A Great Grandfather and Autism

It’s been almost ten months since Pop went home to heaven. He was 82 years young and it still is a big transition and heartbreak for our family.

He was hilarious, full of faith, and a lifelong learner. 

Our eldest son Emmett was diagnosed with autism at three and a half years old, long before this I was reading books and studying everything I could in early intervention because my heart knew it would be a benefit for him.

Alongside me, through it all, was Pop, reading everything I read, going to appointments and talking to the therapists as well, and at home visits he was right there taking it all in.

People were always taken back in the best way.

Here is this older gentlemen, in his eighties, who truly wants to be educated about autism so he can help his great grandson.

Not many folks could say they had a Pop like we did, learning PEC’s and speech therapy play techniques, to help his great grandchild find his voice. 

Pop did find some moments harder, but we all do. Sometimes there were days he would calmly say “going for a drive dear, be back shortly” just to have minute.

You see, we all loved under the same roof. That’s sort of what makes his connection to both my boys very special.

That’s why today Em still asks for him every hour of the day. It’s tough and I am still working on helping him understand this loss.

I remember the first time they mentioned the word autism at a speech appointment.

Pop picked us up afterwards and he could see I had been crying a little. I explained why and he was very quiet.

As we got closer to home, he patted my hand with his and said “He will be okay. Emmett Harl will be okay”. 

Our services ended last year (they end at school age here), but from time to time I see the people who we were blessed to work with.

The first thing they say is “God love Cecil”, “Loved talking to Cecil, such a good man”, “Home visits were the best because of you guys and your Pop, we looked forward to talking with him every time”.

He impacted a lot of people. Many community members here can back me up on that.

For me, I wanted to write this because I think this situation was unique and beautiful.

A great grandfather who was as big an autism advocate as they come all because of a little boy he loved so much. Taking what he knew from his life and progressing forward.

Pop told stories about how in his day and age many children were diagnosed and maybe even not and just put into hospitals and forgotten because they weren’t like everybody else.

Flash forward to this day and age, still so much to improve of course, but Pop was always thanking every person who came to work with Emmett for their time.

They would leave and he would say over and over again how blessed we are and how good these services and people are for Em and other children. 

Thank you Pop for rocking Em on days he just wanted comfort and security, even at almost five years old.

Thank you Pop for reading every book, watching every story, talking and asking questions with so many in the autism field.

Thank you for saying the rosary twice a day, lighting a candle for everyone at church every week (even if it meant going into your piggy bank of change).

Thank you Pop for taking it all in and understanding this every day life as an autism great grandparent, getting on the ground to do sensory activities even though your back was aching, because you knew it would make Em happy and regulated after. 

Thank you for being you…loving, stubborn, funny, an autism advocate, a community member and volunteer, kind, social butterfly, and so much more.

You can never be replaced, but we know you continue to watch over us every single day.

Emmett Harl and Sammy Cecil will be okay, because they have you and Gram up there storming heaven.

We love you, and I pray and hope there are other Pops like you out in this big world. Because you were the best!

Written by, Alex Cormier

My name is Alex Cormier, I am a stay at home mom of two boys, married ten years to my husband Jason, and am a published author. My writing focuses on topics close to my heart, such as motherhood and autism. I love my mother’s spaghetti and meatballs and dancing to 80s music in my kitchen every morning with my family.

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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, subscribe for exclusive videos, 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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