The Big Easy. Not New Orleans, mind you, but Ernie Els. He’s just cool on the golf course and smooth on the backswing, The Big Easy. You may have heard his commercial on the radio; the one about the odds of him winning majors on the PGA tour contrasted with the odds of him having a son with Autism. Gene Wojciechowski (can you believe my spell checker thought this was spelled wrong!)wrote an article about Els and his son Ben that I thought you might enjoy. I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own, fueled by some quotes in the article, I hope you don’t mind.
“At first, you think you’ve been knocked down by the man upstairs,” Els said. “It is a challenge at first. But when you find your feet, it really is a blessing. It’s a special way of life. These kids are special people. We call them, ‘God’s kids, God’s children.'”
Remember this idea, because I am going to be writing about it a lot in the coming weeks. It’s so easy to feel cursed when you have a child with a disability. You feel scared for them and selfish for yourself. Many times, people will feel bad on our behalf. They will see a mom struggling to lift her grown son into a car and curse God. But, those of us on the inside know that there’s more than meets the eye. When others see storm clouds, we see nothing but silver. We might not be able to articulate it, but we know there is an inexpressible joy in parenting an extraordinary child. Ernie knows this joy.
“I think it’s human nature that you start feeling sorry for yourself, thinking, ‘Why?’ and all that stuff,” Els said. “The quicker you can love your child and get on with it, the quicker you can get on the road to recovery. In most cases, the child is not going to become what we consider ‘normal.’ You have to make peace with that.”
I’ll give you three guesses why I pulled this quote. This is exactly why I am speaking out against the concept of normal. Ben is normal. The article shares a statistic that one out of every 110 children will be diagnosed with Autism. There are roughly 310 million people in the USA. 1% of that is 3.1 million people. Assuming the mentioned statistic is accurate, there are 3.1 million people with autism in America. There are more people with Autism than there are people living in: Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington D.C., and Wyoming (source). Can you imagine someone saying that, since their child was raised in Arkansas, that they wouldn’t be what we consider “normal?” Okay, maybe Arkansas was a bad example, but I think you get my point.
“It’s a very private thing, a very under-the-table thing,” Els said. “The husbands, the dads take it very badly in a way. I’ve seen it … I think people are very selfish. I was selfish. If I had a boy, I said we’d do that sport or this sport. He’d go fishing with me. Well, you can still do that, just in a different light.”
Total teaser, but this is at the heart of the novel I’m working on. 🙂
There is no denying that the Els family has a unique challenge. I never want my rejection of the “Normal” concept to be misconstrued as an underappreciation of the impact extraordinary children have on their families. It’s huge. But, it’s not reason for alienation, and I’m afraid that’s what this concept of “normal” does.
For the record, I think I’m pulling for Ernie to win his first Green Jacket this week.