When you search around for the paternal viewpoint of having a child with a disability, you struggle to find information. The maternal viewpoint on the other hand, plentiful information all around.
Gary Dietz authored and collected 42 pieces and organized them in a strategic way than keeps you wanting to read more. The book is titled Dads of Disability, and it is a compelling read.
Some essays are about an acute period, such as a specific event or moment in life which was poignant. Some describe the author’s life experience more broadly by discussing multiple events that span significant periods of time.
Gary divided the collections of essays into sections that resemble the cycle of life. Such as life, there is a beginning, middle, and an end. Some parts very joyful, some parts somewhat dark. All are important and provide borders for a portrait of life, life as a dad of disability.
I felt honored to have participated in the collection, and am deeply moved by many of the essays.
You can find specifics about Gary and the project here: www.dadsofdisability.com. The book is on sale now at Amazon and available also for Nook, and Kindle.
This project intrigued me, and I chose to take part by writing an essay about my rise to becoming a SAHD (stay-at-home-dad) as the blogosphere labels it. The book has an edited version of the essay, that I have mixed feelings about. A reworked original can be found here.
The first section, Beginnings, starts with ’26 Days’, the rousing story about a father stepping up during the first days of his son’s life. The intensity is that of ice-cold water and the emotion rousing. The sense of pride and paternal responsibility that all dads can (or should) relate to echos loud and clear. I felt drawn to read more, right away.
As you progress through the book, there are pauses, where some poetry has been strategically placed. The first piece, A Letter to My Son, is one that you cannot read without having a mental break from the book as you ponder what that family life must have been like. I found myself stopping to re-read these poems several times. I also found it easy to read paragraphs between the lines.
This section closes with ‘Coffee, Tea, or God’ written by Gary. I don’t really know Gary. Aside from this project, our paths have never crossed. Our worlds are miles apart, yet it would seem we live next door to each other. In this essay, I learned he really doesn’t believe in what I suggest in my essay about God, and predestination. Yet he chose to include my essay (and some others) despite his difference of beliefs about religion. I gained more respect for him after reading this particular essay.
Section 2, Joy, the essay ‘Man I Can Be’ includes a child story similar to my daughter’s story, thus I felt an immediate connection. The author included a very specific paragraph with the names of the diagnoses and short descriptions of other challenges. I am not sure a reader without knowledge of those specific diagnoses can even imagine what they mean, not just for the child but for the family. Nonetheless, the essay details a simple, emotional moment that I have to admit I have experienced during my journey.
Spectacular is the essay titled ‘55,000 Spectators’. The author shares the true joy experienced with a child with disabilities in a simple, neatly packaged piece. This essay has a lot of impact, emotions, and reality with remarkably few words. I often wonder what my situation is going to look like down the road, so these type of essays (those that spans decades of time) intrigue me personally.
The next section, Fear and Anger, touches on emotions we all have as fathers of disabled children. We all have this in our lives, and dads of disabled children probably more than their fair share. ‘Kind of Heavy’ describes what many feel fathers feel, in that they intuitively feel the need to ‘fix it’. An essay that describes a family event like shooting inside the tent, ‘Man Up!’, is raw and does not sugar coat the truth.
A section titled Admiration is a maternal view of the paternal view. ‘Cold Side of the Bed’ was inspirational. ‘Right Thing to Do’, is a unique story with a creative outcome.
Love and respect exude from the essay ‘A Father’s Unbroken Vow’. Not until the end of this essay does it really hit you, and I mean hit you. If this essay doesn’t bring about some emotion from you, then you just aren’t human (there, I said it!)
‘Dadaptation’. Hmmm? I should keep quiet for fear of incriminating myself. No, I am not the author just a would-be activist for all things “Dadaptation”.
“Scenes From a Marriage”. Honestly, this essay could describe any marriage, and the challenges of disabled children just increase the tension in more ways than one.
Completing this section, ‘Dear Dad: A Open Letter’, a stirring piece. You hope you instill the right principles and values as you raise your typical children alongside the disabled one. And that one day, your typical children will see what you have done for their disabled sibling. Not only recognize it, but then tell that they recognize it, and most of all ‘thank you’ as this author writes.
The section called Transformation includes stories of people who describe a bit what happens when a dad realizes their child has serious medical or behavioral challenges. You transform into the dad you never knew you could be, and sometimes along you find yourself describing this transformation, such as what happens in ‘Measure of Grief’. And of course, you can never say the right things always to everyone.
‘What Does His Mother Think?’ includes a child story that is heartbreaking. The premise, (the title) that the paternal figure is not qualified to make decisions according to the education, childcare, or medical professionals, and the ongoing struggle to battle this stigma, I relate to.
The section titled Transition, includes essays about dads, and siblings coming to that point where change is inevitable. ‘Sara’sDad’ makes this case clearly as a single dad struggles to find his way. Written by the spouse, I thought it was a story of success, a dad’s success, in becoming a role model parent.
‘A Son’s Life Force’, I felt was the most moving piece in the book, capturing the essence of the project best. The child’s story is harnessed and evenly delivered, with the focused intent on the describing the dad’s journey. Well done.
‘My Brother Ernie’. An essay depicting how society dismisses some to institutions. Thinking about this kind of life is ugly, and details gritty. A moving essay indeed.
I gather that I am probably the youngest fraternity member here, only being a couple of years into the journey with a child with a disability. Reading a collection like this calibrates my view of my situation, much like the waiting room of a specialty clinic at a hospital.
Well done Gary, and my hat is off to all the contributors.