Monday, May 27, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen: The KHS Class of 2013

Well ... he did it. My son graduated from high school.

Through every trial and tribulation that the journey threw at him he managed to blaze his trail. No obstacle was too great for him. He persevered with tenacity that would make a lesser man crumble.

Unlike his mother, my boy managed to graduate with a 3.5 grade point average. Dear old mom, me, graduated by the skin of her teeth and probably a little bit of pleading for passing grades. What I'm saying to you is that he is a far better student and person than the person who raised him.

The experience is all so surreal to me. As the end of the school year approached and I started rifling through photos, certificates of accomplishment and honor, his life passed before my eyes ... my tear filled eyes. I can't recall the last time I shed so many tears.

While the awards were laid out before me, I didn't fail to remember how hard he worked to achieve them. Not forgotten were the multiple IEP meetings (Individualized Education Program), nor were the countless phone calls from teachers concerned that Mancub had yet another seemingly unprovoked meltdowns.

Not one moment has been stuck in the crawlspace of my memory. When the words, "we want to test your son for autism, specifically Asperger's Syndrome," were uttered, I truly felt this day of graduation may not come for him. Not in the traditional sense. With one hiccup of repeating kindergarten, he graduated on time. I look upon the certificates telling me he continuously earned a place on high honor roll. He did this in the Business Partnership Academy.

So, when Pomp and Circumstance began to play in the Kankakee High School gymnasium, 18 years of love and dedication made me catch my breath. A literal gasp.
As Mancub walked through the doors, his entire life flashed in front of me. In a split second my silly little baby who walked before he crawled became a man. Suddenly, I saw this person who seemed to grow up over night.

We were seated a mere few feet from Mancub. His back was to me, but he knew I was there holding back sobbing. Thoughts spun through my head hoping his experience in high school was fulfilling. He wasn't involved in clubs. He was a team member of the Illinois State Championship Special Olympics Basketball team. Gold medalists! That's a huge feat and his principal saw to it that they were celebrated equally to that of the boys basketball team. Oh, I digress. The bottom line is I hoped he had friends... wished for him to be popular, but alas, that didn't seem the case.

Until ...

... Classmates passed by him -- he was close to the aisle. They high fived each other. Fist bumps were exchanged. As my son made his way out of the gym after the tassels were moved from left to right, he was stopped repeatedly to receive hugs, high fives, shaking hands ... even his former band director dashed over to him to shake his hand. I nearly exploded with glee witnessing this. I giggled with delight.

My concerns were put to rest. Not only was he academically successful, he was socially successful. Parents to kids with Asperger Syndrome or any autism spectrum disorder will understand how meaningful it is for their child to find reward in social interaction with peers.

On the way home from the ceremony I expressed to him my surprise by his popularity, "Well, I had no idea you were such a popular guy." To which he replied, "I'm not a popular guy. I'm just a know a lot of people kind of guy."

That's my baby.

Later on we had a celebration in our home. Mancub was surrounded by love of family and friends. It was such a fitting end to his years of accomplishment, as well as, the accompanying not-so-successful blips. Without those moments the triumphs wouldn't be as sweet. 
Happy graduation, Mancub. Welcome to the next exciting chapter of your life. I can't wait to see the epic events that will unfold on every page.


He really looks like a man here

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