18 years goes faster than you think.
Man. Kenny Chesney picked a great song to record. Country music has got to be at the pinnacle of genres that just seem to connect…at least to me. Now, I can never fully get my arms around songs about tractors, farming, and traveling down a dirt road. But, “Don’t Blink” hits a nerve. The imagery of the song is so vivid, I couldn’t help but hum along to the soundtrack in my mind on a recent trip to Stone State Park during a Sunday morning in late June with my two sons. It’s funny when you have nothing else to do but converse and observe, you get nostalgic. Why is it that those thoughts always seem so much stronger than those Facebook memories that pop up on your timeline?
I would like to take a moment to venture back in the way back machine, all the way to September 1997. Many close to me will confirm one of my personality pitfalls is that I tell way too many stories from 20 to 30 years ago. Yes. I agree. I do. I also love to talk about how awesome the Huskers were back then at football. This coincidentally is my second personality flaw. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. GBR. Tweet me any Husker positivity you want at KSUXTonyM. Send good Husker vibes my way.
Anyway, on to the flashback.
I knew Shana was the one for me. I moved up to Sioux City to chase this radio dream and hoped the tender-hearted social worker in Lincoln would follow me up, eventually. I was serious and hoped she felt the same. I went to the jewelry store and picked out an engagement ring. On the day I was to pick it up, my loan was refused because I didn’t have enough work experience. “What?”. This is so not going to help my cause. After pleading for a few weeks and calling in some favors from a few at the radio station that would vouch for me, the jewelry store decided to take a risk on me that I would show up for work and collect a few more paychecks. I showed them. It’s been 576 paychecks since I begged them that I would be stable.
My plan was to propose at Stone State Park. With the delay in the loan, I went to option B. I proposed in the street in near downtown Lincoln where we met. I believe there may have been a drug deal a few houses down at that same time. Romantic, huh? She said yes. So, I guess it worked. However, Stone State Park and a life I never asked to have would be waiting for me when we welcomed our son Trey into the world.
My buddy Josh Cobbs did a stellar podcast episode called “Postcards from the Run – Nature Says What?” chatting with Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller. She spoke about research surrounding the calmness nature can provide for those on the autism spectrum. If my son had the gift of verbal, I am sure that is a statement he would agree whole-heartedly. With Trey, you learn to read his behavior like a detective on CSI New York. His actions can tell you plenty. I’m sure I’ve made at least 100 trips to Stone State Park from our home. We live 4.6 miles away…via paved roads. It would be “our family sanctuary”. That momentary respite from the stress autism can sometimes provide would be a blessing. Stone State Park has become a symbol for where we find peace. Parents. Siblings. Friends. Religion. Spirituality. A loving chat with a stranger at the store. A golden retriever beaming with joy and energy. Compassion from radio listeners. Individuals like you that take the time to read my life perspective through Trey man. It means the world to our family.
Likewise, we have found an inner circle of loved ones navigate our way through autism from Trey’s diagnosis; to now, one day shy of turning 18 years old! I am very thankful my lovely wife has been my co-pilot through this autism journey. Turbulence of life is unmatched to her fight. For Trey. For our son, Beau. For me. She was the stable the loan officer at the jewelry store didn’t think I was.
Today is a great day to celebrate life.
Sure. Many times, I come into work powered by a 90-minute nap because Trey’s autism can make peaceful sleep for him and us challenging. His super-power is occasionally pulling all-nighters without a drop in enthusiasm and energy. Me? I handled and totally rocked the overnight shift back in college. See? Another old reference. Now, I crave much more sleep than when I was on a college adrenaline high.
Whenever you care for a loved one with special needs, it can take a mental toll on you. I probably worry about Trey’s long-term life goals more than I would like. I just can’t help it. Some days are dark. No doubt. Keep Battling. Keep on lovin’. Everything worthwhile takes effort.
However, Trey has been a gift to our family. You won’t find a pity party here. And there’s way more beauty than I can properly define in this space. The good outweighs the bad times by a degree of 1,000. There are few moments as gratifying as seeing your son smile big and laugh with you when the world seems too serious. You can easily share a moment with verbal words. It’s a loving feeling. You learn to cherish the days. Savor the hours. 18 years goes by way too quickly.
Trey has given me a filter to see the world. A view that is more compassionate, way more patient and a great barometer as to what values are truly- important in life.
Autism is no walk in the park.
However, when you climb that hill of adversity with your family, the view can be more gratifying than getting approved for a loan.
Slow down and take it all in.
Tony Michaels / KSUX Program Director / Sioux City, IA
Author of “Tacos and Beer Atmosphere” Paperbacks at Sioux City Gifts Store and order online at www.tacoswithtony.com Digital e-books available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble web sites.