Exceeded Expectations

When it has come to Sawyer universally, I had a measuring stick that continues to be invisible. I tend to get neither too high or too low as I refuse to compare him to his peers, his siblings, or even others on the spectrum. It’s not fair to him and quite frankly, it’s energy that I have learned not to exert.

It hasn’t always been that way though. I wanted Sawyer to be someone he wasn’t for a long time. It was like I made myself a force field for him. I wanted to protect him before any situation. If someone asked him a question, I wanted to answer it for him so I didn’t have to explain what made him different. I thought I was being helpful but I found myself more focused on me than on him.

As we are close to the end of 2017, I see so many changes in him and myself. It’s almost like my force field has evaporated and I can finally let him be who he is.

He’s almost 7 now. It’s hard to admit that. It’s hard to take in that he isn’t little anymore. He’s a first grader doing first grade things. He’s not like everyone else but that doesn’t matter. I find myself viewing him as not different and just viewing him as Sawyer.

He isn’t the 5 year old who would turn pages of a book and just recognize letters. He’s the near 7 year old who is using his knowledge of site words to help him sound out words he doesn’t know. Don’t look now but we are witnessing a novice reader!

Gone is the 4 year old who would just walk past the lights of a Christmas tree. He is now actively trying to figure out when Santa is coming as he pulls puzzles out to do out of his Advent Calendar.

The days of just wanting to watch the same Mickey episode has been replaced with a collection of shows, characters, and movies.

Instead of not knowing how to play, he will go find his train set and build train tracks.

This is Sawyer now. He may have exceeded some of my expectations but he has taught me to not worry about setting any because he will always find a way to surpass them.

I love you pal.

Legacy

Sawyer was given the middle name of Irvin. It was the name of my grandfather on my dad’s side. Irv was quirky and spent hours on the road selling neck ties while spending every other moment on the golf course. His priorities were ties and golf. His boys and his wife may have cracked the the top 3 but lumped together like his irons and woods in his golf bag.

When my father called me last week, he didn’t waste time letting me know that Irv’s widow, 93 years old, my grandmother had passed. If it sounds business like in delivery, it’s because it was. This was the end.

However, the end occurred years prior. Sawyer was only 2 years old in the midst of his pre-Autism diagnosis. He didn’t speak much, his walk was a wobble, and his interests were non existent.

This was my grandmothers only meeting with him. It only lasted a few days. She held him. She spoke to him. She smiled at him. She marveled at just what he was.

Looking back, the parallels meshed. My grandmother’s Dementia had just started. She started to just lose her self. She knew of us but began her journey into her own world. It was like she was passing Sawyer on a bridge as she was going one way, and he was going another. Both were in their own worlds but they were content in it.

My grandma had no recollection that I existed these last few years. The woman of strength and determination was here but in fact gone. It hurts. It makes me sad. I wish that it didn’t.

I have memories, I have pictures, I have my feelings. I don’t wish she had to be here just to be here. I do wish there was more opportunities for her to see Sawyer grow up along with my other two.

As I mourn her loss, all I can do is pass on what I know about her. That’s life. That’s love.

Sawyer may be in his own world at times but to honor those of the past, I will continue to celebrate what was. That’s what legacy is all about.

Tooth Fairy and the 603

I have been in a writing rut. I received an email informing me that I’m closing on one year of writing my blog. This was a kind reminder that I owe them money to retain my site. However, it made me read through all of my posts and made me question what direction I was going in. I’m talking two weeks of reviewing my own material.

I have spent nearly a year looking back into the past. I relived many moments of heartache and triumph. I thumbed through thousands of pictures in attempt to jog or jumpstart my memory. This is has helped me process years of being an autism dad. I have been honest, raw, and hopefully pure.

One thing I have learned this year is to focus on the now. The past has been written and the Sawyer of even a week ago is not the same. Understanding this has taken time. He isn’t 3,4, or 5 anymore.

He is a near 7 year old who is in first grade. With being this age, I tend to forget the small things that are truly big.

He was wiggling his first official loose tooth just about 2 weeks ago. He talked about it, hyper focused over it, and refused to let us take it out even though it was ready.

His face lit up with the idea of the Tooth Fairy coming to get his tooth though. In his words, “The Tooth Fairy will bring me something special.” This line was almost on a loop. You see, Autism and a new discovery can be a gift or quite possibly the most exhausting aspect of ones day.

We have had a bunch of conversations about the Tooth Fairy. Such as when she or he will come? Why it’s a he or she? What will he or she bring? Where will my tooth come out? Will it be scary? You name the question, Sawyer has asked it! Even Alex Trebek from Jeopardy would turn off Sawyer’s buzzer!

Two weeks down and Sawyer and I are out walking Oscar. Here is a snippet of our conversation as we walked back home.

“Daddy, I lost my tooth at school,” said Sawyer.

“Sawyer, let me see,”I yelled!

“No, I will show you when we get home. I will show you then Mommy. After that, the Tooth Fairy will bring me something special, he said.

So there we have it, my rut in writing was saved. The Tooth Fairy has come to the 603 and made me excited about the present rather than always reaching into the past.

The pictures paint the story you wish to tell

Social media can be my best friend at times. I’m guilty of putting up a ton of photos that chronicles everything that we do. On the other side of the coin, I manipulate the picture to share only what I want the public to know. This is when social media becomes my worst enemy. This is my daily tug of war when it comes to my family.

What do I share? What don’t I share? What should I share? Should I share at all? All of these are loaded questions that sometimes I have the energy to face them and sometimes I don’t.

The thing is that I didn’t order Autism on a menu for Sawyer. It’s not something that I picked up at the grocery store in aisle 2. It fell in our lap like an ace from a deck of cards. It wasn’t a likely draw but it was the card we were given.

Even a few years into the new world for us, I have been guilty to painting a picture that the world could see.

Many see the happy boy with a smile along with his brother and sister. They don’t see that frustration of slamming his hand to the ground, the long stims of trying to regulate himself as others stare at him. Many don’t see his day to day struggles.

They aren’t here with us as we worry about his future. The endless questions of what Sawyer will face as he chases independence and the survival skills to be on his own someday.

What I do know is that I refuse to chronicle each second of a roadblock. I rather celebrate each success and open up the world to what we know.

So with each picture I share only tells a fraction of the story, I hope everyone can enjoy the life of Autism and Sawyer that I’m trying to share. That’s my favorite picture to show.

The new normal

When I was a child, I loved looking through a kaleidoscope. I would marvel at the colors and patterns that would form as I would turn the dial both clock and counterclockwise. It was almost like my version of Wonderland or Oz.

Just imagine a sea of colors just for a matter of seconds. It took away any thought or fear that existed.

For me, I could return to the world that existed. I could put the kaleidoscope down and return to color pictures of Clifford. I was game to head outdoors and ride my bike. I would take my GI Joe action figures and create a battle in a sandbox.

That was my story. It was what I considered to be normal. When it came to Sawyer, the term “normal” was something that I couldn’t grasp. I had zero clue. However, I became an expert faking that I knew him.

I would pick him up for school and ask him about his day. All he would do would repeat things that I asked him. Otherwise, it was a line from Frozen.

People would ask me how he was doing. I’d say great. What else would I say? I was only going with what I hoped for.

That was my truth.

Sawyer couldn’t play. He didn’t color things for longer than two minutes. He had zero interest in puzzles. He wasn’t like other kids.

His normal wasn’t mine. His was new. It was on me to find a way to learn it. It wasn’t up to him to teach it.

The Little Family

I will be the first one to admit the the past is a nice place to visit but not to stay. Unfortunately, I was guilty in looking back when it was too little and too late.

We were now a family of five and the jokes about going from a man to man defense to a zone were getting really old. As matter of fact, the world of Autism had zero defense. There was no scheme that could prepare us for what we were embarking on. Rubin island was no picnic.

I remember picking Sawyer up at the after school program that he attended. There were kids his age. They were running around on the playground. I saw the excitement in their eyes that they were outdoors. I heard the laughter of climbing structures. I felt childhood like I expected it to be.

I had it before. I lived it. I breathed it. I lost it.

It was gone as I looked for Sawyer. I just hoped he would be a part of the action. I wanted to walk onto the playground and feel the past in the present. I wanted it for me.

There he was though. All by himself. It was like a hermit in exile. There was no laughter either. All I could see was someone different than the rest. It wasn’t fair.

What was fair? Was it fair that I wanted Sawyer to experience the childhood that his brother and sister had? Was it fair that he was perfectly content swinging while I wasn’t?

Our little family had grown up but it was me who needed to also.

How do I(we) fit in?

Going to school like every other kid wasn’t a promise with Autism. Even with Sawyer’s progress entering the school year in the fall of 2015, we weren’t sure how it would all play out. Yes, he had a back pack, a lunchbox, and got on the bus (short bus!) but was this just the second round of school or was this wishful thinking that he could close some gaps?

Were we delaying the inevitable with another year of preschool? Would he continue to show progress?

It was nerve wracking early on. Knowing that he was at a program that provided him services was certainly comforting but I didn’t know if it would work. I didn’t know if we would get a phone call requesting us to come in nor did I know if he was making the necessary progress that would lead him to kindergarten.

Essentially, we had 10 months. Would he be ready to join his peers?

It was a huge concern of mine. I so badly wanted Sawyer to have a chance. It wasn’t about friends, it wasn’t about learning, it was just about having a chance to grow up in an environment with kids his own age.

Was it wishful thinking? I didn’t think so. For whatever reason, my eyes made me a believer as I was doing everything possible to make myself think that Sawyer was changing.

This was the biggest obstacle of being a parent of a child with special needs. I just wanted Sawyer to belong even though I had zero clue what belonging even meant.

Did I want it for him or did I want it for me? Was my ideas about being accepted my own or what I thought they should be?

I didn’t have a handle how I, he, or we could fit in and how to make sense of it. It was a dark place and my articulation of my thoughts went silent at times.

It was humbling to realize that I was searching for something that I may never see.

Where’s Oscar?

If moving was fun, I would have done it often. I hate it. I hate boxes. I hate calling places to change my billing address. I hate explaining the thought process of articulating why I moved. I also hate the disaster of meeting multiple people at a closing, which might be more painful than watching The Karate Kid reboot. However, there is no bigger hate in me than someone leaving a door open while Oscar is pugging around and I can’t find him.

I think we were a legit 10 minutes into the moving truck loading and I couldn’t find my pug. Sawyer laying on an empty living room floor and chomping on his raisins. I was praying he didn’t know that Oscar was gonzo because it would add to the chaos.

Hearing Sawyer speak was and is a blessing. Hearing Sawyer repeat the same line over and over again in a stressful block of time is quite the opposite. So I did my best Ace Ventura and went on the lookout for him.

I should explain that my detective skills are horrendous. I couldn’t find an ice cube in a tray of ice. Ask my wife or friends this. They will agree.

I digress.

Sure enough the, “where’s Oscar?” was in full loop mode. Sawyer knew that he was gone. I let it slip and there was no turning back. So Sawyer came with me next door.

I would love to tell you that we found Oscar next door. Or that we found him 3 doors down. Or that we found him in 15 minutes. Or when we got in my Jeep and drove around the neighborhood. However, we did not.

I will openly admit that I cried pulling in the driveway. My daughter was hysterical and I attempted to reassure her that he would be back.

All I could do was watch boxes be moved and a truck being being loaded. I had Sawyer asking for Oscar non stop and all I could say was he went for a walk. Sawyer took that as he went to go see his mom. Quite frankly, his association that Oscar was looking for his mom was a silver lining. It was a heartwarming connection.

As I looked out into the distance, I wasn’t feeling confident. I went inside in hope that the door would knock and Oscar would be back.

I paced back and forth with tears being wiped away. Sawyer was asking me why Oscar went to find his mommy? Box by box was getting moved.

Then it happened. From a distance I saw a neighbor walking. There was pug who was pugging. And there was a family who was smiling. Oscar came home.

It was that moment that home was those around me and not the place.

Once again and even back with us there was a Sawyer, “where’s Oscar?”

He was back where he belonged.

Moving day

I'm a creature of habit. I eat the same breakfast. I prefer to wear the style of polo shirts. I tend to seek out shoes that have a bit of a heel so I can say I'm 5 ft 7. I also hate change. If this is my perspective, you can imagine my concern for uprooting Sawyer into a new house after 4 years of seeking some sort of normalcy.

Leaving our neighborhood was a concern across the board. It was very community driven that embraced our family. The kids made some great friends that they could literally have play dates without notice. Quite frankly, it was a desired location and Sawyer was finally coming around to being comfortable in this element.

So why move? We just wanted a home with some more charm and felt like we needed a home that fit our family better. Trust me, I avoided moving for years. Just the thought of packing made me cringe.


Fortunately for us, the market was on an upswing, we had a phenomenal real estate agent, and we were able to connect the dots on selling and purchasing a home that we fell in love with.

Out of nowhere, the day had come to exit one address and head to a new one. We had arranged to move all of our belongings into our new house though we wouldn't close on the property for another week. So we would be hotel bound for that time. Kudos to the family who allowed us to store our things as they were preparing their departure.

All of this seemed simple. The moving truck arrived at 730am. Everything was packed. Sawyer had his breakfast. We took our usual walk with Oscar. Zero hiccups.

It took about 15 minutes before things turned into utter chaos. Doors were open all over the place. Sawyer was going around the house like mad. Thank god Oscar was accounted for.

Actually Oscar was missing in action. Between all of the people in and out, Oscar decided to go AWOL.

He couldn't have picked a worse time. Kellie had to go to work. I had all 3 kids. The house was getting emptied. None of this was good.

Evelyn was crying. Cobe was looking. Sawyer said "Oscar looking for his mommy."

In hindsight, it was Sawyer's best verbal connection that I ever heard from him. On the flip slide, Oscar was missing and moving day was only beginning.