the other veterans



Last week, our nation paused to give thanks to our *military veterans*As I read about all of the wonderful events that day, I began to envision a different kind of gathering. This was not the kind of event to take place on the National Mall or on the White House lawn. There would be no stage. There would be no fanfare. There would be no cameras.

The guests of honor would be tired, but proud. With them, their children – mostly adults now – many of them differently challenged, all of them gifted in so many ways. An incredible gathering in and of themselves, to be honored on a whole different plane. And they would be – God, would they be – but not today. Not in this particular vision.

I’d ask the crowd for their attention for just a moment. There would still be commotion – movement and noise. No one would mind. Most wouldn’t notice.

“I know I don’t have long to talk,” I’d say. “I’ll do my best to make it brief. But I need – NEED – all of us to stop the world just long enough to acknowledge those who walked this road before us.”

I would look at my girls standing with their Dad. Brooke would be wearing her headphones. I’d know she was listening to Godspell. Katie would be looking so grown-up, having convinced me to let her dress up for the occasion.

I’d choke up and have to pause. Someone would hand me a tissue. In this crowd, there are always tissues. And then I’d say what I came to say.

“To those who took those first few steps in total darkness.

To those who stopped only to reach a hand back to those of us who would follow not far behind.

To those whose ‘research’ was slow and laborious – who couldn’t troll for answers ‘online’.

To those whose connections to one another weren’t made in chat rooms, but in waiting rooms.

To those who fought for understanding and compassion and respect, long before there were foundations and celebrity advocates and international events dedicated to global awareness.

To those who did not just fight for services for their children, but who created them.

To those who refused to remove their children from their homes, their schools, their churches and their synagogues no matter what the men in the white coats told them was best.

To those who fought to prove that we ALL would be better for their children’s presence in our communities, in our lives.

To those who convinced educators that their children could learn.

To those who first spoke the word autism aloud, determined  to shatter the prejudices contained within it.

To the thousands of *Eustacia Cutlers* and *Judy Barrons* and *Mothers of Shrek*.

To the *Susan Senators* and the Carol Dyers.

To those whose names we know and to those whose names we never will.

To those who wrote books and to those who didn’t.

To those who testified before congress and to those who quietly educated their neighbors.

To those whose children who have long since aged out of the system but who still show up at advocacy meetings, just to be there to offer their perspective.

To those who wept alone and to those who found each other.”

I would take a deep breath, knowing I hadn’t begun to scratch the surface, but knowing too that I was out of time. I’d search for the right words.

“To every one of the mothers and fathers who struggled to give their children – ALL of their children – the lives they so richly deserved and in so doing made it incrementally more possible for all of us to do the same, THANK YOU.”

24 thoughts on “the other veterans

  1. Wow! Jess, thanks for the shout out. This is a conversation I just had with Ali. We were so lucky to have people along the way to share the load and help us cope. I remember when J was diagnosed all those years ago and the dr. sent us to the library to read about autism…..all I could find was “refrigerator mom.” Now that was a tough one to swallow. All of the programs, all kinds of therapies, anything new we would try. Always hoping…. So much disappointment and heartache. But also all of the joy and happiness too. The people we would have never known if not for J. In our school district my son and my friend’s sons definitely paved the way for what is common place today. When I reflect on where we are now, I am proud of what we did. Thank you Jess for being so eloquent…I just read Donut Shop and the comments….boy could I relate with the box of tissues nearby.

  2. To DOAM~ Thank-you. My deepest gratitude for all that you do to enrich our lives and bring compassion, love and understanding to the forefront.
    Ole leaky eyes #2

  3. amen. thank you a thousand times over to all those parents before us who allow us to say the “a” word out loud.
    and thank you to you, for not only reminding us of that, but for creating a community where we can share our stories and not be ashamed.

  4. Um… may I add just one more? Please?

    To Jess!! ::::clinking glass::::::::
    For all that YOU do!

    And goodgod yes- endless thanks and gratitude to those ( like my next door neighbor) who had to feel their way through the darkest dark in days before the internet, support groups, some amazing therapies, and other resources were available. We all do what needs to be done for our kids but I can’t imagine doing it before information, help, and even friendship was readily available at my fingertips. Bless them all. And US as well!

  5. I’ll vote for a day like this! Every time I think you’ve written the most remarkable post, you top it with the next.

    I love you!

  6. Wow. I wasn’t expecting this this morning. How powerful and true. So many have paved the way to allow others a “jumping off point”. We all do what we can do. You, as I’ve said before, put in to words what I never could. Every day. Thank you.

  7. Unquestionably , unequivocally, without question. I can’t imagine walking this road without the ideas and insights by other moms. For those who asked questions, For those who questioned the answers, and demanded we and our children be accepted. Thank you!

  8. And what about Rosalind Oppenheim and Clara Claiborne Park, now both deceased, but two of the pioneering moms of autistic children? There are in my book of heros.

    Thanks, Jess, for all you do!

  9. Proof positive that it DOES take a village to raise a child. Thank you for honoring the “elders” who have taught us all so much and paved a smoother path for so many.

  10. I met a mom of an adult child with autism. She had little choice in the 50’s but to institutionalize her child. Even today you could feel her heartbreak. She is very proud of her son, who now lives in a group home. She showed photos all round the group. Moms like these deserve all the hugs we can give them.

  11. Pingback: Mainstay « Autism In a Word

  12. My Molli recently celebrated her 19th Birthday. She was diagnosed at the age of 2. Till she was 10, I was a single Mother [never married.] Without the support of extended Family, a few excellent teachers,a few kind Doctors,a few passionate therapists, & a handful of loyal Friends; we would not have survived. Any mountain can be ascended with the right people holding your hand. We are always beholden to those Who are first into the fray, & to Emerson who said,” Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path & leave a trail.”

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