Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fifteen Years Ago Today

That's when our journey with Autism began.  We didn't know it then.  We knew we had a beautiful baby boy.  The realization of what began on that day would come four years later when Dr. Brian Ryals first spoke the word Autism to us.  We knew he didn't use the term lightly.  He's a top pediatric neurologist.  His son is autistic.  We'd suspected this for 2 years, but didn't want to internalize it.  Dr. Ryals' use of the term made it real.

It would take me three years to "come to terms with it".  Work friends told me that for the next nine months I was "different".  They thought I was going through a divorce.  I was a zombie.

When Nathan was diagnosed, we had no clue how the next 11 years would stretch, grow, and change us.  The world we knew before ended.  The compressed reality of normalized joy and pain that most experience was replaced with one of rapturous joys and savage heartbreak.  I found strength, stamina, and compassion that I never knew I had.  I'm pretty sure Amanda had it all along.  There's no question that she's the stronger.

We watched the world change due to the simple fact that Nathan was in it.  His presence in a given situation became a lens through which we could see the reality of others.  In some, we saw beauty that they themselves didn't know they possessed.  In others, we saw darkness that few would dare to admit.  We stood amazed by how a cute little blonde, blue-eyed fellow who barely spoke could shape the world around him without any effort or knowledge of his impact.  Everybody knows Nathan.  He's widely known and widely loved.  I'm still amazed.

Gone were the standard dreams that most parents hold for their children.  In the midst of this blow, we discovered that ours was a world of miracles.  We watched in awe as our "little big man" grew from a 7-year-old who could barely answer "who, what, why , when, where, how" questions, to an independent sixth grader who was being inducted into the Junior National Honor Society in his first year of eligibility, a mere 5 years later.  His "presence" among his peers is still stunning to me.  Everyone knows Nathan.  Most love him and have their own inside jokes with him.  The kid is FUNNY!!  He always has been.

When I woke him this morning, I greeted my 6'1", 290lb "gentle giant" with great pride.  Amanda had risen early to prepare his favorite breakfast.  He loves birthdays.  Let the festivities begin!

Happy Birthday Nay!!  Mom and Dad are so proud.


  1. Wow, That made me cry. Nathan seems just as you describe him, so I know it's not parental bias. Happy Birthday to your sweet, handsome and smart son. Obviously he's been a huge blessing to many. May he receive at least as many blessings in his life.

  2. Happy birthday Nathan! Us Griffins haven't known you the first fifteen years, but looking forward to all the years to come!

  3. How blessed you are to have such a beautiful, precious son!!! And how blessed Nathan is to have you and Amanda as his parents too! Wow, what a great post! I really do think God gives His most precious children to His best parents. That's just what I've observed over the years...Romans 8:28