The amazing photos you see on this post were taken by Steines Photography.
Cindy and I want to share with as many people as possible – you, our neighbors, your neighbors, that family living in Fort Collins, Colorado that I’m absolutely, positively certain would like us – an inside look of what life is like raising our teenage son, Nolan, who has Autism and is nonverbal. Call it a desire to bring Autism awareness to the masses. Call it ego. We both have something to say, and we think our story is interesting.
We started this blog nearly two years ago not knowing exactly where it would take us. Cindy told me there was the potential to eventually reach a mass audience and generate a little extra income (“Tens of thousands of people eagerly awaiting the next installment of ‘Life with the Beys’ AND a tad more financial security for the family, which we sorely need? Let’s roll!”). She also hoped that perhaps one day we could write a book about raising Nolan. Our life, in our words, would be in hardcover form and sharing shelf space with the likes of Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Rowling at a Barnes and Noble near you. Maybe the local B and N would invite us to participate in a book signing. We’d scratch our John Hancocks for an hour, and maybe get a complimentary cup or two of a Starbucks beverage of our choosing. Notoriety AND caffeine? Now you’re talking!
The reality is, we’re still just a small-time mom-and-pop organization as we approach our two-year anniversary. We’re nowhere near reaching four figures for followers, nor are we even close to having earned enough cash for a night out at a swanky restaurant. There are a few people scattered across the country, and a couple internationally, who check us out semi-regularly, but the majority of our regular readers, like us, reside in the upper Midwest. Many of them either are family members or friends who live minutes away, and they’re already quite familiar with what our lives entail.
I freely admit that I get discouraged when something either Cindy or I wrote that we believe is pretty doggone good gets very little attention (“I stayed up until midnight making sure every sentence was perfect, and that’s how many people read it??? You could stuff more people into a Volkswagen Beetle!”). I’ve had several moments over the last year or so when I was a millimeter away from declaring this blogging experiment a complete and total failure and going back to something I considered to be more productive, like trying to remember how many times I’d seen a certain episode of whichever classic television show I’d settled on watching at that moment.
And then, I have a moment like I had last week.
I’ve become acquainted with a family that, like Cindy and me, has a son with Autism. Their names and where they live is unimportant. I’ve never met them face-to-face, and I don’t know if I ever will. We just share a common bond and understanding of what it’s like to raise a child with a disability. They had discovered this blog thanks to the recommendation from someone else who follows it, and at least one of the parents has become a regular reader.
These folks have fought some ugly battles – uglier battles than the ones Cindy and I have fought over the years for Nolan, and uglier than we pray we’ll ever have to fight for him. One of the parents is genuinely concerned – and rightly so, in my opinion – about their son’s well-being regarding a certain situation. This individual also was contemplating making a dramatic life change so that they could be a better caregiver.
I can only imagine the stress level in their house every day, but one of the parents took the time to tell me that one of our posts had struck a chord with them, that they enjoy the posts that Cindy and I write, and that we truly understand what they’re going through. Maybe there was uncertainty about the future, but for the moment they were content with the short-term decision they had made regarding their son.
I’ve written in the past that words matter. It was humbling to know that our words had positively affected someone when they had really needed it.
Our story is just that: our story and ours alone. Every family that has a special-needs child has its own unique circumstances and challenges. But we all share the same concerns about our kids. We worry about the job we’re doing as parents. We worry about their future. And sending them out into the world without us being with them? It can lead to really uneasy feelings and dreams such as seeing your son burrowed under a rug with an entire wall of the house ripped out and the temperature is plummeting to mid-January depths in early September.
(The first week of school was a bit bumpy for Nolan, so I’ll channel my inner Sigmund Freud and deduce that’s where that dream came from).
The goal Cindy and I had for this blog from the get-go was to share what it’s like to raise Nolan from our respective points of view. You’ve probably gathered by now that she’s the one who for the most part remains calm and carefully assesses situations before reacting. I’m the one who worries, and given the situation, can transform into the Tasmanian Devil hopped up on a kilo of sugar. This blog is the avenue through which we share our observations, thoughts, and hopes. There are weeks we believe there isn’t a problem we can’t solve. There are weeks we feel like utter failures. But we typically try to convey that deep down, we really believe everything will be all right, no matter what the circumstances are.
Cindy and I don’t know when, or even if, this blog will ever grow into something larger than the homemade radio station one of my high school buddies had in his basement that perhaps covered a two-block radius on a very clear day. We’re just grateful for the audience that we have.
If our posts have helped you learn a little about Autism along the way, that’s great. If you’ve cheered one or several of Nolan’s many triumphs along with us, we thank you. If we’ve made you laugh a time or two, fantastic. Even if you’ve read about our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks and walked away saying, “Damn, I’m really glad I’m not them,” hey, I’m sincerely glad we could make you feel better.
And, if you’re the parent of a special needs child and our words have helped you navigate a difficult situation, that’s an incredible feeling.