Tag Archives | tragedy

Somewhere along the way, I became a parent. This is how I know it’s true.

Somewhere along the way I became a parent. I’m not entirely sure why but all of a sudden, it just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Was it when my first child was born? No, I don’t think so. At that point, I became a dad, sure. But for the most part, waking up to bring the baby to his mom for feedingss and changing some diapers really didn’t make me a real parent. I was responsible for this little, very much dependent and fragile life but that wasn’t it.

Perhaps it was I had to start putting my name in the “parent or guardian” forms at schools and hospitals… I remember looking at those forms and thinking to myself, I can’t believe my name goes here. But even that wasn’t really it. That was just paperwork.

I know it wasn’t when my son was diagnosed with autism because that made me feel like anything but a parent. I was feeling more lost and scared than most times in my life that I could remember. I got over it quickly though as I learned more and my son impressed me all along the way but still, that wasn’t it.

I really thought the moment that I became a parent was when my boys would do something wrong and I’d open my mouth only to hear words that I thought only my mother would ever say. I was suddenly watching my own childhood from a totally different perspective. I had, in effect, put myself in my mothers shoes and at that point, I thought to myself, “wow, I must really be a parent now”. That was a very good start but that wasn’t it either. That was me playing the role, I think. It slapped the thought across my face but it still hadn’t sunk in quite yet I think.

Dead: 12-year old Alex Swigart saved his dad's life after waking he and his girlfriend up when their mobile home caught fire

Dead: 12-year old Alex Swigart saved his dad’s life after waking he and his girlfriend up when their mobile home caught fire

Then, as I became more involved in the autism community and started getting more and more information fed to me by an ever evolving social media, I started to come across stories like this one, where a 12 year old boy with autism saved his family, only to die in the fire himself. It’s not the story itself that got to me, although it is tragic. It’s one sentence in the story, that made my heart sink. It was this:

Fighting back tears he said: ‘I yelled inside the window and I heard him call to me, “Daddy I can’t breathe!”‘

I didn’t read the rest of the article beyond that until the next day. I couldn’t. All I could think about what how hard that must have been, to hear his child… the most precious and important thing in his life ever, calling out to him, in pain, and being powerless to do anything about it.

I’ve read stories like this before. It never hurt me like this.

It’s been happening a lot lately too. Stories that would have saddened me before but never felt like a knife in my heart like it does too, are crossing my path at an ever increasing rate.

Loss: Autistic 6-year-old Dylan Hockley died in the arms of his special education teacher in another classroom; his parents have set up a memorial fund of their own to help children with autism and special needs

Loss: Autistic 6-year-old Dylan Hockley died in the arms of his special education teacher in another classroom; his parents have set up a memorial fund of their own to help children with autism and special needs

Another example was the Sandy Hook shootings, in which the entire ordeal was a tragedy… but what really hit home the hardest was little Dylan Hockley, a 6 year old boy with autism. In this story, once again, I was reading it with a heavy heart as I normally would but then I got to this part and I just felt crushed:

“He said that Anne Marie Murphy had been found with her arms wrapped around Dylan … that is what we had hoped for — in a very strange sort of way to hope for something.”

“She loved him and he loved her and she would’ve looked after him no matter what,” she says, fighting back tears. “To know that he was with her, and that he wasn’t alone, that gives you a huge peace of mind … to know that he was loved even in those last moments.”

I can’t stop seeing, in my mind, what it must have been like to be terrified, holding this little boy that is terrified too, despite having no idea what is going on and to know what’s coming and then…

I keep putting myself in these people’s shoes. I can’t help it anymore. I can’t not see the little innocent faces with so much life left to live and their parents that were powerless to help them.

I can’t imagine what those people are going through but it doesn’t stop me from imagining it’s me anyway. It doesn’t stop me from thinking about how much it hurts just to think about that happening to me… to my own child.

That’s how I know I’m a parent. That’s how I know I’m not just some guy looking after some kids.

I can’t read these stories like I used to. I can’t watch the videos like I used to. It doesn’t just sadden me anymore. It hurts. I really really hurts.

Before I had children, even for a while after, when other parents would tell me that your perspective of the world would change, that the way you feel about a lot of things would change, I thought I understood. I didn’t.

I can’t read the last words of a dying child anymore. Not without shedding a tear, or more. Not without profound feelings that will affect me for a while after.

That’s how I know I’m a parent.

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Wow, Maybe I Don’t Really Have It So Bad After All

I find this quite difficult to write, partially because it’s fresh in my mind and partially because I don’t want to even pretend to downplay the difficulty and frustration in dealing with Autism. It’s such a difficult disorder to have and to have close to you that I literally can’t find the words to explain it as well as I would like for you to understand it.

The thing is that today I had to spend half a day at Sick Kids Hospital where my son, Cameron, had to undergo some allergy testing, specifically for penicillin. The thing about a place like Sick Kids is that you meet so many wonderful people, everyone is open and caring and there’s so just so many smiles and cute little faces. They really go out of their way to welcome you in to a place that, in all honesty, they wish you never had to visit.

You see, you visit a place like that and you see all those adorable smiling faces and talk to so many people and you quickly realize that…  us Autism parents, we really don’t have it so bad.

You don’t have to be there for very long before you see a bald child with very dark circles around their eyes, or a child with no legs wheeling around in a wheelchair, or parents sitting arm in arm, consoling each other as they cry so hard that they can’t even talk. These places truly work magic as you feel happy, welcome and close to everyone all the while you have tragedy all around you.

I don’t know the stories of these people in particular, I just know that I saw them today and I feel great sorrow for them despite not knowing… I know that, no matter how bad it’s been for me, I still couldn’t imagine what it must be like for them.

Then you hear the stories about these places, the stories where parents happily give birth to a new bundle of life only to discover that it already has cancer, and that it likely won’t survive. Still, they are determined so they go to a place like Sick Kids where the child moves in, where the parents move in… where against all odds, the child out lasts the predictions, the child grows and thrives. But after years of beating the odds, they finally succumb and ultimately leave the parents without a house, without a job, without savings and without the child that they’ve fought so hard for.

There are literally hundreds of stories like that and each and every single one is as tragic as the last and I look at my son sitting next to me, playing the Mario game that this amazing place has provided to put a smile on the faces of every child that goes in there and I think… is it really so bad?

You see these nurses and doctors with a smile on their face, every single one of them… they all greet you pleasantly, they all are genuinely happy to see you and your child and you know, you just know that yesterday, they day before, the week before…. some time, not so long ago, they’ve watched an innocent and very loving little child die. They’ve done what I simply can not imagine having to do even once, and they’ve done it as often as I’ve updated my blog, more even! And they will continue to do it because as hard as it is, it’s worth it to see the children that don’t die. The children that beat the odds, the children that can simply smile back, the children that can go home and just be healthy.

I don’t want you to think that I’m downplaying the seriousness of Autism, or any other disorder, disease or anything else for that matter. But when you see, when you really see just how tragic it really can be for some people, for some parents and some children, I can’t help but think… maybe I don’t really have it so bad after all.

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