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  • Kirk

Words matter

Cindy and I draw inspiration from many sources when we’re seeking topics for our blog. Nolan, our 15-year-old son who has Autism and is nonverbal, provides us with most of the material, be it with his triumphs or his struggles. Sometimes we like to share a little bit about ourselves and the activities in which we partake, mundane as some of them might be, to relieve stress.

And then there are times when the subject of my next post – say, for example, today’s offering – flies out of my mouth without a smidgen of thought or consideration behind it and sticks to me with the strength of year-old petrified chewing gum underneath a diner tabletop.

No one is immune from spouting off and saying something idiotic. I’m sure if I really thought about it, I could share several examples – and there are indeed several from my nearly 50 years on this planet – of instances when my mouth got me into trouble. One example that comes to mind occurred in the 1990s at one of the four newspapers I worked for as a sportswriter. The sports editor sometimes would vanish without a trace, and without explanation, for 10, 30, 60-plus minutes. He did it on a particularly busy Friday night and didn’t let me or my colleagues know where he was going, or why. Turns out he had gotten sick and needed to leave immediately, which would have been nice to know before I made a crack about his sudden, unexplained departure as I was leaving after deadline. My comment somehow got back to him. I wasn’t the only one who’d said something, but he gave me a good ass-chewing in the conference room the next time he saw me.

Cindy and I have been together now for 19 years, and somehow she still loves me even though I don’t always engage my brain before speaking. But when I cross a line, I sure know how to take the “go big or go home” approach.

Nolan got up earlier than we wanted or expected him to two Sundays ago, which was the start of Daylight Saving Time. I remember getting out of bed when he left his bedroom, and then going back to bed when he asked Cindy on his iPad for a can of soup. The next thing I remember is waking up to find he’d eaten his soup, but Cindy hadn’t given him anything to drink with it. I also discovered Nolan had had a bowel movement in his pants sometime after Cindy had dozed off on the living room couch.

Something inside of me snapped. I stormed into the living room. I tripped on our cat, Donny, and made an explicit threat about taking him back to the Humane Society. I then scowled at Cindy and said the following before stomping back to the bedroom:

“We never should have become parents!”

“We never should have become parents?”

For the crime of forgetting to get our son something to drink – something that, as Cindy later pointed out, Nolan is very capable of doing on his own – and being worn out due to losing an hour of sleep Saturday night, and countless hours of sleep over the last 13 years since Nolan was diagnosed with Autism, we never should have reproduced and never should have brought a wonderful human being into this world?

No, it’s not exactly crossing the Rubicon en route to divorce court. But I consider it a minor miracle that I didn’t leave the room at rapid speed with Cindy’s footprint embedded in my backside.

This is the part where I could rattle off a laundry list of excuses a la Joliet Jake Blues as to why I’d made such an asinine statement (“I had to get up to pee four times during the night! I stubbed my toe on the way to the living room! The cost of gas has increased 80 cents a gallon since December! COVID-19! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT!!!!!). But I have no excuses. I said something terrible, and I own it.

Stress has always wreaked havoc on me. Sometimes I just shut down and don’t want to do anything. Far too often, I let every little thing that’s bothering me just keep escalating until I lose my cool and say the wrong thing.

And then I keep to myself – in this case, a few hours – until I’m ready to talk about what’s bothering me. I went to Cindy, who was in the living room, and told her about what had gotten me to where I’d been that morning.

About how I’m worried about Nolan participating in the Adaptive Sports League’s whiffle ball season in April and May. He did a fantastic job during an abbreviated soccer season, but I’m not sure that will be the case with a new sport.

About how I wish I could just watch him play and enjoy the experience like his teammates’ parents can, but the only way he can participate is if I attend practices and games with him.

About how I’m worried that he won’t want to use the men’s locker room when his team plays at a rival high school and he’ll have an accident.

About how I still was steamed over the fact I’d driven an hour two Friday evenings ago to a small town in southeastern Minnesota to pick up a stack of LIFE Magazines from the early 1960s that I swear, even without knowing for certain, included one worth a handsome sum, only to have the seller, who’d been stonewalling me for weeks but promised that I could have them for free, not be home or answer my texts.

About how I was upset at myself for inadvertently breaking the mallet for a drum we’d bought Nolan last Christmas.

About how I still was feeling the effects of working late the previous Wednesday.

Generally, about how I’d let life, a life I should be used to after all these years, get the better of me.

Cindy listened to me for several minutes as I told her everything that had been weighing on me, and I think we both felt better.

Our posts are meant to inform and entertain, but there are times when they are meant to convey a message. What I hope anyone who reads this post takes from it is, words matter. Think about what the ramifications of what you’re on the verge of blurting out might be. Take a deep breath. Take 50 deep breaths. Drop and give someone 20. Walk around the block. Walk to the other side of the town or city where you live – whatever it takes.

Just as important, seek out someone to talk to before you reach your breaking point. Share what’s on your mind with your spouse, a parent, a sibling, Uncle Ted, your fishing buddy, or even the guy or woman who lives down the block and always smiles and takes a few moments to chat when you pass his or her house. There is someone who is always willing to listen.

I’ve gotten a little better about not allowing my emotions to boil over, but I can see there still is ample room for improvement. Hopefully I can reach a point where all you’re reading about is Nolan as he takes steps toward adulthood, or finding out a little more about who Cindy and I are.

Those are the types of stories I enjoy sharing. But sometimes cautionary tales such as this one are beneficial, too.

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