Saturday, July 28, 2012

How a Man Deals with Adversity

"The measure of a man is how they deal with adversity" - Bill O'Brien, Penn State Head Coach

Today I read this article on O.B.  I have been a fan and friend of his for a long time but the article resonates even more for me today.  Strength and resolve are grown through your life experiences especially how you get up after getting knocked down.

Today was filled with mixed emotions.  D called us today from Camp Akeela.  The call quickly turned emotional.  He misses home.  We miss him.  The tough part was also receiving a letter from D in the mail.  His earlier letter was upbeat.  Today's letter was not.  They are pushing him on his social skills and that can not be comfortable for him. 

The Camp Akeela experience is also taking ME out of my comfort zone.  Historically I am a life fighter (losing your Dad at 17 will do that to you).  However as I've grown older,  life's adversities make me insular.  I drift quietly away from family and friends.

I remember first hearing the words Autism for my first born son.  That was tough.  I remember telling our parents.  That was tough.  We've had emotional moments with family and friends along this road.  I am giving all I can for D in every way.  Any Dad would.  Camp Akeela hopefully is another gift for us all.

I take a life lesson from my friend and fellow Dad, O.B. "A man knows how to handle adversity, how to meet it head on and how to get through it."

This is not football.  This is life.  Real life.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Re-thinking Autism: What is my Hope?

What exactly am I hoping comes out of this camp experience for my son?  Do I expect him to be cured?  A Harvard Research Study thinks that can be done.  I have never given an official cure that much thought.  Progress yes.  A cure? No.

Rethinking Autism captures the essence of Autism in adults.  It also captures effectively the feelings of those around & impacted by Autism.  Watching the British Open this weekend I learned that Ernie Els does a ton of work for Autism - Els for Autism.  Another Dad impacted by Autism through his son.

What is my hope?  My hope is that camp helps strengthen his social skills foundation.  A foundation for D now but especially as he matures into middle school and beyond.  My hope is that camp helps him navigate life's murky waters.  D as an adult seems so far away but I still need to help prepare him for life.  My hope is that camp makes D comfortable in his own skin and in the world around him.  My hope is that camp will help him thrive in life and not just survive.

In fact, my hopes may not be different from any other Dad - autism or not.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Out of Sight, Out of MY Mind

Funny day.    I finally felt RELAXED about Camp Akeela and with D being away from home.  Camp Akeela provides a parent portal to see photos and provide general camp updates.  I logged in today and saw TWO pictures of D.  These two photos actually showed him HAVING FUN.

Now I could be cynical and say this was a staged photo op.  But I wont :-)

The amount of photos I have with D showing a happy emotion and having fun.....I could count on one hand.  Seeing the photos provided a sense of relief that he is on the right path thus far and I pray for this to continue onward in the weeks ahead.

What I learned today:  When each member of our family unit is in a good state,  the family bond and core is in a good state.  As a Dad I know it is important for me to "have it all together" or at least demonstrate that I do.

Having D out of our family unit really hurt the core.  Each of his siblings have even expressed missing him.  Each one of us had to deal with the loss in our own way and it seems like we are now back to strengthening our family bond.

We wrapped up our day with an evening Family track meet  All the kids in the community run different events - 100 m, 200 m, 400 m and get "medals".  Parents can participate too.

My baby walked toward me after the races with an ice pop in her mouth.
She said (with 5 year old wild abandon), "Dad - can we get ice cream?"
I said (with Dad sensibility), "Um, aren't you already having dessert?"
She said (with conviction and a little bit of 'tude), "No Dad, this is just a Track Snack!!"  I had no response.

She was right - Ice Cream was a good way to celebrate this day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I couldn't sleep last night.  I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 2:22 am - wide awake and thinking of D.  At that moment, I decided to pray for him.  Prayed that he was sleeping well, that he was not worried, scared, or in any way in any kind of trouble.  I prayed that his sleep was peaceful and I prayed for his day ahead.  I prayed that he has made friends and will experience some big belly laughs today. 

As a Dad that probably is my biggest worry - that my kids are safe. I've never wanted to see them hurt in any way (since birth).   That has been my biggest worry right now that D is well - safe and not in any way in harm's way.

He has a running saying of "Dad - you are too overprotective!" I have a standard response of "Yep, that is part of my job description!"  He doesn't get the joke but stubbornly knows I will always be an advocate for him.  Maybe the distance will be good for us?  Maybe not?  Whether he is near or far away his Dad is in his corner - in mind, body and spirit.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Camp Akeela - Drop Off Day

Today D started his 24 day stay at Camp Akeela.  Camp Akeela is designed for Asperger's kids and targets help improve their social skills.  I am hopeful this is a wonderful learning opportunity for D.  To learn, have fun, make friends, and lay a foundation to become the best person he can be.  He seemed to be excited for the camp.

As for me, I am excited for him too.  Below that excitement simmers a nervousness for my son. 
My son being on his own for the first time.  How will he cope?  If he gets scared at night who will be there to soothe him?  Who will help him? Will he fit in?  Will he make friends?  Will others make fun of him?  Take advantage of him?  I know I can't protect him forever and D lets me know that every day.  But the Dad in me wants him here, home with me.  Safe from the world.

I know this is a leap for D.   A leap for me too.  We received a call tonight telling us that D was doing well.  However he did have some moments where he was sad.  He told them he missed his family.  That crushed me.  The funny thing is on the way home from Vermonth all of his siblings expressed how they missed him too.  Even little A.  That touched me too - we recognized a cog in our family circle was missing.

On day 1 of this journey I am hopeful for a change in D in the coming weeks.  I am hopeful for a change in me too - learning to be a Dad of a growing 10 year old boy.  Lets see where this journey of emotions takes us over the next 24 days.  I'll chronicle it daily and will look for support through prayer and my social network community.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

All Star Game, Fathers and Sons

As a kid, I have always enjoyed the Baseball All Star Game.  Seeing each of the team's uniforms, watching the best players and of course rooting for the Yankees and the American League.

JP has expressed lots of curiosity in baseball - particularly the strategy, statistics and the intricacies of the game.  Which is fascinating coming from a kid so young.

After reading this excellent article, "All Star Game, Fathers and Sons" I called JP at home.

We decided to go out to a restaurant and watch the baseball game together. 
We set ourselves up in front of the big screen at a local restaurant. 
We ordered ginger ale and drank like men!
We ordered chicken wings and Mac & Cheese.

JP moved his seat closer and asked if we could go to All Star Game next year.
He asked about my Yankees - Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, and Don Mattingly.
He asked if I got a chance to see Babe Ruth play (I chuckled and said no)
He asked why Sammy Sosa cheated (I had no true answer)
He promised he would never take Steroids. (I smiled to myself)

We watched the Yankees hit (just like I did when I was young)
We rushed home after the 3rd inning so we wouldn't miss a pitch.

A simple father and son moment....with baseball as the backdrop. 
I have 362 days to find All Star game tickets for next year.