I Am A Cerebral Palsy Dad

Some of my favorite stories involve the relationships between fathers and sons.

I lost my own father when I was 15 to lung cancer. My dad was my best friend. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a very difficult man. He was very old school. I would not be surprised to learn that he was probably bi-polar. He did not have the greatest upbringing. But it is funny.

Although he was old school, unlike a lot of father’s from the baby boomer generation, he was very affectionate. Not a day went by where I didn’t tell my dad I loved him, not a day went by where I did not kiss and hug him.

Losing him hurt so much. I think it honestly did make me a stronger person. It made me long for the day where I would have my own son or daughter.

On May 31, 2011, at 11:34pm, the wish came true.

Max Richard is my son. He was the happiest baby on earth and continues to be the happiest two year old. I honestly go weeks without hearing him cry. He loves Mickey Mouse and Sesame Street. He will eat just about any food. He loves swinging and wrestling. He has a constant smile on his face.

Nothing puts that smile on his face more than his mother, my wife Ashlee. He is tall and slim, like most of the men in our family. He has brownish blonde hair, brown eyes. He is the best thing that ever happened to me.

And he has Cerebral Palsy.

Around 10 months., Max started to crawl. He would stand up as long as he could hold onto something. I never really noticed anything until he was about 14 months old. His right hand was always very tight. And he walked on his tip toes, but only on his right side. He wasn’t talking or mimicking either.

So, at the advice of our day care provider, we called Early Intervention. It was at his session with our Physical Therapist that she suggested we have him looked at by an Orthopedic doctor.

On November 7th, 2012, Max was officially diagnosed with Mild Cerebral Palsy.

It was like the life had been taken from my body. Like a dream I couldn’t wake up from.

At the time I did not know what Cerebral Palsy was. The extent of my knowledge was that the kid on Breaking Bad had it and the guy that Daniel Day Lewis portrayed in My Left Foot had it. Two very different ends of the spectrum.

The doctor told us that he had a very mild form of it, and he would walk and talk and when he was older so it would not be a big deal. But I had heard doctors promises before. I sat in my car and cried.

I hugged Max, kissed him, and cried some more. The whole time he was smiling and laughing. I felt like I went to bed the night before in one life and woke up to a different one.

That night though, I made a promise to myself and to Max that I would learn everything I could about his condition. I would do everything I could to help him and that I would never let me or anyone else treat him differently.

It has not even been a year since Max was diagnosed. He is walking with the use of an A.F.O. He sees a Physical Therapist, a Speech Therapist, and an Occupational Therapist. He is not yet talking, although he seems to be improving every week.

It is very tough to feel sorry for him. I know every parent thinks their child is the best, but Max is. He wakes up every day with a smile on his face.

Most nights, he literally laughs himself to sleep. He is affectionate. He loves people.

My anger, my sadness is something that is directed at myself.

I feel sad that he is not “normal.”

I feel sad that he has all these therapies.

I feel anger that my wife and I are good people who did not deserve this.

I feel angry because Max did not deserve this.

I am very aware of a couple of things. One, I know that in terms of the damage to Max’ brain, we are lucky. He has mild C.P. I know it could be a lot worse. I also know that there are children who have it much, much worse. I know all this and I am truly grateful for my boy. He is special. He is the most special thing in the world. He is my boy.

Every time I am feeling sad, I look at him. He looks at me and sits on my lap. I tickle him and he begins his infectious laughter. And I hear that laughter and know how truly lucky I am. If I could change one thing about Max it would be his C.P. But if that changed anything about him, then I would keep him exactly as he is. Because I do not think it is humanly possible to love him more.

I know patience is a virtue. And I sit patiently waiting for the day when my son can look up at me and say “Daddy”. And I know that will be the greatest thing anyone will ever say to me.

I know there are a lot of C.P parents out there. And I pray for you and your children everyday. I hope the moms are like my wife, the greatest mom in the world. And I know your little ones give you the same pride that Max gives me.

I never thought something like this would happen to me. I never thought I was lucky enough to have Max.

Close your eyes, have no fear, the monster’s gone, he’s on the run, and your Daddy’s here“. -John Lennon

Written by, Ross Abdelnour

Ross is a high school English teacher at a technical high school and also a high school basketball and baseball coach. He’s a proud dad to Max, 7, who has Cerebral Palsy and nonverbal Autism  and the sassiest 3 year old Samantha.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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