From Daddy’s Arms to the Commencement Stage: Part Three – Caleb Strikes Back

[Author’s Note: My original subtitle for for this piece was going to be “Odds Are For Cowards”. My LYE (Lovely Young Editor) and my wife both decided that “Caleb Strikes Back” was more fitting. They were correct. Having said that, Caleb is living proof that odds are for cowards.]
I am sure that any of you who have read my previous writings are wondering: “I wonder what Shane is going to talk about this time”. I have previously written about my daughter, Brianna, on her high school graduation. I have also written about my daughter, Shayna, on her college graduation (which also included her getting engaged). I feel convicted to inform you that I have four children. Two of them are still in college. This means that this series of writings will most definitely continue. For this writing, I am going to orate about my youngest son, Caleb, as he has now reached the point of HIS high school graduation.
When Caleb entered our lives in 1993, he was a ball full of energy that kept his mother and me on our toes constantly. He was always running at top speed and climbing the shelves in our pantry all the way to the top. He also had the same obsession that drove most boys – FOOD. This was usually the reason Caleb climbed the pantry shelves. Caleb would stack soup cans three high. He would then stand upon the stack in order to get on top of the pantry counter. From there, the pantry shelves were an all too easy reach. The next thing you know, Caleb had a handful of whatever food we had placed on a top shelf to keep away from him. Needless to say, my wife and I frequently faced new challenges of strategic food placement.
My wife and I would face another challenge we did not anticipate. As Caleb was going through the first two years of his life, things appeared to be, for lack of a better word, awry. Caleb did not seem to be as talkative as we expected of a young child his age. Also, he also seemed to have somewhat of a distant look in his eyes. It was as if he was tuned into something completely different than what was going on in the room. His mother and I just couldn’t figure out the frequency (and he seemed unable to tell us).
Caleb then went through an array of tests. This included auditory testing as we all thought perhaps there was something wrong with his hearing. We finally got a report from a developmental test that gave Caleb the following diagnosis: Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified). We took Caleb to the pediatrician with this diagnosis. The pediatrician who saw him was a very competent doctor with a rather thick Germanic accent. My wife asked her: “What does this diagnosis mean?” Without hesitation, the pediatrician said: “That means he’s autistic”. While I know the doctor did not intend it as such, her thick accent made her response sound extremely harsh as if my wife and I were overlooking something obvious. Simply put, it was just not a response we anticipated.
Over the months that followed, we had doctors, therapist and specialists attempting to prepare us for some other harsh possibilities: “He may never become fully verbal.”; “He might only get as high as a middle school education”; “It is possible that he may be dependent upon his parents throughout his life”. Even as I read back the aforementioned possibilities, it is hard not to be as overcome as I was when I first heard them. I know the professionals were just doing their jobs by telling us this. They would have been derelict in their professional duties if they did not tell us these things.
While I hold no grudges against these professionals, it gives me great delight to state that none of their predicted possibilities came to fruition. Over the years, I have seen Caleb exert his independence by making a simple meal for himself whenever the mood strikes him. As a matter of fact, he prepared a fine meal for the family as part of a home economics assignment. As far as verbosity, Caleb can tell you anything you need to know about Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario the Plumber, or Jack Bauer. He also converses quite well with his mother as they discuss a bill that is waiting for the governor’s signature. This bill (once signed into law) would ensure that people with autism receive insurance coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. As far as his education goes, Caleb spent the day of this writing registering for his fall college classes (quite surpassing middle school).
To my son, Caleb, I would like to say that you have earned the accomplishment of walking across the stage and receiving your high school diploma. I hope that as you continue to grow into a young man that I will still be able to enjoy your company for a conversation, a movie, or a Rochester Redwings baseball game. I will do my best to support you during your college education. You may be our youngest child. But you are clearly no longer our baby. Just try to grin and bear it if your parents still call you that.
To the rest of the world, I present Caleb Hugh McAfee – a young gentleman and a scholar.


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