In my Father’s Image

fathers and sons

Recently, my son became very ill, and as the doctors asked me about our family health history, I found myself becoming angry again at my ex-husband.  The anger wasn’t because he deserted me and his children (though I find that seeping back in once in a while); the anger was due to how he left us. He made it impossible for me to ever find out if the symptoms my son is having could be related back to his family history; therefore, there is this big unknown part of my children’s history that I would like to access, so I can help them be healthy for themselves and for their future children.

I took this photo of my son and husband (at the time) right after my father’s funeral.  My husband said that my losing my father reminded him of how quickly time passes and the importance of cherishing every precious moment we have with our children. The portrait symbolized to me the relationship between a parent and their child and how important it is, as parents, to guide our children to the future that is waiting for them.  I never thought that my own husband would disregard the gift’s God has bestowed upon us.  I no longer try to understand what made my husband do the things he did, as it is out of my control and is time wasted. Yet, inexcusably I still witness daily the internal pain and damage he left behind. I always thought that maybe he was too damaged from his own childhood to ever be a parent, but three years after deserting his own children, he had another one.

It may seem cruel, but I sometimes view my ex as created in Hitler’s (interesting enough, he liked his employees to call him that) image because when our marriage became the darkest is when he could not handle his youngest son (in this photo) being different from other children.  I’ve mentioned in my blog before that my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and my ex-husband had no patience or empathy for the symptoms that developed from my son’s diagnosis. I almost think that he kept having children until he could create the perfect specimen of himself.  My heart aches for his new child that he had with his new wife, and I pray for the innocent boy’s safety every day.

This photo has been hidden in the back of my closet for years in fear of it bringing back the pain of the past for my children. However, this week as I have been filling out medical forms for specialists for my beautiful, kind-hearted son, I looked back at this portrait and realize that it doesn’t have to represent the father that walked away, but it reminds me of the characteristics my son shares with his maternal grandfather that I sadly lost that Thanksgiving week in 2000. My son grew up not having the guidance of either a father or a grandfather, but I have kept my father’s image alive within my son, by sharing his stories, his morals, his ethics, his love, and so on.  As I look into my son’s eyes, the eyes that trust that I will find him the best care and answers this week, I see my father’s soul looking back at me.  My son may have been born from a man who has no soul, but that doesn’t mean that’s how my son’s story ends.

My son has a heart of gold and carries his grandfather Jim’s heart and soul with him everywhere (that is what I see in this portrait now), and as long as I bring him up with wonderful people surrounding him that also share those similar ethics, morals, and love, my child will take that into his future and it will continue to touch the ones fortunate enough to come into his life. I will never be convinced that blood defines a family, but instead family is defined by the incredible people who lift us up and encourage us to live each day being better than we were the day before.

Overcoming challenges makes life meaningful!

This is my daughter, Megz, when she was three.  She is a junior in college now, but still has that same strength and determination.  I have decided I want to be her when I grow up.

Remember Your Shadow is a Reflection of Your Shining Light

shadows

I’m just toying with my artistic side today.  I was studying when I looked up and saw this beautiful shadow looking back at me.  It reminded me of my son and the shadows that follow him.  I wanted him to know that his shadows are only there because of the bright, shining light that radiates from his beautiful soul.  His favorite artist is Lady Gaga; therefore, I wanted to reflect her words the best way I could.  I can only hope for my son that he can one day live in a world that respects individuality and one where he can walk down the street and feel free to be himself without being afraid to have bullies and haters lurking in the shadows he still fears. We all have those shadows around the corner, but today I choose to be a light for those who may still be afraid to turn theirs on.

See the whole person, not the label

Dylan Source

This past week, my children and I presented research on Asperger’s Syndrome at the university that I attend.  I also presented last year, so this wasn’t a new experience for me, but it was for my children.  They are only 20 and 17.  My daughter attends college with me, but my son is a high school student and consequently happens to have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Our journey navigating the school system, and just society in general, has been a long, difficult road; therefore, for him to stand up in front of all these people (and to step out of his comfort zone), and not only talk on the subject, but to share his deepest thoughts, was the most amazing, brave thing I have ever witnessed.  When I grow up, I want to be just like my kids. They are determined to bring awareness to the subject, so that they can hopefully decrease stigmatism.

At the end of our presentation, my son stood up in front of the room and read the following poem that he wrote.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when he finished.   His honesty as he read his words was inspirational.  I asked him today if I could share his words on my blog and he said of course.  For years, educators have told me that I had unrealistic expectations for my son.  Thank goodness I didn’t listen to them.  Never let others tell you that you can’t do anything.  Only we know what we are truly capable of.

See the whole person, not the label

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Mental Illness?  I think not.
How does someone get Asperger’s Syndrome?
A gift given to children through birth or heredity.

Mental Illness.  I think not.
I am different; I am socially awkward.
A gift given to children through birth or heredity.
I don’t have a clue.

I am different; I am socially awkward.
I have significantly increased intelligence.
I don’t have a clue.
I have sporadic, hyperactive behavior.

I have significantly increased intelligence.

I am socially awkward.

I have sporadic, hyperactive behavior.

I grasp academics slower than others.

I am socially awkward.

I do not like being labeled.

I grasp academics slower than others.

I feel like another product on a conveyor belt.

I do not like being labeled.

Others see me as indistinguishable from other people with the same label.

I feel like another product on a conveyor belt.

Quit putting me in a category.

Others see me as indistinguishable from  other people with the same label.

I am a loyal and generous person.

Quit putting me in a category.

I am fun, outgoing, and energetic.

I am a loyal and generous person.

In the future, I would not want people to know I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

I am fun, outgoing, and energetic.

Asperger’s Syndrome does not define me.

In the future, I would not want people to know I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

The early years of my life, they held me back.

Asperger’s Syndrome does not define me.

Over the years, I learned social cues, behaviors, rules, respect….things that come easier to normal children

The early years of my life, they held me back.

Teachers put no effort into providing the education I deserve.

Over the years, I learned social cues, behaviors, rules, respect….things that come easier to normal children

Teachers put me in a box and never try to approach my learning in a different way.

Teachers put no effort into providing the education I deserve.

I feel judged. I feel isolated. I feel helpless.

Teachers put me in a box and never try to approach my learning in a different way.

My teacher’s motto “I can’t drop everything to focus on your problem”

I feel judged. I feel isolated. I feel helpless.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

My teacher’s motto “I can’t drop everything to focus on your problem”

Ignore the label and treat me like a human being; a human being who is effected by your judgment.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
How does someone get Asperger’s Syndrome?
Ignore the label and treat me like a human being; a human being who is effected by your judgment.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

–          By D. G. @2014

How do you define the man in your life? Fool or Hero?

Dad

In a recent conversation with my mom, I could sense her concern on how others perceived my father, not just my father in general, but also my father as a man who had Multiple Sclerosis. At first I didn’t understand her worries because I only saw my dad as my loving, devoted father, I never defined him by a disease, just as I wouldn’t want others to define my son as Asperger’s Syndrome, or my daughter as PTSD, or me as a divorcee of an abuser. If people did only see my dad for his Multiple Sclerosis, then they missed out on knowing a great man.

No matter what life threw at him, he always handled it with dignity and stride. I asked him the year before his death how he did it. Every time I came to visit him, he always greeted me with a huge, loving smile and would ask about me. Me? He never wanted to talk about what the disease had done to him. He went from a vibrant, hard-working man to many years later barely being able to leave his bed. My amazing mom was always by his side, making sure his every need was taken care of; yet, the first thing out of their mouths was how was I?

My dad was not perfect, who is? What I do know is that from the minute he said, “I do” to my mom his first priority was always taking care and honoring his family. Six and a half years ago when my ex told me (on our 18th wedding anniversary/Father’s Day) that he was tired of being a husband and father and either I do it all or find someone to take his place because he had better things to do in his life; I remember being in complete shock by his words, and the worst part is my 13-year old daughter over heard him. I remember asking him “What kind of man abandons his family? My dad lost his first business right after I, one of five children, was born. Did he walk away? No, he sought out another career. After that he developed Multiple Sclerosis. Did he walk away? No, he sought out another career and started his own upholstery shop in his home, so he could provide for his family. When the MS took over and he could no longer work in his shop, did he walk away? No, he sought out another career (in his sixties now) and went back to college, so he could run a tax service out of his office. My dad never gave up. He was a real man and father.” My ex husband stood looking at me with dark, callous eyes, like a dementor from the book Harry Potter, who was about to suck away my soul, and said “Your dad wasn’t a man, he was a fool.”

I knew right then that my ex could never be a real role model for my children, as he showed me who the real fool was. My father may have already passed on, but my children knew him. He was their role model. They drew the above picture of him while I was still with my ex. When I asked my oldest son to draw a picture of family, he drew his grandparents. His version may have had my dad’s wheelchair, but it didn’t show my dad being helpless and defeated, it showed him the way I will always remember him: full of love for everyone that walked into his life. My parents taught me what love is.

When I was in college I was brutally attacked and I was so ashamed I never told anyone. My attacker began tormenting me and I decided I could no longer live with the shame anymore, and decided to end my life. Before I did, a co-worker, I barely knew, reached out to me and told me whatever was eating at me could be worked out. He told me if I ended my life, my oppressor won and the people I loved lost. He convinced me to tell someone; I went to my dad. I expected him to yell and scream at me and to be so ashamed, but instead he was calm, loving and gave me a huge hug; he told me he loved me and always would. He said there was only one thing that could change the way he looked at me, and that was if I ever gave up. He said I could fall on my face a thousand times, but the time I decided not to get up again, and try again, was the day he would walk away from me.

Those words carried me through the last twenty-five years. I have people constantly say they think I’m brave for surviving a sociopath, but what other alternative is there? My dad taught me that we are more than then the blockades that are thrown in our way. I work hard every day to honor my father, not a fool, but my hero; if I can pay it forward one way for him; I know it would be to help others see that obstacles are never so enormous that we cannot work to find a strategy around or through them. My journey has not been an easy one, and I’m confident there will be more barriers along the way, but life is always a work in progress, and as long as I am moving forward and making a better future for my children, myself, and others around me, then I have lived. Truly lived.