Monday, January 25, 2021

Visits with Tyler

We were able to visit with Tyler a few times over the last two weeks.  It had been 11 months since we were last able to see him in person, which was extremely difficult.  Fortunately with everyone adjusting to new protocols, we have been able to make brief visits with him.

Our first visit a few weeks ago was nerve-wracking, at least for me.  I knew he would recognize us, but would he become overwhelmed emotionally by seeing us again.  After all, he doesn't have any idea how long it has been, or why it might have seemed like such a long time.  We showed up with masks on which probably wasn't going to help matters.  He was somber.  It appeared this was likely his mood before we arrived, and our presence did nothing to change this.  He looked up a few times and stayed mostly expressionless and quiet.  We tried coaxing some words or expressions out of him but it wasn't to be.  After about 30 minutes we said our goodbyes and left.  We wanted to feel some sense of optimism from it all, but those attempts felt hollow.  The truth is, we were devastated to seem him looking grim and lonely within himself without the power to change it.  These changes in him began appearing long before COVID, but the pandemic has certainly exacerbated it.

Our second visit this past weekend went much better.  It was a beautiful, but cold day, so we took him for a drive-thru lunch and a drive along the river.  He seemed much more awake and responsive this time.  His sister asked if she could buy him a milkshake as a small token of her loving and missing him.  Of course we allowed her to, and he enjoyed every drop. Tyler also enjoyed the nice long drive along the river and rural areas heading back to his home.  I did notice some emotion in him as we settled him back into his chair, as though it was hard for him to transition from us back to the house again.  The ride home was more optimistic this time with all of us looking forward to the small things we can do on future visits.

I wish I didn't bounce from heartbreak to joy so quickly.  Seeing him places me in an emotional spin that makes me dizzy.  I love seeing him, especially when I can see that we are lifting his spirits.  But those days where he is somber and emotionally out of our reach, it is soul-crushing.  It is so difficult to explain because of how difficult it is for me to make sense of it myself, but jumping back to the hyper-vigilant mindset for such a short period of time is disorienting and scary for me.  Its like when I pick up a bowling ball after a couple of years....things that were automatic are now strenuous, and what seemed effortless is now clunky.  It might look similar to how things used to be, but they are very different.  

There is much upside to think about however.  We are now able to see Tyler and make sure he knows we are still here and that we still love him.  He has maintained his health and is ready to expand his life again when the time comes.  And warmer weather is not too far away so we can look forward to short walks and fresh air with him.  

Be well and God bless.  Tom  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Cool Things out of the Blue

Sometimes, even during these difficult times, cool things happen out of the blue that remind you that positive things are still all around us.  We are certainly in dark times right now, but sometimes a beam of light finds its way through for no apparent reason.

Today I saw a notification on a messaging platform but I didn't recognize the name.  I clicked on it and read one of the coolest messages I've seen in a while.  A gentleman was leafing through an old elementary school yearbook and saw Tyler's picture.  It made him remember Tyler fondly, especially his good nature and kindness.  Think about that, he still remembered Tyler 20 years later.  He went on to say he wanted me to know he enjoyed the blog and was thinking of Tyler and the family.

How absolutely cool is that?

I think it shows how much we all impact people's lives without perhaps realizing it.  And we impact those people through our demeanor and our actions, not necessarily by what we say, how smart we are, or the materials we have.  Its flattering to thank that Tyler may have contributed a small piece to this person's development and helped to shape him in a positive way.  Obviously this person is unique in that he was willing to reach out as a completely unknown person to just say hello and give a fond memory of Tyler.  Whether he realizes it or not, I won't ever forget that.

Sometimes our world is very dark, and my writings and my thoughts are dark as well.  I'm human and I express things the way the world effects me.  But there are good people out there who value empathy, compassion, and respect for one another.

Thank you "L" for the pleasant reminder.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Saturday, January 2, 2021

End of Days?

 Someone recently asked me if I believed the pandemic was the beginning of the end of days.  Surprisingly, as opinionated as I am, I could not offer an answer.  It would be easy to dismiss the notion, but I am not that confident.  I recognize that there are forces much larger than I who have that answer.

So what do I actually believe?  I believe that whether this is part of the end of the earth, or simply a part of the human experience, we are being watched and evaluated.  

Let's face it, none of us have ever faced a test of this magnitude.  The loss of freedom to move about as we please, the loss of educational opportunities, the loss of resources, the loss of family members, the loss of close contact with other humans, and on and on.  

There are 2 life lessons that come to mind.  First,  true character is shown by what we do when we think nobody is looking.  In other words, we are only as good as what we will do, good or bad, when it is just us and our inner most gut that will know the difference.  When there are no outside influences, who are we REALLY?  I have mentioned this in my previous posts but it bears repeating; my dad has certainly not been a perfect father (none of us are) BUT he has instilled in me one very critical lesson, which is the fact that if you don't have your word and your integrity you don't have anything.  He taught me that regardless of how brutally right or wrong we are, we owe it to ourselves and everyone else to look them straight in the eye and be exactly who we are, and deal with it.

Secondly, true character shows up in the worst of times.  It is easy to be strong when things are within our control, but true character comes when our backs are truly against the wall.  The main question is: did we think of ourselves first, or did we think of others?

Unfortunately, in large part, we have failed this test spectacularly. As children, we are taught that the human soul is much more important than money.  We are taught that those who TRULY believe will honor and protect their brothers and sisters before they will protect money.  We are seeing a true test of this belief. 

Every person who argued that protecting others with masks and hygiene was a violation of their "personal freedom" you FAILED this test.  For every person who kept a business running against health orders, you FAILED the test.  For every person who held gatherings and intentionally risked the health of those around you, you FAILED the test.  You all forgot that 10, or 20, or even 30 years is merely a blink of an eye in eternity.  Whether you ran a successful pizza shop or shoe store or bowling alley is irrelevant when the end comes.

We will be judged by how we protected one other.  We will be judged by what we were willing to sacrifice for one another?  We will be judged by what we did when things were at their darkest?  Where we selfish?  Were we worried about one another, or by "personal freedoms"?  

Will you be able to hold your head up, look our savior in the eye, and say that when the darkest days were upon us you stood tall and protected your fellow man?  Will you be able to say that you pushed selfish and earthly needs aside?  

Be well and God Bless.    Tom

Friday, November 6, 2020

I Voted For Tyler

 Tyler is an American.  In fact, I believe he is a GOOD American.  He works hard, he overcomes adversity, and he loves his fellow man.  

Tyler does not vote.  He does not have the mental capacity to vote.  He cannot understand the complexities of the political world, and perhaps he is lucky not to.

But let me remind everyone...

This shameful display was a "leader" who saw fit to insult a handicapped journalist.  When he did such a despicable thing, it effected me personally.  He insulted every disabled American and he insulted my son.  In this moment HE INSULTED MY BELOVED WONDERFUL SON.  So I am going to exercise my right as his father to now comment on that and this election.

I have never seen such a despicable human being.  If you disagree, look at the picture above and then check yourself in the mirror.  This puke made fun of a brave American hero because he was different due to a handicap.  My son fights to prevail every day despite those who mock him.  

Most disappointing is the religious institutions that whored themselves for Republican money and protections that they sold their morality for a few pieces of silver.  Those who pretend to have religious purpose while turning their heads to bigotry, hate, misogyny, and class warfare.  There is no other way to put this, our religious leaders have failed to stand up for true Christian values.  They have failed the most vulnerable of us....and that is Tyler and everyone in similar circumstances to him.  

I spoke for myself and I spoke for him.  Let me show you this picture again.  This was a stake to the heart of me, Tyler, and the special needs community.

I challenge any so-called Christian to spend 5 minutes with Tyler and then look at this picture.  If you aren't disgusted and appalled with this, I have no more time for you.  Period.

For those who want to say "he has flaws" I challenge you to show me where he has humbled himself, apologized, or repented for his actions.  Never.  

I voted in this election.  And in some fashion, so did Tyler.  We voted for compassion, love, and tolerance.  We voted for Biden.  And maybe just as importantly, we voted against hate and ignorance in the form of a coward by the name of Donald Trump.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Family Update

 The clock just seems to roll one day into the next.  The calendar clicks away the days, nearly empty of appointments, gatherings, or adventures.  Every day feels like groundhog day, just without the groundhog.

Tyler is doing "ok".  Because he is unable to wear a mask, he has not been able to return to his day program or go out into public.  It has become a challenge to keep him exercised and stimulated, but the house is doing their very best.  Even the church hasn't responded to my e-mail about how to bring Tyler back safely.  Its hard for everyone to know the right answers and get things right at thee moment, but I would expect that Tyler would be an important enough member of the congregation to warrant discussion on how to safely keep him actively attending.  On the health front, Tyler is also just "ok".  As he is often subject to, his stomach has slowed down and caused him some temporary bloating and discomfort.  Its the kind of thing that a young man with so many challenges shouldn't have piled on top of him.  It just isn't fair.  It adds to the helplessness of not being able to see him and comfort him.  Its been 7 months since we have seen Tyler, hugged him, laughed with him, or told him face-to-face how much we love him.  He doesn't understand the circumstances so he is simply in a seemingly endless void.  Somewhere in his mind I hope he knows that our love is always with him even when we can't be.

Samantha is doing "ok" as well.  We decided that she would remain at home for now and attend cyber school.  It felt like the safe play considering it is too hard to predict how returning to school will effect the spread of the virus.  We have already gotten calls warning us that staff have tested positive in our district.  There are also other local districts temporarily shutting down due to positive cases or suspected positive cases.  I'm hoping that my predictions have been wrong, and the schools will remain healthy and open.  Meanwhile, Samantha is actually enjoying cyber school.  She likes the shorter overall day, not getting on the bus, and not having some of the social pressures that come at this age.  She lights up when she talks about her teacher...saying she is funny, sweet, and "best of all she is a good person".  I figure that is about as good as it gets.  She does miss her friends and socializing of course, but we try to make sure she has other means to fill those needs.

My wife is very steady through almost everything, so its hard to gauge exactly how much she has been effected.  I know she misses Tyler desperately.  But I think as long as we are all healthy and keeping the roof over our heads, she is "ok".

I consider my own self to be a mixed bag.  On one hand I'm enjoying the family time.  We've also used the time to work on home projects.  Unfortunately there is a downside too.  Parts of my anxiety seemed to have spiked.  Its difficult to explain, but certain conditions and sounds have the tendency to take me back to highly anxious times and events.  Sometimes it takes a lot to throw me back there, sometimes it takes very subtle things.  I think by not seeing him and having that first hand connection it is harder for me to feel reassured.  

We send our thoughts to everyone who is struggling right now.  So many people are hurting because of COVID-19, social injustice, and the divisive climate.  Our family wishes a successful end to the pandemic, equality and love for all humans, and peace and cooperation to return to our nation.  We are common in our struggles, yet choosing to be divided in our fight.  We cannot conquer these issues without unity.

Be well and God bless.    Tom