Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Point: What Is The Point?

That's a darn good question.

What is the point of this blog or my story?

My long, reluctant journey into the world of autism began approximately four years ago. The first two years were marred by ignorance and denial, as well as a lot of pain and frustration. The next year and a half began the transformation of acceptance, largely by reading memoirs written by other special needs parents and writing one of my own. The process of writing the memoir was very therapeutic. I was able to articulate my own thoughts and feelings about the experience and support them with the advice and experience of others. For the last six months, I've been sharing my story on this blog.

I began the writing the memoir out of the frustration of just how much the experience sucked. I wanted others to know just how hard it was and, more importantly, point out to new fathers to the club that they are not as alone as I felt during those two miserable years.

The writing occurred in two major chunks. The first chunk was written during the summer of 2008. The second chunk was written from November through December of the same year - after a best selling author told me it was too short (way too short). The first chunk represented my story as I spat it onto the pages. It represented what pissed me off about the "process" and what I thought others should know. The second chunk represented others' interpretations of the same or similar events with some reflection added in. It's half emotion/half substantiation.

Part of what drove me to finish the book was my certainty that there was a need for a book like this from the father's perspective. Now, I'm not so sure. When I look at the memoirs by fathers on the bookshelves, I see some truly heartbreaking and/or inspirational tales.

James Reston Jr.'s Fragile Innocence: A Father's Memoir of His Daughter's Courageous Journey is a heart-wrenching tale. I had no idea while I was reading the book that Reston had been a central figure in the Nixon/Frost story. Even if I had, it would have seemed insignificant compared to his experience with his daughter, Hillary. Rob Rummel-Hudson's memoir, Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey With His Wordless Daughter, revealed a story with which I identified in many ways. The steps he took were very reminiscent to my own. The size of the footprints he left were not. At times, I find myself wondering if I could have handled what Rob faced and continues to face. Roy Richard Grinker's Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism was just so damn well researched that it was hard not to want to quote it on every page.

One book that I haven't read, but should, is Rupert Isaacson's The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal His Son. There are a few reasons I haven't read it. The biggest reason is that when it was released I had already read over ten memoirs about special needs and autism in a short period of time. I'd also just spent the previous nine months writing my own memoir. I was all filled up with autism and special needs. I couldn't take any more. I needed a break.

The second, and possibly more insidious reason, was that it was competition. I'd never looked at these memoirs in that way but an agent set me straight. After hearing the first two pages of Kicking and Screaming and complimenting the writing (which I enjoyed), she threw cold water on the assumptions I had held dear for over a year. It didn't matter that I was writing from a father's perspective. "Unless you're going to take your son to Mongolia and put him on a horse (referring to Rupert's story), you're going to have a hard time selling it without a platform," she said. I spoke with a few other agents and their take was the same.

Both Rob and Rupert will be hosting a panel at this weekend's Texas Book Festival being held this weekend in Austin, TX. If I wasn't going to the Notre Dame/Washington State football game in San Antonio, I'd be attending the event. I'd like to hear more about Rupert's story despite having not read his book.

A lot has changed since I banged out those first few words of Kicking and Screaming. I'm in a much better place about the situation. I've achieved a level of acceptance I found unimaginable a few years ago. I know another ride on "the cycle of grief" might be just around the corner but I'm an experienced passenger. I know how the ride ends. I'm just glad I don't have to ride it as often as I used to. Also, as I've noted several times recently, Robbie is in a great place. He's achieved a level of speech, self-regulation and social skill that I found unimaginable a few years ago. I'm awed by the progress he's made in such a short period of time. These two realities have taken some of the passion out of my quest. Autism World is home and it's become a pretty nice place. Not a perfect place. But a nicer place than it was not too long ago. It's hard to climb atop the soap box and exclaim, "it's okay!"

The point of this blog hasn't changed. I still want to inform people about Autism World and give those who already know the opportunity to relive some shared experiences. I'd like to provide a better forum for fathers to share their experiences but there are just so many hours in the day. As for getting a book published, I'm not too sure. The competition is stiff. Their stories are compelling. The road of platform creation, self-promotion and publication is not for the feint at heart. These parents are fueled by an endless well of passion that I lack at the moment.

I'm okay with that. Trust me.

No comments:

Post a Comment