My Nephew, The Autistic

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I don’t remember the day I found out my nephew was diagnosed with autism. I remember they day I found out I had high cholesterol, because in the back of my mind the fear was already set that this meant my life would spiral into a land of tofu and mock chicken.

But I don’t remember the day my nephew was diagnosed with autism. Perhaps because I am a terrible aunt. Or perhaps because I didn’t really understand what it meant to be autistic.

I do however, remember the first time I realized autism made my nephew different. see, for a long time I thought he was babied to a point of no return. Being the first grand and great grandchild it made sense he was allowed to eat messy food in places us mere first generationers would have never been thought to go. And to jump on beds we only wished to touch with bare feet. But it boiled my blood to watch my family spoon feed a three-year-old through tangible and mental means.

Then there was this day that changed my mind.

My sister and I brought my nephew to our childhood neighborhood hay ride during christmas time. As most of these functions go, we waited in an astronomical line for a not so spectacular ride. As our time slowly approached and the hay ride began to fill, it was clear we were not going to make this go around.

Being the first kid to not enter a ride of any sort is a tough pill to swallow, though for my nephew it seemed different. As the disappointment dust settled for the other four and five-year-olds his only grew stronger.

“The train is NEVER going to come back.”

“We will get on the next one.”

“It will never come back.”

I looked at my sister as she began to ration with my nephew.

“THE TRAIN IS NEVER COMING BACK.”

Most children were upset that they did not make the previous ride, but he was not. His concern lay in the thought that this ride would never return.

The words quietly repeating as we stood still. A change in pitch, a change in fear, he knew all too well in his mind that train was never coming back. And though I knew all too well that was not correct, he continued to let the thought consume him.

As I looked around it became clear that it was consuming others as well. Not because grown adults were now in fear that a trailer hitched to a 2000 truck would never return, but in their eyes they could not understand why this kid didn’t get it. Why their children, who look exactly the same on the outside as my nephew, seemed to have come to terms with the situation and this little blonde headed boy just wasn’t.

I watched as they shot condescending looks in my sisters direction. And I watched as my sister who once went screaming down the street after her puppy pug which had escaped her grasp calmly comforted her child without a thought of anything else.

It was the first time I realized my nephew was autistic and the first time I was confronted with my own viewpoints head on. I looked at those parents and realized just how I had come across all these years before. Not understanding, and not caring to try. It was the first time I realized just what a blessing this skinny, toe-headed boy who thought V-necks were broken shirts was to our lives. It was the first time I truly understood what unconditional love felt like.

I boarded the hay ride with tears in my eyes, and refrained from singing carols  along with the rest of the passengers, as Brayden said he didn’t enjoy the noise. And that was okay.

Here’s To You, Dad

crazy

Give my sister 5 minutes and she will tell you just how spoiled I am. How when she asked for a belly-botton ring and was denied it was my sly talk, and dads lack of ability to say no to her younger sister, which had her dawning that tacky dangling jewel. Yes, it is true, my father does indeed love me with all his heart, and hate saying no even more.

Lets be real though, he loves her just as much, and gives her just as many things. Unfortunately for her cell phones were unheard of when she was in 5th grade, and her lack of begging ability really did disable.

The thing we can’t deny however, is just how much our father cares.

Growing up in a middle class family I never really understood just how many things we were given. The moment my computer broke dad was buying another. When I crashed into a tree, he made sure I had a car. When we HAD to do cheerleading, had to have letterman’s jackets that we never wore, had to buy ugly decals that my father would scrape off our cars just a year later, him and my mom opened their pocket books without hesitation. It was never a question of going to a private or public university, we had the choice.

We always had the choice, because we always had a dad who would pick up extra shifts and a mom who would do everything it took to give us what we needed. No, not what we wanted. We drove cars named little blue and did not get senior photos done. Something at the time I could not fathom. But we always had what we needed.

Over the years I have seen the way my father has struggled to give us exactly what we need to Be the person we believe inside. I watch his aching bones go in for shift after shift, and his tired eyes as he pushes on. I call him time and time again to bail me out when my car wont start, and he comforts me when my heart is broken. And it is because of these things that I try so hard.

Parents teach their children a lot of things in life. What manners are, how to escape a bully, when to say no, and how to live a productive life. My parents went the extra mile, they taught me what unconditional love is. They do the parent thing like it was written by them. They put us above everything in the entire world, even themselves and each other. There has never been a doubt in my mind that my parents love us with everything they have, even in the times when they might not have loves each other.

I look at my dad and see a fighter. Someone who shows hope to his family. Who taught us that a little bit of crazy is okay, as long as you know how to handle it. I see someone who never lets us down. Without him I would have never taken this chance on myself. I would never have something to strive for. Never learned what determination is. He has given so much, my only goal is to show him and my mom that it was worth it.

So thank you dad, I hope to make you proud.