asperger's, autism, faith, family hero, father, father's day, fatherhood
For Father’s Day
Ralph, my husband and father of our children, is an unsung hero. Well, today I am writing his song of praise.
When Ralph became a father 26 years ago, he took on the challenge with aching, joyful love and trepidation. Three months after Mary was born, I went back to work at a bookstore. I came home one evening to find him sitting on the couch, white as a sheet. It was his first experience with an evening of full blown colic. Mary had screamed for three hours before she calmed down. After seeing the doctor to find out why she was screaming, he found ways to comfort her. He walked her outside back and forth for hours, while singing the song he made up for her.
Nighty-night time for my Mary
I lo-ove you.
He was the one who developed a bedtime routine for our kids…bath, a story, nighty-night song and tuck-in. The kids would read stories with me during the day, but at bedtime, they wanted their Daddy. For Ralph, they would settle down and go to sleep.
Ralph supported breast feeding by helping out around the house. He cooked dinner. He distracted the older one(s). He wanted to do what he could to ensure that our kids got the best start in life. Without his support, our kids would not have been breast fed, for about a year each.
He cleaned up after the kids when they were sick.
He got on the floor and played with them.
When Ralph came home from work, he wanted to hear about our day. He listens, intently.
When our kids were in the process of being placed in special education, he was heartbroken. He has learning disabilities, so he blamed himself. Before the initial IEPC for Will, he didn’t want to go because, “I don’t want to hear what they say is wrong with my little boy.” He went anyway.
He worked to understand autism after we received the diagnosis. He encouraged me to go to conferences and workshops to learn more about autism so that we could help our kids. He helped with at-home therapy. He told me over and over how he appreciated the work I was doing with the kids.
When I told him that understanding humor, and differentiating between kind teasing and malicious teasing is difficult for people with autism, he used his joking and story telling talents to help them…for years.
He adjusted his work schedule so that he could pick them up after school or take them to appointments when I went back to school, and when I started working full time. For the last 12 years, he has been getting up at 3:00 a.m., so that he is available after 3:00 p.m.
He models faith. He shows his love by talking to them and playing games with them. We are a close family and Ralph is the anchor.
He has gone to nearly every one of Will’s concerts and band competitions. He took Patty to her art competitions.
He used his vacation time to be with the kids over Christmas break. He used his vacation to go with Will to band camp for three years, to go on youth retreats and spring break mission trips with Mary, Will, and Patty.
He has worked to support his kids even in the face of daunting health problems. His medication for his blood disorder makes him so tired. For two years, he had an very painful ulcer on his leg. He went to work anyway, to support his family.
When our kids went to college, he picked them up, and found additional opportunity to talk to them and influence their souls.
Now the kids are stepping toward independence, their own lives. Will left home and Ralph has worried and ached for him. Ralph put together furniture for Will. He taught Will his favorite recipes.
Will called Ralph for advice. Last week, he called Ralph to find out how to cook meatballs.
Ralph often praises me. He, however, is the family hero.
(This was published in Halo Magazine)