I had 24 hours to vacate what was once our dream home. I’d spent the day sifting through the last of my stuff, packing boxes, and transporting what I could fit into my car. Losing your home is a devastating experience, but it can also be oddly liberating. I was ready to bid the house farewell and start a new chapter — living with my father in the suburban home in which I was raised.
I slammed the trunk shut and started the ignition. But then it came – that uneasy feeling, that voice in my head, telling me NOT to leave. I re-entered the home and cased it a final time for any sentimental items I had forgotten.
There it was, in the backyard — the trampoline, now engulfed by weeds that had overtaken it like a metastasizing cancer. Sadly, I didn’t have the time or inclination to disassemble the trampoline, and I was more than happy to let the new owners deal with it.
But as I stood there, I had second thoughts. The trampoline was coming with me.
I stored the trampoline in my dad’s garage, and for three months it never saw the light of day. You see, I’m not half bad at putting words together and constructing essays. Once I even wrote a feature-length movie. But a handyman I am not. The very thought of assembling a trampoline from scratch caused me serious anxiety, and over the years I’ve become a master at avoiding unpleasant tasks.
Two weeks ago, Ryan took me aside and asked what happened to the trampoline. I felt like I was in a status meeting with my boss.
Um, well…let me get back to you, Ryan. I’ll have a memo on your desk first thing in the morning.
That was all the motivation I needed. While it is true that I shower my boys with love and affection, that alone does not qualify you as a dad. Real dads do stuff, build stuff, and fix stuff. That’s never been my strong suit, but now it’s time to put that story I have about myself – for that’s what it is, just a story – in the past.
Suddenly a man on a mission, I gathered the parts – metal frames, screws, and 50 or so springs – and spread them on the lawn. It was dizzying and overwhelming. My initial enthusiasm quickly faded, replaced by a creeping anxiety: where do I begin?
But this time I didn’t let it deter me. I fought back, assisted by our beloved Youtube and this great tutorial:
In no time I had assembled the frame, which is the foundation of the trampoline. As I made progress, I could visualize it coming together and I felt unstoppable.
The key was the foundation.
In 2007, before the economy nose-dived, Heather and I took a risk and started a business, a travel magazine devoted to Baja California, Mexico. Heather insisted that if we were serious about this venture, I would have to quit a job I loved and move to Mexico. (Sometimes I wonder if she were trying to get rid of me :)) For a good part of 2007, I would go weeks without seeing my boys. This was a pivotal time in their development and well before Ben was diagnosed with autism. Now I feel I am playing catch-up ball, belatedly building a foundation with my boys that, like many fathers, I had neglected.
Last weekend I picked up the boys and brought them back to Papa’s home. I escorted them to the backyard and there stood the trampoline glistening in the sun.
“Daddy, you did it!” Ryan exclaimed.
The brothers climbed up and began jumping. Ryan was working on his flips and insisted that I watch his every move. Ben, however, wasn’t talking. But words would have been redundant. All you needed to see was the huge grin on his face as he jumped higher and higher, reaching for the sky. As one Autism Dad reader remarked upon seeing the pics:
Ben is definitely in sensory heaven.
For some reason, it seems the light comes on too late in the game. I learn the important lessons after the damage is already done. My mother used to tell me, her second born, that I was a ‘late bloomer.’ But all is not lost. I am, better late than never, starting to bloom. This is my season.
And it feels right and it feels good.