In the months following November 2005 I was in a very dark place, looking back I see that now. Mason had just recently been diagnosed and internally I was not processing it well. The worst thing about it is that I didn’t share any of what I was feeling with my wife. I was too busy trying to make heads or tails of it to ever be able to communicate effectively about it. That was a huge mistake, even if it wasn’t effective, I should’ve communicated, albeit badly, what I was feeling.
I didn’t know what to expect with my only flesh and blood son and this thing called Autism that had been thrust at me.
Rashele and I were stressed. We were at a loss where to begin treatment. We were fighting more that we used to.
Hope wasn’t on the horizon.
There are places in time where most of us can remember what we were doing when a monumental event took place.
Here are some of mine, a mix of good and bad
• March 17th 1997 – I met Rashele for the first time. She was wearing a red dress, though she swears it was green because it was St. Patrick’s Day. I’m probably wrong. Her beauty obviously tripped me up that day.
• September 2002 – Standing in our bedroom when Rashele exited our master bath, beaming with a BIG smile that always lights up whatever room she is in, pregnancy test in hand. She told me she was pregnant (with Mason). I was completely blissful and unaware of the challenges ahead of us.
• 9/11 – In the office troubleshooting our network when I was bombarded by calls from my wife, and coworkers about the planes hitting the World Trade Center. We sat transfixed watching news coverage for the days following
• The assassination attempt on the late President Ronald Reagan – I was standing outside my 6th grade 3rd period Woodshop class.
• Mason’s diagnosis of Autism – I remember staring out the window on the car ride home, tears almost streaming down my cheeks (more on that later) and wonder what the hell just hit us.
Most importantly, this one:
• “Autistic Boy Hits Six 3 Pointers”
It was Tuesday February 21st 2006, sometime around lunchtime. In between testing our internet product and waiting for the results I decided to check the goings on in the world and hit CNN.com
I saw a headline “Autistic Boy Hits Six 3 Pointers”
Now I have to back up. There are 2 things you must know about me.
1. I am a DIE HARD basketball fan. There was a time growing up that I played EVERYDAY much to the detriment of my educational career, homework was always secondary. To this day, if I need time to clear my head nothing does it for me like shooting hoops. Though I do it far less now than ever.
2. I never cry. I teared up when my kids were born, but I was all smiles. Relatives have passed on from this earth and again, while very sad, no tears. Rashele calls me emotionally dead inside. A robot.
I read the headline again, soaking it in….did I read that right?
I clicked the link….there was video.
I, like much of the world that day, was introduced to Jason Mcelwain and saw his astounding accomplishment that unfolded on February 15th 2006.
I watched him sink shot after shot, and listened to the story surrounding what led up to that great event.
The video ended and I sat at my desk in full view of coworkers and had tears streaming down my cheeks for the first time that I could remember in a very very long time.
This hit me straight in my heart.
It was a 4 minute, 19 second dose of hope for me, and it was badly needed. And it changed my complete outlook on autism and my son.
I watched every bit of coverage in the weeks following and cried every time I saw it. And I still do. I even did this morning.
I came up with a new mantra from that entire event… “If Jason Can, Mason Can”. (I even considered getting that tattooed at one point)
A few weeks ago I had some time to kill on my lunch hour and stopped by a local bookstore. I browsed the Special Needs section as I usually do and saw a new book:
“The Game of My Life, A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, and Growing Up Autistic” by Jason “J-Mac” McElwain.
I plopped right down there in a comfy Barnes & Noble chair and read a few chapters, again more tears streaming in public. This isn’t good for my image I thought to myself. People are going to think I’m soft.
Since then I’ve read it during Claire’s karate class (more tears), at home (more tears) and I even snuck it in church and read it. (more tears).
Jason eloquently talks about his childhood, his parents and brother, his friends, his fame, and basketball
Jason’s story is exactly what I needed to hear on February 21st 2006, and a million times since. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t watch the video again and again and again, even today 2 years later.
Go get the book and please tell me you cried like me, it will make me feel better.
And again, take a minute to watch the story and soak up how great this truly is.
Thanks Jason for giving hope to me, and so many others.