Friday, June 6, 2014


When our son, Braden, was 8 months old, he was playing with one of those shape toy thingies. You put the correct shape in the correct hole. This one was musical and had a big center hole that had a reflective sticker in the bottom of it.

Braden was sitting in the center of our family room floor and dropping throwing the pieces into the center hole in a very aggressive and focused manner. I as watched with my 20+ year educator eye, I began to freak out.

I tried showing him what he was supposed to do, even did it hand-over-hand and he got it!

And then he immediately returned to his repetitive action. I could see that what he was doing was patterned and stimulating behavior.

And I knew.

I made some calls, and some evaluations done and although he wasn't old enough for us to make an official diagnosis, we began treating it like what I believed he had...


My heart broke. Our son was a child with autism and life as we had dreamed for him was not going to be a reality.  Even with five therapies a week and my husband, me and our sitter working with all day and evening we would not be able to change that fact.

He wasn't going to be able to have a "normal" future.

My worry was that he wouldn't be independent, he would never drive a car, get married, have children...all of the things we all assume will happen as a part of the normal growing up process.

I remember having coffee with a friend who had a son on the spectrum and explaining how I just wanted him to be able to play baseball with his brother in the yard like other children.

I just wanted things to be normal.

Then Braden was diagnosed with cancer and has been fighting for 6.5 years. It turns out the autism has been a blessing because he has no idea what "normal" is...

he doesn't know everyone doesn't feel horrible all the time, he doesn't know everyone doesn't go bald with treatments, he doesn't know everyone doesn't live a large percentage of their lives in hospitals hooked up to tubes and bags of chemo, he doesn't know everyone doesn't get shots all the time...

He thinks all those things ARE normal. And because of that...he is the happiest boy in the entire world even with his crappy circumstances. It's all about perspective.

The biggest benefit is that because of his autism, he doesn't know he is supposed to die. He doesn't have to be afraid because he doesn't even know what cancer is or that he is sick. He doesn't have to be afraid.

I'm grateful for autism now.


And I'm not trying to "train" him out of his autism anymore.

This "different normal" is a gift. And this young man has taught thousands of people about HOPE and FAITH and BRAVERY and FIGHT! mommy heart still wants the normal things for Braden.

Last night after dinner, we went outside to play basketball...Braden's favorite thing in the entire world!

I noticed some bushes that were very overgrown so I got out the clippers and snuck two feet away from him to clip a few branches. Having a child with autism is like have a two year old all the time, you cannot leave them because you don't know what they will get into or where they will disappear to. There is no "me" time because you are always on watch and that makes things like simply trimming bushes two feet away from him difficult to do.

I could hear the basketball bouncing so I knew we were good...for a couple of minutes anyway.

Then I heard two basketballs...his brother, Zach who is 11, joined him.

Then I heard, "Braden, let's play baseball!"

Rats...I was going to have to stop trimming so I could help Braden play baseball.

So I hurried, I clipped fast and furiously so I could get as much done as possible while they got the wiffle balls and bats out.

And then it happened...the sound of Zach pitching and Braden hitting! Zach was telling Braden "Good hit Braden" and Braden was giggling.

I came around the corner and this is what I saw...

I gasped...took a picture and just stood and smiled.

It was happening....the dream I told my friend I wanted and was so sad we wouldn't get.

My boys playing baseball in the yard by themselves.

Holy smokes!!

As I watched smiling with tears running down my cheeks, they completely ignored me and switched places.


And they were sharing and taking turns voluntarily?

I didn't want anyone to pinch me because if I was asleep I did NOT want to be awakened.

And they kept playing for a long time!

Aren't they sweet and cute? (proud momma here)

I was able to go back to trimming the bushes, collecting the branches, and putting them in lawn sacks.

And that friends...has never happened in 9.5 years!

I went in the garage to put away the clippers and heard a loud scream and crying.

I freaked out!

Braden is only 66 days out of a bone marrow transplant. Zach was perfectly matched his bone marrow donor.

I SPRINTED outside and saw Braden crouched down on the drive way grabbing his eye. Zach was standing beside him trying to comfort him and crying too explaining that he had accidentally hit the wiffle ball into Braden's eye.

It left a mark.

A big, beautiful, red, swollen mark...

...that was an injury from playing baseball with his brother.

It wasn't from cancer.

It wasn't from the autism and not being safely supervised.

It was from playing baseball like every other kid.

It was "normal".


That crazy red, swollen eye was a gift.

And they kept playing baseball. And  his eye was all better in about 10 minutes.

My dream came true! 

Maybe...just maybe...nothing is impossible...