****** This is a guest post, written by Sophie's daddy. Enjoy!******
Sophie is special. She wasn't always this way. She's got autism now. A word that no parent wants to hear. But it happens.
Before we had kids, me and my wife moved in together and combined our mutual, rather large, libraries. I contributed a rather dry selection of academic texts, very little fiction. My wife on the other hand, brought into the relationship a wonderful selection of great modern fiction, some classics, a bible, selection of American poetry and 'On the road'. Years later, the book arrangement made it handy for me, when vacation time rolled around, to ask for a book to read on the beach. This time she gave me 'Travels with Charley: In Search of America'. 'Ah, Steinbeck,'I thought, 'got to read this one.'
The weather was great, the kids [three of them at that time, including Sophie, who was not autistic just yet] kept us busy and I ended up not reading the book except for the introduction, which also featured an image. The image was of Steinbeck's personal mark – a picture of a pig with wings, the 'Pigasus'. Underneath a caption, in Latin read, 'ad astra per alas porci' – 'to the stars on a wings of a pig'. It meant to represent the struggle that the author's life was in achieveing succes, and, a rather witty take on the very-able-at-reaching-stars 'Pegasus' I thought.
Since Sophie was slow to walk, I was spending all my days carrying her around places. Wherever we went, to all the places, taking her where ever she wanted, or taking her places that I thought she would like to see and experience – I was carrying her around. In comparison, by that age, her siblings were all upright – running and climbing and getting into places where they shouldn't. And my personal opinion of Sophie, at that time, was that she was being just a little lazy, not challenging herself enough.
I began to call her affectionately 'my little pigasus' - with her size, it felt to me as if I was carrying a little piglet around, and I only say that because I have personal experience of wrestling piglets as a child. I recall great joy seeing her stumbling around, trying to break into a brief trot, only to end up stumbling with me breaking her fall. 'Fly Pigasus,' I'd say, 'fly,' throwing her up in the air and getting an awesomely rewarding grin in return.
She struggled to walk. It was not easy for her. Her physical development was lagging. She missed all the important physical developmental milestones. But she was very charming and very smart – gifted we thought with my wife – and we felt like we won the 'child lottery' with her.
On the last day, I blew the family vacation budget, by purchasing a ceramic piece at a local giftshop – the sight of it caught me completely off guard and I immediately fell in love with it. That ceramic piece was everything that Sophie was, it was exactly how I saw her then – a piglet with wings, her head raised up high, looking at the stars. 'Pigasus' – the statue was forshadowing of things to come – the struggle of one individual to reach their dreams against many odds.
Then autism came. Sophie regressed. It is hard for me to write that she used to greet me with 'hi daddy', and that now she is non-verbal. It is a great mystery, to both me and my wife - something that both haunts us and give us great strength to fight for our Sophie - but the last word that Sophie lost, was 'help'. 'Help, help' she'd say. Help me and put on the Thomas the Tank Engine show on for me please. Or, 'Help, help', make sandwiches for me.
Autism is seen as a great struggle in our society.
But I have great hope for Sophie. I believe that she will reach her potential and be content in life. She will fly one day. And us, her parents, will be there to help her do just that.
'Fly Pigasus! Fly!