Why Ezra has autism

tim68

Dear Ezra and Lian,

Over the Christmas holidays, we slept Christmas Eve in Grandpa’s apartment. He spent a lot of that night awake and crying. He was crying because at the nursing home, Grandma didn’t remember that our names were Tim, Ezra and Lian. It took her 15 minutes to realize that we were her kids and grandkids. I told Grandpa most of the following story. It helped cheer him up and give him a purpose.

“1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, anointed the blind man’s eyes with the mud, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he went away, washed, and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors therefore, and those who saw that he was blind before, said, “Isn’t this he who sat and begged?” 9 Others were saying, “It is he.” Still others were saying, “He looks like him.” He said, “I am he.” 10 They therefore were asking him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “A man called Jesus made mud, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received sight.”

John 9

You are going to ask yourself why does Ezra have autism? What went wrong? Who is to blame? Those are the wrong types of questions based on the wrong types of assumptions. What is the purpose? In this, I pray that the power of God would be revealed. In our weakness, I pray that His strength be revealed. In our sadness, I pray that His joy be revealed. In our emptiness, I pray that the fullness of His sufficiency be revealed. Through the cracks in our flawed lives, I pray that His light would shine through. In our impossible situations, I pray that God’s miracles be revealed. This isn’t just Ezra’s disability, it is an opportunity for God. I’m excited to join Him in whatever He’s going to do. He’s already done so many amazing things in Ezra’s life.

Hopefully, one day you can apply the same thinking to the question “Why did my parents get divorced? In this situation, I pray that the power of God would be revealed. When faced with difficulty of any kind; In this, I pray that the power of God would be revealed.

Love,

Dad

The First 9 Days Of My Divorce (Feb. 11-19, Written around Feb. 20, 2015)

tim102

Since September, my divorce application was sitting in a pile on a judge’s desk. Quite by accident and a misunderstanding on my part, I found out on Feb. 10th that a judge had granted my divorce on January 10th. That meant that the next day my divorce would be in effect. Somehow, it caught me by surprise. This was real.

On Saturday, when told his parents were now divorced, Ezra thought it meant his mom wasn’t his mom anymore. She was his ex-Mom. After our separation, his mom, Ruth, spent 3 months last year in Chile visiting her sister. That entire time, Ezra was convinced he was never going to see his mom again. No matter what I said to him, he would not believe that she was coming back. At that exact time, he began going to a new school because his parents were separated. He was bullied. He had no friends at school. He was very miserable.

Yesterday, Tuesday, my almost 4 year old, Lian was standing by the front window. She watched her mom walk away down the sidewalk. With tears streaming down her face, she was screaming at the top of her lungs, “Mommy, don’t go!!! Mommy, don’t go!!!” She got herself so worked up that she vomited up a mixture of chocolate milk and toast on the carpet. She sat on my lap for 15 minutes heaving giant sobs of sadness while I cleaned the mess off of her and tried to get it out of the carpet. When she calmed down, she said, “Can I help?” Together we rubbed paper towel on the carpet, till the yuck and the stain were mostly gone. This is only 1 of Lian’s many screaming separation episodes.

This morning, I awoke to a text message from Ruth. “I don’t know what to do. I miss the kids so much.” My phone is filled with her text messages telling me how much she misses the kids or how often she has cried because she is not with them. Only she knows just how many tears she’s cried because they are not together every day. I know it’s not a few. I have lost track of the number of times Ruth has used every excuse to spend a few extra hours or even minutes with Ezra and Lian. She misses the bus. She cancels going back to her apartment due to the weather, her health, my health or the kids’ health.

Tomorrow, I have another counselling session. It helps me work through my divorce. For the last 21 months, I have been going to counselling. That whole time, I also have had a days assignment at work for compassionate reasons. I’m not working rotating shifts because I am a single dad going through a divorce. I have kids in daycare and a son with autism who needs a parent with a fixed schedule. That decision will be reviewed in May. I’m grateful for that decision for more than just practical reasons. It kept me from having to bring a note to work from my doctor and my psychologist stating that I wasn’t fit for my duties in a nuclear power plant. Thankfully, I’m much better now. (Update: On Aug. 7, 2015 I’m feel better than I have in probably 15-20 years.) For a long time, I could not concentrate enough to work in an industrial environment. I’m fortunate to have a sympathetic employer and health insurance that gave me the opportunity to get better. Most don’t have that chance.

Sure, divorce is much more than this. It means one can get out of unsafe marriages. It means you are free of the “ole ball and chain”. You can end a lot of dysfunction. Yes, but it’s also my stories above. If you or someone you know are thinking of choosing divorce, remember it comes with a cost. Make sure it’s worth it.

Remember for a lot of people this is a “best case scenario divorce”. It was settled amicably. I could tell the stories of others that are a whole lot worse. I know the social norm is to “suffer in silence” and not “air my dirty laundry”. I should try to save face and not give any information that would make anyone question the wisdom of my decision to get divorced. Yet, if one person hesitates from jumping into the family breakup quagmire, it would be worth it to me.

Alone in the Sinai desert

tim61

Dear Ezra and Lian;

Do not be afraid.

I was all alone at a crossroads in the Sinai desert. I was watching the sun getting ready to set. 4 hours ago, this was amazingly beautiful. Now it was a concern. This was not supposed to have happened. I was trying to figure out my options. Do I stay here by the road waiting for any vehicle to come by or do I wander off to the hills for some protection? After dark, what is more dangerous this road or this desert? I had given up hope that anybody was going to be heading west towards St. Catherine’s Monastery. I was in a place where tourists like me are the targets of kidnappings, shootings and bombings. I was there all alone. I was far from police stations or army outposts or anyone. I hadn’t seen a vehicle in hours. I had no phone. No friends or family knew where I was or where I was going. I had no idea if this crossroads was monitored. I had no idea what was coming next.

That moment was the result of a bunch of bad advice I took and bad decisions I made. I kept pushing ahead to stay on my travel plan. I should have learned from all my little mistakes that day and just stayed in Taba.

Then I saw a car coming in the distance. I already had cash out in my hand. Either I was paying for a ride or I was handing it over in a robbery anyways. The car stopped beside me. A young man rolled down his window. I asked him if I paid him if he would take me to St. Catherine’s Monastery. He wanted twice what I was offering (pretty close to what the taxi drivers all the way back in Taba wanted). I had no bargaining position or cause for complaint. I didn’t even wait for the trip to start. I took out the money and handed it over. I threw in my big backpack in the backseat. I jumped in the passenger seat.

I enjoyed the amazing scenery. The reds, purples and browns of the sandstone mountains are beautiful as the sun goes down. As it got dark, we narrowly missed hitting a wandering camel. After a couple of hours, I arrived safe and sound at one of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries. The next morning, I, along with hundreds of tourists and pilgrims hiked to the top of Mt. Sinai; a possible location of the Biblical Mount Sinai. We watched the sun rise. It was really, really cool. Looking back though, it wasn’t worth the risks that I took to get there. The sun has risen about 5000 times since I saw that sunrise. That mountain will be there tomorrow.

I used to keep risky, stupid stuff like this a secret. I never wanted your Grandma to find out, so I wouldn’t tell anybody at all. She would literally get sick with worry when I travelled. I figured I would put her in the hospital for real if she ever knew half of my stories. (I’m not exaggerating.) A couple months ago, I told her a few things like this. Now since she is starting to suffer dementia, she can’t remember our names very well. She also can’t really appreciate danger. All she did was pat me on the knee and say, “We still love you Tim” or start rambling about something that didn’t make sense. I can tell you these stories now. Hopefully you learn a thing or two. If you make mistakes, make your own. Please don’t repeat mine. Still, don’t tell Grandma about it, but please tell me.

Most times we don’t pay for our mistakes. Any low budget world traveller survives on the kindness of strangers. Most people in the world are not out to get you. However, it doesn’t really matter. It only takes a few people willing to do bad things to make a real big mess of things. Right now, the Sinai is not a place to be hitchhiking to see a sunset. I’ve done a few brave things for stuff that really does matter. I hope if my future letters do anything, it is that they help give you the courage to do the right thing, especially when it is difficult and when it counts.

Love,

Dad