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A blessing for ‘Daddy ’from an autistic son

By Leonardo Tull

On August 8, 2008, I became a father to Luke, one of the best moments of my entire life. And what especially gave it this merit was the opportunity of experiencing with my own eyes, the miracle of childbirth. I can actually boast, I was literally the first to see him. Through this experience I can attest our God is an awesome God.

The joy of becoming a father cannot be overstated. The thought of being there for my little boy had me on overload. I protected him with my ‘six ’senses all at once. My sixth sense being intuition. This love I feel for him, I think, can be the closest of my understanding of God’s love for us as His children.

In the silence of my heart, there were so many goals I set for us to work through together. Sporting activities, travel, bonding time, recreation of all sorts, his education and career opportunities. You name it, I just wanted to provide the best I can for my son.

As he grew, my wife Lisa and I discovered that something was not right. Our greatest concerns and fears became our reality. It turned out that he was diagnosed with severe autism.

This news brought me to my knees. What a blow it was, and sometimes still is, to us as his parents. My dreams have not come through the way I envisioned. With little knowledge, no experience, and limited resources, I pondered, how can I help my son?

The harder I tried manoeuvring my thoughts through this, the deeper the despair. Hopelessness and disappointment became a huge part of our lives.

How can we help our son to become a neurotypical child? Not realising the change needed was more in us than in him. As his father, I was busy figuring out how to accomplish this task. I looked on in disbelief as his developmental milestones were not met.

One day, returning home from one of the therapy sessions with him, my thoughts were: we didn’t ask for this. At my weakest moments, I questioned, “which father will give a child a stone when he asked for a bread” (Matt 7:9–10). I could not see beyond this line of scripture. We had many unanswered questions, and confusion stepped in.

The most painful moments I actually feel are witnessing the family and friends enjoying their children’s success stories. I am indeed happy for them, but the raw truth of my family’s scenario cut into my very being, which carries with it that intangible pain we are unable to soothe with any medication.

We’ve spent hours in prayer, asking God our Father for our son to have a breakthrough. Luke has limited speech and I long for the day for him to call out, or even refer to me as ‘Daddy’.

Although he is non-verbal, I will not leave the house without blessing him, and asking him in return to bless me. And this he does in his own fashion with the limited speech he has; “Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Amen, Amen.” This sets the tone to my day.

We celebrate those small wins in larger ways than others. He is our weakness but unbelievably, he is also our strength.

Luke will be 16 in the next couple of weeks. Our challenges grow as he grows. We find ourselves doing things in ways we never imagined. Some days we lose and others we win in tiny ways.

As Father’s Day approaches, I can’t help but reflect on the journey with our son. Thankfully, we are not where we started. The pains of the past have been replaced with a deeper love and acceptance for our son. This we were able to accomplish through prayer and deeper devotion to God our Father.

Lisa and I have grown to truly love and appreciate Luke as God our Father’s gift to us.

If I can do it for Luke as his father, how much more can my heavenly Father do for me when I call upon Him.

Leonardo Tull has been a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard for the past 23 years where his specialty is Aviation maintenance. He has been married to Lisa for 17 years, and they have one child, Luke. They reside in Sangre Grande and attend Holy Mass at Good Shepherd RC Church, Vega de Oropouche where Lisa is an active choir member and Leonardo serves as a lector. They are also members of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission’s Marriage Building Team.