are a few examples:
1. Dad, what would you do if the Statue of Liberty became alive?
2. Dad, what would you do if you had to go to jail whenever you yawn?
3. Dad, what would you do if that bull were still alive today? (Tabitha showed me a picture in the dictionary of a drawing done by an ancient cave dweller.)
4. Dad, what would you tell Uncle Al if you saw him decorating a telephone pole with Christmas lights?
5. 4/28/97: Dad, what would you do if you saw a 10-foot caterpillar?
6. 5/9/97: Dad, what would you do if Jesus were made of chocolate?
7. 6/29/97: Dad, what would you do if you saw a baby with feet the size of BJ's? (16).
8. 11/11/97: Dad, what would you do if you were arrested each time you sneeze?
What I hope never changes about Tabitha
Tabitha is the world's friendliest kid. She will walk right up to complete strangers (usually younger kids) and be their friend. (We had to go to some effort to discourage her from doing this habit with strange teenage boys!)
I'll never forget when Tabitha and I were walking toward the Moorestown K-Mart from SonShine Christian Bookstore. I was feeling just a little frustrated over Tabitha's constant obsessive behaviors. I felt that I was constantly threatening Tabitha with some extreme punishment if she didn't stop.
Coming down the sidewalk was a Dad pushing his daughter in a wheelchair. She was looking sad. Tabitha hurried right up to her and said, “Hi, my name is Tabitha, What's your name?”
That little girl smiled a big smile. Her dad did too. Tabitha had just made this kid happy, if just for a moment. I felt  this child's happiness, admiration for Tabitha's gift, and some embarrassment over how I must have come across as a mean-spirited parent. I hope I learned something that day.
What I hope never changes about Tabitha (part 2)
Tabitha has a remarkable capacity for sharing. She has a keen sensitivity for animals and younger children. Finally, there is absolutely no one who is too abnormal for Tabitha to fully accept.
Finally, her memory is rather remarkable. On 8/14/98 we were at Dorney Park on vacation. While standing in line for the Steel Force ride, Kathy asked some teenage girls in front of her how long the wait would be. Tabitha spoke to these girls for no longer than 30 seconds.
Nearly two weeks later (8/27), Kathy and the girls were in Ocean City with Glen and his mom. In a crowded dollar store on a crowded boardwalk, Tabitha recognized one of the girls that was in line ahead of us at Dorney park. She walked up to her and reintroduced herself. She was right.
Can you do that?  
What I said at Harvey Cedars
Every year in late September or early October, there is a Christian men's conference at the Harvey Cedars Christian Conference Center in Harvey Cedars. I have noticed that each year the leadership of this conference attempts to encourage men to do what comes so easy for the ladies, and that is the honest and forthright sharing of their  hidden and deepest feelings.
So often I would fail as I listened to other, braver men, talk about those subjects that move them most, sometimes to tears. I wanted to contribute, but I lacked the confidence. Now I'm writing down what I want to say. Maybe I will be better prepared next time.
Stop! When they asked for personal testimonies on Saturday, October 3, 1998, here is what I said, or at least what I meant to say:
“First of all, I want to thank Bob Bishop for saying the words that gave be the courage to stand up and say what I am about to say.
Speaking of Dads, Jesus has given to me three children, for whom I am very grateful. I'm especially grateful that my son could join me at this year's conference.
But right now I want to tell you about Tabitha, who is my older daughter. Tabitha has a brain tumor. It's called a low-grade glioma, which means that if it's growing at all, it's growing very slowly. The good news from this is that it is not considered life threatening. The fellows here from IBC already know about Tabitha, since she has been on our prayer list for quite some time.
The bad news is that this tumor causes severe obsessive compulsive behaviors. When this condition was first diagnosed three years ago, her OCBs ranged from extremely anti-social to violent. After two visits to the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center , a highly rated psychiatric hospital for children, the medical staff tried a very powerful anti-psychotic medication, which has  greatly moderated her behavior. She has been taking this medicine ever since.
The down side of this medication is that it causes incontinence and a greatly increased appetite that has caused borderline obesity. Although the dangerous behavior is gone, she is plagued with several less severe OCBs, which can be very exasperating to her family, class mates, teachers, friends, and others in her life. Several members of both the educational and medical community have recommended a residential program for her to allow the rest of us to continue our lives more peacefully. My wife, Kathy, and I refused.
Sometimes people would tell me that they greatly admire our courage and grace in the face of such difficult family circumstances. Although I would thank them for the encouragement, I knew that they didn't know me like Jesus does, or even like my wife and children do. Far too often I would not react to this challenge with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control, but with frustration, exasperation, and anger.
I suppose that I found myself asking that same question that many immature Christians and non-Christians alike would ask in the face of a seemingly unfair assignment in life. You know the question. Why would a supposedly loving God allow my daughter to carry this burden? Or more selfishly, Why would such a God give this to me?
Now I know that God is preparing all of us for Heaven and conforming us to the image of His Son. But I learned another reason while sitting in the parents waiting room at Children's Hospital in Philly . Kathy and I were waiting while Tabitha underwent an MRI to check the extent of her tumor.
There were many parents in that room, most of which had children with serious physical problems. I remember a three year old boy with previous scars on his head who was about to be carried away for yet another brain surgery. That little guy  was old enough to know what was happening and he was unhappy. His mom, in tears, followed as far as she could until he and the orderlies disappeared behind the operating room doors. In fact, every other parent quietly wept also. It was an environment that would expand your soul, if you let it.
But I arrived with the wrong attitude. Why was I stuck with this group of losers? My only conclusion was that that I must be one also.
It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “Ford, I have surrounded you with moms and dads who are hurting just as much as you are. So stop your whining, and get to work!”
It wasn't very long after that that I had the opportunity to share my Savior with a nearby dad who was worrying about his very sick child. In a way it was nothing special, yet in another, it was priceless. I know that all of you understand the special surge that comes straight from heaven when we have an opportunity to share our Lord and Savior with another.
I later realized that if God had given me three completely healthy children, I would have been disqualified from saying a single word to this man. Then I understood that Jesus is preparing me for a ministry that very few others would be able to perform.
Probably all of you have a unique difficulty; in fact, we have heard many of them already. Though it may be painful, God is preparing us for a ministry that no one else can do. You will be uniquely able to bring comfort to another hurting person. When He does, the blessing is magnificent.
Rain Man
Yes, Tab has some close similarities to Dustin Hoffman's character. She would be the one who would insist that all her underwear come from K-Mart.
The Departure
On Wednesday, August 1, 2001, Tabitha became violent. It wasn't the first time. In fact, several incidents had already occurred during the recent months that warned Kathy and I that this night was coming. Tabitha was becoming more unmanageable.
Anyway, tonight Tabitha's agitation turned to violence. She attached me, scattered papers, and caused us to feel very unsafe living with her in the same house.
For the second time in two months, we called the police. This time, she was placed in restraints and forcibly taken to psychiatric crisis unit at Kennedy Hospital in Cherry Hill.
The next morning, the attending doctor recommended, and we agreed, to let Tab be transferred to Ancora State Hospital in Winslow, NJ.