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Too many years angry

Derek Volk’s Blog for AANE

I spent too many years mad at my son.  I always loved him very much but I was angry with him.  I knew it was wrong at the time but I just couldn’t help myself.  He was destroying the ideal family that I dreamed I would have when I became a father.  He created almost constant stress.  He was only 25% of our children but he sucked up about 90% of our time and energy.  My son got me to say things I never thought I would say to my child, he drained my patience and often squashed my sex life.  My son has Asperger’s and, due to no fault of his own, I was pissed at him.  Time has passed. I have grown.  During those years I mourned the son I thought I would have and I learned to love the son that God gave me.  The boy in my life would teach me everything I would ever need to know about vacuum cleaners, birds and cars  and would have me recognizing more gangsta rap music than I ever thought possible (or desirable).  My son would never be Mr. Popularity.  He was not going to be captain of the baseball team or prom king.  I forgave my son for something he never needed forgiveness for.  I am not angry any more.

It was not easy to get to the point where I could genuinely enjoy and appreciate Dylan.  He was challenging.  And when I say challenging what I mean is that he was often borderline impossible.  As I write in great detail in my book, “Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum,” he has been to multiple programs specializing in children on the Autism spectrum who told us, “He is the most difficult kid we have ever dealt with.”  Those are words that, when heard enough times, can make you pretty frustrated . . . and angry.  It took me many years, along with a lot of prayer and soul searching, to understand that my son was never trying to hurt our family.  He was never intentionally creating an emotional tsunami wherever he went.  He was just trying to live in a world that was often too fast-paced and confusing for him to make much sense of it.

One day when Dylan was 20 he texted me a cartoon picture of a mouse entering a giant maze.   The only words on the text were, “My brain every morning when I wake up.”  It was a pivotal and emotional moment for me.  I cried as I stared at my phone and tried to imagine a life where everyday tasks felt like a mouse entering a complex and never ending maze.  How could I be angry at him when I should be doing everything I can to help him navigate that maze.  He is 23 and now lives in Texas so I cannot spend my days walking him through the maze.  What I try to do is guide him, teach him and provide encouragement for him to enter that maze every day.  And he bravely does.  Each day he is learning to find a way through it on his own.  He may never reach the point where his brain doesn’t see the maze but with my help, patience, love and with no more of my anger he is gaining ground on it.  When he calls me, frantic and confused, I quietly picture that mouse and remember that while I can’t get him to the other side of the maze, I can walk him around the next corner so he is back on track.