Welcome to another installment of No Filter Friday. I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of our funny times with Skylar. Click here and here to read my previous No Filter Friday posts. One of the things about having a child with autism is that you never know what they are thinking and what they are going to say. Sometimes this is funny, but other times I get a bit anxious about what might possibly come out of Skylar’s mouth. Even in times of sorrow, Skylar’s lack of filter brings joy to our family. So is the case with this week’s story.
In April of 2009 we received a call that nobody wants to receive. Chris’ sister Diane called to say that their dad, Don, had been taken to the hospital with what appeared to be symptoms of a stroke. Within 24 hours we would find out that it was not a stroke but a brain tumor and that it was inoperable. Don started treatment of chemotherapy and radiation but unfortunately did not show any improvement with these treatments. Chris made a trip out just a few weeks later to spend some time with his dad and stepmom. Chris’ mom and dad had divorced 30 years prior and both were happily remarried to wonderful people.
A few months later, in November, the doctors told Don that they had exhausted all forms of treatment and that if there was anything he wanted to do or anyone he wanted to see that he should make arrangements to do that. We got a call from Don’s wife, Kathy that Don wanted to see Chris. Chris’ sister and step-siblings lived in town and his brother was already there. Chris was in Delaware at the time on a 3 month TDY (business trip) testing operating systems on an aircraft. Chris immediately went to his supervisors and explained the situation. They were wonderful in releasing him from his obligations there in Delaware. Chris was on a plane the next morning for California. Shortly after arriving, Don asked Chris if I would be able to bring the girls to see him. I was beyond touched that Don would request to see our girls and we made arrangements to travel a few days later.
As you can imagine, this was a difficult trip to prepare the kids for. Hailey is extremely sensitive and many tears were shed before we even left home. I knew that she would be ok although very emotional. Now Skylar was a different story. She immediately started asking tons of questions. Questions that I had absolutely no answers to. I tried to prepare her for multiple things. One thing was that Don looked very different from the last time she had seen him as he was extremely swollen from the steroids and radiation. One thing that I discussed with her in great length was that if she had any specific questions once she saw her Grandpa Don that she should ask either Chris or me in private. When we arrived in California and saw Don for the first time, both the girls did really well. Skylar did not ask any inappropriate questions and for that I was very thankful.
On the second day we were there, Don was brought to the table for lunch. Skylar said she wanted to sit next to him while he was eating and so she did. She started asking him simple questions & he answered her right back.
Skylar: Grandpa Don…why is one of your eyes shut?
Don: It doesn’t work anymore. (as he used his fingers to open it)
Skylar: Grandpa Don…this band-aid is peeling off; I think you need a new one, don’t you?
Don: Thanks Skylar, but I think this one is fine.
Skylar: Grandpa Don…what is that stuff in your bowl? It looks really gross.
Don: This is my cereal mix. It’s really good. (Don LOVED cold cereal. He would mix lots of different kinds together and eat them.)
I was so touched with how patient Don was with Skylar especially because he wasn’t feeling well. About this time I saw Skylar cock her head to one side. I was immediately anxious as this is what Skylar does when she is really thinking about something she wants to say. Before I could make a move Skylar blurted out:
“Grandpa Don…do you miss your 1st wife Vicki?” Without even hesitating a moment Don shook his head and said “Nope.” Skylar said “OK” and kept eating. I immediately turned five shades of red but the entire room erupted in laughter. I could have never imagined that she would ask him that as Don and Vicki divorced 20 years before she was born.
Kathy was laughing so hard and she said “Wow! We needed a good laugh. Thank you Skylar for making us laugh today.”
I was immediately thankful that Skylar’s innocent question had brought laughter into a home that had seen so many tears in the months prior. I loved that Don was so gracious in entertaining her questions. And I was so thankful that we all got to see Don again.
Don passed away Christmas morning and although it was a sad time for all of us, we are thankful that Don is now in Heaven, healed of his cancer. Chris had the opportunity to speak at Don’s “Celebration of Life” service shortly after his death. He paid tribute to a man that had helped him make important decisions regarding his future and who had instilled a wonderful sense of humor in him. He shared many humorous stories from years past, but he ended with the short conversation that Don and Skylar had shared the month prior. It was such a special time as the entire crowd went from crying to laughing, which is what Don would have wanted!
I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!
I will share Part 3 of Hailey’s story on Monday.