Yesterday I celebrated my 23rd wedding anniversary with my husband Tony.
It also was the 20th anniversary of when my father passed away. It was a bitter sweet day.
As I looked through old pictures to reminisce a flood of memories came through.
We all are on a journey. We all have struggles as well as highlights in our journey.
Sometimes I refer to our marriage BA or AA – Before Autism or After Autism.
Before autism we were married 14 years. My husband had gone through testicular cancer a year after we were married. We had lived in 3 states. We had a daughter, Chelsea and then Charlie came after. I lost my dad and uncle. Tony went back to school and got his Physical Therapy Assisting Degree. We started our own therapy company. We bought our first home.
After autism we sold our business and moved from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando. We cried a lot at first. Right after the diagnosis I told Tony I just need to be sad for a little while. It seemed one day I was really down and teary and he was ok, then the next day he was really down and I was ok. This happened for a good 3 months at least. We let each other adjust to the news and figure out our strategy to help our Charlie. We supported one another, validated, listened, and encouraged one another.
After autism Tony lost his mom, dad, and uncle. I was having panic attacks. I lost weight. Tony gained weight. We bought so many books on autism to learn about what this was. We started the process of IEP meetings. We sat in so many of them; we studied for hours about IDEA law. Charlie had gone to 6 schools. We had to leave restaurants sometimes because of Charlie’s behaviors, I was late bringing Chelsea to her activities because Charlie wouldn’t get in the car, and I worked on potty training Charlie for nearly 4 years. I went back to school and got certified as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst to help Charlie more. I had been through 2 surgeries. The stress on helping Charlie was really tough. Really tough on a marriage. Really tough on a family.
Between the many meetings at school, the financial burden with the cost of therapies for Charlie (at one point $1,000 a month just for ST and OT), and just the day in and out of his tantrums it took its toll. What has kept us together and sane… our walk with the Lord. We both became Christians when we were younger. We relied on God for our needs and knew He gave us strength. When one of your child’s is given a diagnosis or is having some challenges it stretches you and stretches your marriage. I believe our journey through cancer early on in our marriage help build a strong foundation, relying on Christ especially during those difficult times. He is always there. He loves us unconditionally. He is our ultimate healer of all pain and suffering. He gets it. He sacrificed His own Son so that we could live forever. I am so grateful that he brought Tony in my life and so blessed he gave us 2 beautiful children in HIS perfect timing. I am so grateful that He continues to encourage me in my marriage and family.