Monday, 18 July 2011

Happy Birthday Dad

Today, I'm going to tell you a little bit about my dad.  He is classicly autistic and I am so proud of him.  He has managed to function successfully in society for the past 82 years.  Its actually quite amazing when I stop to think about it.

Growing up, I wasn't very close to my dad.  In fact, we fought a lot.  He was always doing his own thing and rarely interacted with me or my siblings.  I just didn't understand him.  As I got older, we grew further and further apart.  It really felt like he liked to make me mad.  I was often frustrated with our relationship.

Then a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with autism.  Suddenly, all my dad's behaviors started making sense.  When I thought about the conversations I have had with my dad in the context of autism, I couldn't help but think my dad was amazing.  This man grew up with autism in a time where there were no supports.  He essentially figured out how to cope on his own.  When forced into social situations, he relied on his camera to get through it.  And when in need of sensory therapy, he would swim.

He was the first of five children born during the Depression.  He lived in China during World War II and returned to the US at the age of 7.  He had a lot of trouble communicating, but his parents chalked it up to his years in China.  In school, he got good grades and was great at Math and Science.  He was on his high school swim team.  He went to college and graduated with a Masters in Engineering.  He was diagnosed with diabetes.  He got a job and was married at the age of 42.  He has 5 children and 5 grandchildren. 

Today, my dad acts exactly the same way he did when I was young.  He has a very structured day.  And if you mess with his schedule, he will get VERY crabby.  He needs time to process changes to his schedule and to new situations.  He is very sharp and everything he owns has a place.  He loves numbers and when he is feeling agitated, he calms himself down by roaming the supermarket and comparing prices.  At family events, he takes an "up-close" picture of everyone attending the event. 

I used to think he was weird.  Now, I think he is amazing and am his strongest advocate.  My father accomplished so much in spite of his autism.  I am so proud to have him as my father.  Happy 82nd Birthday, Dad.

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