I don’t really remember having a hero when I was growing up. Some kids idolize actors, musicians, and athletes. Some kids cite firefighters or other rescue personnel as heroes. Sometimes teachers, even parents. Religious and political figures. And then there are those who have fictional characters as their heroes – movie, book, or cartoon characters and superheroes (I admit, I did have a bizarre crush on Aquaman for a while).
As adults, we often develop different heroes (fortunately, for some of us). Our friends and spouses, for example. Our siblings. For many, parents still head the list. Those of us who are special needs parents often list the teachers and therapists who work with our children as our heroes, not to mention our children themselves, with all that they go through. And then we – parents – have each other. We inspire, listen, support, encourage, and make suggestions. We reach out, share, learn, and hope. We identify with each other. We are each others’ heroes.
And now I have a new hero to add to the list – the ever-growing list of fellow autism parents I have become fortunate enough to know, either online or in person, or both. I want everyone else to know about him too, because I think he’s phenomenal. I’ll call him Bert. Bert attends the support group that I facilitate. He’s 84 years old and has a son with Asperger’s. Eighty-four! His son is 58, and Bert drives him to work and cares for him. (He recently applied with a local organization that handles adult DD services to get some support systems in place.) Bert reads anything about autism that he can get his hands on, takes notes, and comes to the meetings to tell all of us about what he read. He tells jokes, encourages us to lean on each other (like AA people, he says), and patiently listens to those of us with much younger kids. He reminds us that even though our kids are all different and at different ages, we share many similar experiences. He wears a cute straw hat and plaid shirts and I just want to give him a big hug. All of us inspire each other, but that man, that gentle, devoted, amazing man, is my new hero (sorry, Aquaman).
Bert, I want to be like you when I grow up.