Editor's Note: Tom Klinedinst’s blog series is about his journey with his son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children. To read more from Tom, visit his blog "My Walk With Tyler."
Sometimes people will say that they can’t imagine what it’s like to be Tyler’s Dad and to have gone through all of the things that we have gone through. Some will even go so far as to say that it must be an amazing “burden” to deal with the struggles we have dealt with. While I know deep down that those statements are not meant in a derogatory way, they do not at all reflect the way I feel about being his Dad.
It's an honor to know Tyler.
It is an honor to know Tyler. He has touched more lives with his strength and courage than I will ever have the privilege of doing. To say that I am his Dad is something I do with a smile on my face and a sense of pride in my heart.
Within a very short period of time of finding out that we were going to have a son, we found out that he was going to have to fight for his life. And that even if he won that fight initially, he would have to battle physical and mental ailments for the rest of whatever life he would have. At that very moment, I resolved to fight alongside of him, determined that he would never fight alone. Even if he could do nothing more than lay in a bed, he would do it surrounded by the love of his mother and father.
He needed to know he wasn't alone.
Waiting for him to be born was a helpless and impatient time for me. I felt as though he needed me but I couldn’t reach him. There was so much I wanted him to know. I wanted him to feel how much we were looking forward to meeting him and taking care of him. He needed to know that he wasn’t alone. The only thing I knew to do was write to him, hoping that he could somehow feel my devotion to him. Just before Valentine’s Day, 25 years ago, I wrote him this poem, which I still have today:
“My Baby Valentine”
I have a special Valentine
One I’ve yet to see
He came from the strongest love
Between my wife and me
I don’t know if his hair is brown
Or if his eyes are blue
I wonder if he’ll smile at me
When he arrives anew
Does he hear me talk to him
Through her skin so fair?
To tell him of the things we’ll do
And the good times we will share
I hope he knows we wait for him
More anxiously every day
To show him what the world can be
When love lights up the way
But even more than all of this
Rest assured that he’ll be fine
Because all my love I’ll give to him
My Baby Valentine
I’m not sure how I found those words a quarter of a century ago, but reading them takes me straight back to that time like it happened yesterday.
I only hope that I have spent every day since then doing what is best for Tyler, and that he has never doubted how much his Dad loves him.
My Walk With Tyler is about my journey with my son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children. To be fair, I am not a therapist, or an expert on special needs, nor would I intend to pretend to be. My goal is to share all of the triumphs and heartbreaks that we have been through, especially during this transition into Tyler’s residential placement. Because there is no “manual” for caregivers to follow, we must help each other find the way. My hope is that through my advice, stories, and experiences that the reader can find nuggets to add to their own journey. To read more from Tom click here!