The Different Drummer

By Carl J. Petersen

Politics, Family, Music and other Musings.

Building A Room With My Dad

Becca and JessieThrough my childhood, my Dad and I were not particularly close. In a lot of ways the experience of his childhood haunted him and he did everything possible to make sure that mine would be different. In doing so, he left his own minefields for me to negotiate.

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The Hidden Children

Nicole_and_the_Triplets.jpgNicole eased me into the challenges of her family during our first online conversation. First, she casually worked in the fact that she had triplets. When that did not chase me away she mentioned in passing that two of them were on the autism spectrum and waited to see if I would find a way to end the conversation. It did not end and six years ago I married the woman of my dreams. I was now a father of five.

Prior to meeting my daughters, only one child had been introduced to me as being on the autism spectrum. According to the Center for Disease Control autism now affects 1 in 68 children. With such a high rate of occurrence, how is it possible that I had only previously met one child with this disability? Part of the answer is ignorance; without knowledge of what autism is, I probably met a lot more people with this disability and did not realize it. Additional explanation is provided by the fact that included in the statistics are highly functioning individuals who do not present their symptoms in a casual encounter. Unfortunately, the final part of the answer is that many of these children are simply hidden from view.

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Six Little Victories (and One Big One)

In George Carlin’s routine, he says that a house is just a place to keep your “Stuff.” “If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. Then you go vacation and have to come up with a smaller version of your house that fits into a couple of suitcases. Last weekend my family did just that. We packed enough of our stuff to fit into two cars and headed towards Lake Tahoe.

When you travel with seven people spanning three generations, some of the stuff you inadvertently pack is the baggage of interpersonal conflicts. No one knows how to push your buttons like family and there is little room for escape when you are together for a week straight. As a kid, the time was three times as long as we took marathon driving trips across the country. It is against all odds that someone was not left purposefully behind somewhere around North Dakota.

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