From the time my son was born, I looked forward to the time when he was old enough to go hunting and fishing with me. As a father and an outdoorsman, having a son meant that I would have someone to share those experiences with. In my family, I was the youngest of five boys. My oldest brother was eighteen years older than me and my father was eleven years older than my mother, who was thirty-seven when I was born.
Like a lot of families, my father and mother both worked full time and carried second jobs. Needless to say, my father and I didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would have liked, and when I was seventeen my father unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Fortunately, I was blessed with the best brothers ever; we spent a lot of quality time together even before dad passed away. After dad’s death, my brothers tried to fill the father role for me and honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without them. They all played a vital part in my life.
As I started my own family I had visions of what my relationship would be like with my children. I thought about fishing trips, camping, vacations and all of the normal things that families do. You can imagine my delight when my first child was born and it was a big nine pound baby boy.
The first couple of years were typical baby years except he was what my mother called “colicky”. I just wanted him to hurry up and get old enough to hold a fishing pole. Our second child came along when our son was about two and a half. This child was a beautiful little girl. I thought this would be great, I will have a son to do boy things with and my wife would have a daughter to do girlie things with, what a perfect family.
Almost as soon as we brought our daughter home our son began showing signs of strange behavior. He wouldn’t even look at his new sister. Over the next few months my wife became increasingly concerned with his actions and began looking for an answer. Within a year or so, we had found a place to have him “tested,” and they gave him a label of Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Thankfully, my wife continued searching for information and instructions on how to live with what we now know as Autism.
Even though my son was different than I expected, I treated him normally and took him with me as often as I could. We made many trips to our local lakes to spend time fishing, and I use that term loosely. I would try to fish while he would look for the biggest rock he could pick up to throw in the water. I didn’t catch many fish, but he had a great time “fishing.”
One particular trip on a summer evening, I had given up on catching any fish and most of the good sized rocks that were high and dry when we arrived, were now resting at the bottom of the lake. The setting sun was transforming the western sky in hues of orange, red and yellow. I took a minute to enjoy the beauty that God had created, something that I wanted so desperately to share with my son. I said to him, “Isn’t that sunset beautiful,” to which he replied, “Yeah, it sounds like corn.”
Disheartened, I hung my head, turned and walked to the truck. Like many times before and since, I just wanted a normal response. I threw my gear in the back of the truck and climbed into the cab wondering if I would ever be able to reach him. As I started to back away I took one more look at the lake. Stretching across the calm water lay a long yellow reflection of the sun, looking incredibly like an ear of corn. With a lump in my throat, through watery eyes, I said, “It does sound like corn, doesn’t it.” Since then he has taught me many more lessons on perception.
By James Clark
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.