I often talk about how a race can be a metaphor for life in general – the highs, the lows, the laughter, the tears. I often draw parallels between the difficulty I face during a marathon and the difficulties Brooke faces on a daily basis – the conclusion always being that if Brooke can fight through her day, every day, on a lifetime journey, then I can suck it up for three and a half hours over the course of 26.2 miles.
But Boston 13.1 brought a new metaphor to light for me. As I hope most of you know by now, Jess tackled Boston 13.1 on Sunday as well. She ran/walked it. You can read her recap on her blog. I could not be more proud of her. She did it on absolutely no training whatsoever. We had a little talk about it the other night – she said she felt like a fraud because she thought all of the “You Did IT!” praise was misplaced, comparing herself to someone getting through a workday with a hangover – self-inflicted difficulty.
But I saw it a different way.
Here’s the thing – Jess handled Boston 13.1 the same way she has taken on life as the parent of an autistic child; she did it with grace and a sense of humor. When a lot of people would have packed it in (and the organizers of the race were literally packing it in as she passed mile marker 12), she kept going, and this is where the metaphor comes in. When we, as parents of autistic children, find out that we are on a different path, we discover that we are not trained for the unique position we find ourselves in.
Much like Jess felt toeing the line on Sunday, we can feel overwhelmed, undertrained, and all alone when we first hear our child’s diagnosis. But if we have the courage to cross that starting line, to move forward, and we manage to keep our sense of humor about us, we discover that we are, in fact, NOT alone; that there are so many others who are running the same race with as little training.
Is it a harder path? Sure. You will never convince me that being the parent of an autistic child is just as easy as being the parent of a neuro-typical kid. BUT, are there at first unseen blessings along the way? Absolutely. I would argue that Brooke has made me a better father to my kids, a better husband to my wife, and a better friend to my friends than I would have been had I not suddenly found myself on this path.
The number of Team Up singlets on Sunday was both encouraging and disheartening. I would never wish the harder path in life on anyone, but it was so heart-warming to know we were all there together. And just because the path is harder, doesn’t mean that the path is impossible.
My wife proved that yet again on Sunday – it says so right on the picture.