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Dear Brother,

We are not wired for this.  Our problem solving skills do not match up well with this unexpected challenge that has been unexpectedly thrust upon us.

What do you mean it can’t be fixed? 

What do you mean there is no cure?

I know exactly how you feel.  Even though my head knows better, my heart still wants to fix it…fix her, just like I know you want to fix him.

It is what we do as men – we fix things.  If something is broken, we fix it.  If we can’t fix it, we probably know someone who knows someone who can.  Flat tire, broken hose, leaky pipe?  No problem, pass the tools.  If it’s something bigger?  Pass the phone, I know a guy…

***

Dear Brother,

This is different.  Our kids aren’t machines.  It took me some time to come to the realization that our kids aren’t broken; they are simply different.  Can that difference make life harder?  Yeah, right now it can; but difference, whether it be race, gender, orientation, height, weight or autism can do that.

But different doesn’t mean bad.

***

Dear Brother,

Don’t be afraid of labels.  It took me time to realize that when Brooke received her autism diagnosis, she was still the same girl she was before the doctor said, “autism”.  The label doesn’t change our kids dear brother.  In fact, the label empowers them…empowers us.  The label gives us a powerful tool in helping our kids get the services they need.  The label can turn resentment of strangers into compassion, helping them understand that when our kids have public meltdowns, it’s not because they are bratty or that we are bad parents, but rather because the environment has overwhelmed our kids’ capacity to cope.  The label is not about pigeon holing our kids…it’s about setting them free.

***

Dear Brother,

It takes time for us to get to the place where our kids’ mothers are.  Truthfully, we will never occupy the same space.  We are not wired the way they are.  Intellectually we will know, but a small part of our hearts will always betray us.  But that’s okay.  Just like our kids, we are different.

Autism is part of who our babies are.  Admitting that doesn’t change them.  Admitting that doesn’t hurt them.  Admitting that doesn’t mean you love your kid any less.  Admitting that doesn’t mean you will stop searching for ways to make his life easier.  In fact, admitting that will in all likelihood hasten the influx of tools that are available to you, your wife, and most importantly, your son.

***

Dear Brother,

It’s okay to feel the way you do…it is how we are wired, but ultimately, denial only hurts the one, beautiful creature we are trying to protect.

Sincerely & Respectfully,

Luau

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Dear Katy,

Can I call you Katy? Seems kinda strange to call you Ms. Perry, especially since I’m old enough to be your dad…well, your uncle anyway.

Anyway, Katy, I took my older daughter Katie to see your movie Part Of Me yesterday. To be honest, despite secretly enjoying your music (please don’t tell anybody), I wasn’t particularly excited about seeing your movie. I mean, come on, a 42-year-old man seeing Part Of Me? Felt a little creepy to me, except for the fact that I was accompanying my daughter.

All that being said, I was pleasantly surprised – by the movie, by you, by the people you choose to surround yourself with – and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The honesty with which you expose yourself is both inspiring and heart breaking.

After the movie, as Katie and I walked across the Boston Commons, I asked her how she enjoyed it and what she thought of it. She was somewhat lost in thought, but managed to get an “I liked it” out. I couldn’t help but think I was getting a preview of my soon to be teenager – a topic for another day I suppose.

Over the last year or so I’ve caught Katie writing lyrics. Very often, when she would see that I had seen, she would crumple up the paper she was writing on. Recently she has begun fiddling on the piano with some of these lyrics in front of her.

Katie (not Katy) at the piano

She is still extremely private about what she is writing and stops as soon as she even senses me near the room.

I asked her if now that we had seen your movie, would she be pulling out her guitar that she rarely played and learn how to play a few chords. She said, “I’m really not any good at the guitar.” To which I responded that one only gets good at something by practicing and hard work. I brought her back to your movie, pointing out that your “instant” success was a bit of an illusion and that you had to work very hard for a long time for it, but also that a huge part of your success was your faith and belief in yourself and your music.

I don’t know what your ultimate message was with Part Of Me or even if you had one, but to me one of those messages was about following your dream with the understanding that hard work was necessary to ultimately reach one’s goal.

So that is what I tried to convey to Katie – if music was something she really wanted to do, and if writing songs was something she really enjoyed, then she needed to do it. I told her that without a doubt, she would write a bunch of stinkers, but that process would make her better and eventually lead to some real quality music.

I don’t know how much of that sunk in, but I am hoping that she will follow your example and chase whatever dreams she may have; if not in music then in whatever realm her dreams may lay.

So why am I mad at you? Why am I do angry with you?

When I was a boy, I wanted to grow up to be a singer. I “knew” I was destined to be on stage, singing my songs to thousands of people who were singing along with me. In my head I would make up songs and sing my heart out. I learned to play the flute (my pop said our apartment was too small for my first choices – trumpet or drums), then the piano and eventually began to teach myself the guitar.

And then I began to sing.

I knew I was on my way…until someone told me I sounded terrible and could not sing.

I. Was. Crushed.

And I stopped singing. I threw away the lyrics and let the music fade away from memory.

***

As a young man I decided I wanted to be a television star – not prime time mind you, I’m talking Soap Operas. Goofy, I know. If I couldn’t sing, I was sure I could still act – performing is performing, and I loved (love?) it. At the end of my time in college, I felt like I was just getting over my anxiety about “sounding terrible” and I was determined to go to New York.

Once again, the dream was in my head…

…and once again I let someone else tell me it was a bad idea.

And I didn’t go.

***

As an adult I went through a few different kinds of jobs – I managed paralegals, I taught high school, I did event planning for a premier New York City firm. All of them provided a certain amount of satisfaction, but I still wanted something different. Believing I could not sing or act, I eventually found a new love – fitness (part of the reason you find me here on Run Luau Run). I decided that maybe finally, I had found something that I could excel at, even possibly become a star of sorts (granted at a much smaller scale). I started to study to become a trainer, to help other help themselves. I really was gonna chase the dream this time.

Yet again, I let someone convince that this was not a good idea and I let it go.

***

Why am I mad at you? Because you and your movie and your music were not there when I was a boy, a young man and a late 30-something.

But I am glad I found you now as a dad because you have re-affirmed something in me.

I may be that plastic bag floating in the wind; I may be that paper thin house of cards; I may be buried six-feet underground; this firework may now simply only have the potential to be a sidewalk sparkler…that may be me; I know I am living a life of what if’s, of if only’s, of chances not taken, but I will be damned if I let my Katie do the same.

You reminded me yesterday to encourage my girl to take risks, not fear failure and chase her dreams now and not let anyone else dictate what it is that she wants to do, wants to be. I hope a part of Katy finds its way into a part of Katie.

Thank you for your music (it’s great to listen to while marathon training by the way), thank you for your movie, thank you for you…I’m still mad at you though!

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