Taking Aqaba…

I could wax poetic about my husband for hours.  I won’t do it because I don’t want to bore you, but I do want to say something about him on this Sunday when we celebrate Fathers’ Day here in the U.S.

A little over thirteen years ago, Dada proposed marriage to me.  I punched him.  He took it as a “yes,” and here we are.

Oh, the things he took on when he married me!  He had a ready-made family, and that family came with complications.  A man who had never changed a diaper in his life suddenly found himself with a four year-old son who wasn’t toilet-trained.  We all know that a poopy diaper at the age of 1 1/2 years old is already a major endeavor to endure so let’s just leave to the imagination the ages between four and eight (when J finally decided he wanted to use a potty.)  Lawrence of Arabia crossed the desert and took Aqaba; I think my husband pretty much did the same.

He got, in one simple “I do,” a wife, an eight year-old and a four year-old.  He got Autism.  He got my family.  He got rent, parent-teacher meetings, IEPs, tantrums.  There was no preamble.  There was no “oh, this tiny baby is so cute and I have time to get to know him/her before I am waist-deep in the bog of parenting.”  Nope.  He started with kids, not with babies.

This has been no easy task.  Marriage is difficult enough to nurture and let blossom when it’s just two.  When there are four involved, it’s even more complicated.  Throw in a developmental disability and you’re talking juggling tennis balls while walking a high-wire and eating fire.  Thirteen years later, we have tested each other’s patience quite a bit, but at the end of each day we know we’re in it for the long-haul, and we’re happy.

I’ve been a full-time parent for 21 years.  Dada has been a full-time parent for thirteen.  I think he deserves more kudos than I do.  My uterus was compromised in the begetting of these children, but Dada is a volunteer.  In hindsight, regardless of how clearly I explained the pitfalls and joys of parenting (in that order,) the man wasn’t listening…so dazzled was he by the love he felt for us.  On those rare occasions when he scratches his head and groans in frustration, I like to tell him “you wanted children; I just gave them to you.”  Point taken, and he recovers from whatever irritation is ailing him.

Early on in life I knew he was going to, eventually, bald.  When we all became a family, he had a dwindling amount of hair. Let’s say it hasn’t dwindled further yet, but it’s definitely gone gray.  We call these patches of gray “J’s crisis,” “TGG learns to drive,” “the horrible landlords,” “the horrible boss,” “moving cross-country with a 20 year-old driving the family car.”  Over the years, Dada has carried people into the Emergency Room, paid for new glasses to replace new glasses that broke because someone didn’t listen when he was told “don’t leave your glasses on the floor,” held buckets in front of faces to deal with the consequences of drinking, gone to the site of car accidents where a teenager’s car ended up looking like Daffy Duck after Elmer Fudd shoots him, but the teen was thankfully in one piece…

Dada has dressed up for Halloween.  Dada has been to every meeting at the principal’s office, IEPs, classroom birthday parties, theater performances, etc. etc.  His car’s mileage is mostly kid-related.  He has been instrumental in successfully pulling of Christmas and birthday surprises and, from time to time, has been part of the group that is summoned to “sit on the couch, be quiet and listen because I’m only saying this once!”

Love and constancy pay off.  Any hesitation there might have been when the kids were younger has gone away.  A family happens when you all have bronchitis or the stomach bug together.  A family happens when you go through stitches, crutches, broken windows, fires in the microwave oven, puberty and Autism meet and have a spat, supposedly spayed cats have kittens, you spend a week snowed in and run out of movies to watch, and so forth…

It is a lot to ask of a person, but Dada rises up to the occasion (sometimes, I’m sure, wondering WHY) every single day.  Some days it requires a very cold beer, but for the most part it doesn’t.  At the end of the day, Dada is seriously appreciated around here; we all know what he used to do with his spare time before, and that there’s no spare time now.  We try to pamper him, and he doesn’t understand why.  We’ve tried to explain that it’s love, gratitude, sincere appreciation…

Dada is self-deprecating.  He shrugs at our fawning over him and then blushes.  When TGG was eight or nine he wrote a comic book about a super-hero (himself) with a mask, a cape, a baseball cap and a J on his chest.  In one of the stories he saves a mall and, as he’s being thanked by the grateful patrons, he sees a big J in the sky and says “my people have need of me!!!” as he dashes off to his next mission.  Dada, in true goofball fashion, then strikes a pose and says “my people have need of me” and pretends to leap out of the room.

A quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin sums it up best: The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.  Dada has managed to do that, and I think he feels he gets a lot out of being with us, too.  Like T.E. Lawrence, Dada doesn’t cross the desert or take Aqaba alone, and like him, he is willing to go back and pull someone forward with him.  Yeah…Dada blindly and voluntarily jumped into a fray he didn’t start, and that deserves something in return.

Loyalty, love and respect are good places to start…

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