Why I walk for Autism Speaks
By: Edward J. Nitkewicz
On Father’s Day weekend in 1998, I experienced the unbridled joy of parenthood when I became a father for the first and only time in my life. At that time, I watched my son’s eyes open for the first time as he lay on my wife’s shoulder in a quiet hospital room. I realized that for the rest of my days, the life that stared at both of us with beautiful and dependent eyes would need me to be strong, to guide him, to fix things and to help him move through the uncertainties of life in these difficult times. I felt as if my own eyes were opened for the first time to a new world that I had anticipated but never truly known. I understood at that moment, that I would forever be responsible for ensuring my infant son’s safe passage from birth to independence.
I will never forget the sheer terror I experienced when my infant son gagged on his first solid foods. I would nearly hyperventilate at the thought of delivering the Heimlich maneuver to a body so small, I was certain I would break it in two. Until the offending carrot or green bean made its grand appearance on Edward’s bib, my heart would beat nearly out of my chest. Then, the world returned to normal as he again turned his attention to the bowl of mashed vegetables and dove into the next bite of food. The roller coaster ride that was fatherhood was going to be the death of me.
Over the next 18 months, I overcame the relatively mundane fears that were outlined in the many versions of “the New Father’s Guide to Parenthood.” However, a different anxiety set in when I saw my son regularly pull his hand away from mine, when I saw him cry as I reached to take him from his mother’s tired arms or when he would develop disturbing ritualistic behaviors. Something was wrong and I could not identify it much less fix my poor boy.
At my son’s two year check-up, my wife and I learned the devastating news that my son suffered from autism. At that moment, we did not know the depth of his disability nor were we sure what our life path would be. The grief and fear that I experienced were at first debilitating us. I mourned for my son, I mourned for my wife, and I indulged in a significant amount of self pity. Autism would make watching my son briefly gag on mashed carrots seem like a walk in the park.
As I reflect on the passing years since those life changing days, I have come to know the blessing of my son’s daily struggle. Did God place these difficulties at our door because I “peed in his Cheerios” as I used to euphemistically say? No. I humbly (or egotistically) believe that God lays autism at the door of select families he has bestowed with empathy, strength and determination. It is the determination of many families touched by autism to better understand and some day solve its mysteries.
Why do I walk for Autism Speaks?
• I walk because my heart is full of pain and because my heart is full of pride.
• I walk because I hope to one day cure my son, to cure your children and to prevent your yet unborn grandchildren from ever suffering the devastation of autism.
• I walk because I want my son to have friends.
• I walk because I want the world to help me as I do a small part in the battle to defeat a disease that steals so much from our children.
• I walk because I ache to hear my son tell me what he is thinking and because I want him to hear me when I tell him what I am feeling.
• I walk because I believe in the mission, the reach and the power of Autism Speaks to help me in my personal quest to help our children and develop a cure for the awful disease that is autism.
• And I walk because in 1998, a child was born to me and my wife who once “stared at both of us with beautiful and dependent eyes…who needs me to be strong, to guide him, to fix things and to help him move through the uncertainties of life in these difficult times.”
This Sunday, October 14th, I will lead the team called “Edward’s Army” in the Long Island Walk Now for Autism Speaks at Field 5 of Jones Beach State Park as we continue our mission to cure and defeat autism.
Would you please walk with me?
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|October 14, 2018||Jones Beach- Field 5||8:30am Registration Opens ~10:00 Sensory Friendly Welcoming Ceremony~NEW this year. No rolling start. We will have one single large start immediately following the Welcoming Ceremony.||Eddie Russo, Long Island Walk Manager 516-809-8211 firstname.lastname@example.org|