Monday, November 7, 2011

Dollhouses and Haystacks

I don't write much about my Big Lug. He's a private person and, after all, I am the one clinging to cool, not him. But in life, events & moments happen that forever change the way you view your significant other - for both the good and the bad. Major life moments deserve acknowledgement.

I remember a Sunday years ago - BC, BM, SG (Before Children, Before Marriage, Still Giddy) - my husband and I were sitting in Church together. I was listening to his deep voice reciting the responses and I looked over at him as he faced the altar and thought to myself: "I can see myself sitting next to you for a lifetime".

After our first baby was born, and I watched him hold all 6 lbs of him in his giant hands, I was totally overwhelmed with emotion as I realized we were really, truly a family.

Some life moments aren't quite so Hallmark Movie Channel. There are little moments, tiny events... that sneak up on you and take your breath away before you even know what hits you.

When I found out we were having a boy, I was over the moon. I could see the joy in my husband's eyes as he flashed forward to future years filled with playing catch and going fishing. When John was born, he was breathtaking with dark, thick hair and almond eyes. He looked so much like my Big Lug that I was tempted to name him "Little Lug".

As John got older, he struggled making connections with people. Even his parents. Instead he preferred to connect with books, computers, televisions, trains, gears, you get the picture. Eventually, we were told about his autism, which made it understandable, but not particularly easy to understand.

As the years progressed, I was thrilled to see John develop his own unique personality and interests. Although he never said a word, I watched as my husband's hoped-for and dreamed-of typical father-son relationship faded away.

John is a quirky little dude. The years between 4 & 6 were really quirky. He didn't have a natural sense of play, so he copied his sister. He didn't go to daycare, so his all-day role model was me. The result was a boy that liked to play with "girl toys" sometimes.

My Big Lug is a man's man. He is old fashioned. He likes meat & potatoes. He believes in a hard day's work. He considers a hand shake as good as a notarized contract. He likes to do business in person, eye to eye.

One Saturday when I was under the weather, he took the kids to his nephew's basketball game . My son wanted to sit where he could see the cheerleaders. And do the cheers.

My husband - clad in his overalls in a packed gym in the middle of rural America - took his kids to sit by the cheerleaders and let them both do the cheers and dance around.

I know it wasn't easy. I know it was far beyond his comfort zone. And I certainly know it isn't what he expected when the doctor said "It's a boy!". But he did it, and I love him for it. It was a life changing moment for me. Because he, who prides himself on being un-bendable, bent with the wind that day.

My husband's co-worker and her family have a farm and every Fall they host a large cookout. This was the first year we attended as a family. I won't lie, I was nervous. There were about a zillion kids there and there was alot of places for my son to get in trouble, especially as darkness fell. Also, no one there really knew me and they didn't really know about John's autism and his quirks and well... it just made me nervous.

When we got there, I could tell John was nervous too. He was playing it cool, but he gets this face when he is surveying a new situation. He had the face.

John's eyes shot to the corner of the large building we were in. The hostess had awesomely set up a play area filled with toys and crafts for the kids. John immediately spots a huge dollhouse and makes a bee-line for it. He sat down and started playing with all the dolls and furniture and stuff. I glanced at my husband... and said "Are you okay?"... and he said "As long as he's happy". Bending with the wind. A moment. Thank you God.

As John's comfort level grew, he ventured outside and eventually discovered a barn filled literally to the rafters with hay. He also discovered a herd of other boys. The hay became a fort, the boys became his posse. When we went to check on him, he was with a group of guys running, yelling, chasing, tackling, and pretending to slay another group of guys only referred to as The Enemy. Their chief mission appeared to be avoiding the smelly girls on the swing set at all costs. They were covered in hay and dirt and having a ball. John, at almost 8 years old, seemed so confident, so carefree and, dare I say, so normal.

I didn't have to look at my husband to know he was beaming. And I get it. He is entitled to have hopes and dreams for our son too.

Listen, you gotta know, I don't care if my son plays with Barbies or trucks. Like all parents, I just want him to be happy, healthy, and God willing, independent enough to move out of our house some day. My Big Lug feels the same way.

But I am so thankful that the man I married has a strong enough sense of self that he can permit our son to be himself.

I am thankful beyond words.


  1. I have found myself loving your family through your blogs. You are the kind of people we all need in our lives. Truly amazing... Stephanie Smith

  2. oh Stacia, my eyes are filled with tears ! Not sad but happy. i know where you are coming from . Curt is a mans man but I love to give him a big ole' hug anyway. The dads in an autistic world isnt an easy one at all,but with time they adjust.(thank GOD) Like you and Curt,with John, we too have been blessed with Jake being able to speak and at times he joins in with the rest of the kids. Oh those moments are like the sun rising ! Onward and upward to the next hurdle------------luv you guys BOO )

  3. Maybe it isn't about accepting people for what they are, rather just loving them for who they are...if that makes any sense. Sounds like your Big Lug has it all figured out. As always thank you for sharing these wonderful glimpses into your life...Therese.

  4. You always, always, always manage to create that warm feeling in my heart (you know, the place stories come from per John).
    Love this.

  5. OMG, all children are truly the same...
    A comment about your conversation:
    "Johnny, do I look cool in these sunglasses?"

    "Well, you look like Mom."

    "Dang it."

    Me, dressed as a cat for Halloween with kitty ears, a kitty tail and face paint whiskers: "Do I look like a cat?"
    KB, dismissively: "No. You look like a mom."

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