That’s My Son
When I was a kid, my hero was my grandpa. He was a remarkable man. What impressed me most was his resilience and perseverance. My grandmother died at an early age, and my grandpa raised six kids, five boys and one girl, by himself.
As I got older, I found my inspiration in someone much younger, my son Aric. His resilience as a teenager was impressive; as an adult it is awe inspiring.
When Aric was in high school, football was the only thing that mattered to him. Early on, he developed the discipline he needed to succeed on the field. He had his life planned out, and it centered around football.
The first game of his senior year, Aric was being scouted by two different colleges. On the first offensive play my son was hit low and went down. He didn’t get back up.
Aric’s right leg was twisted in ways no human leg ever should be. He was clutching his chest, and unable to breath. They took him from the field, loaded him into an ambulance, and off to the emergency room we went.
At the hospital, we learned his leg was broken in three places; his sternum fractured in two. With surgery and pins, they said his leg may heal well enough for him to walk again, but the “t” fracture in his sternum would never fully heal.
The only thing my son wanted to do was play football. For him, there was no plan B. At 17 though, it was clear he would never play football again.
The road to recovery was a long, difficult journey, but eventually Aric healed better than expected. First, he was able to walk without a limp, then he was able to run, and by the end of the school year he was back in the gym working out with his football buddies. Aric knew he would never play again, but just being with his friends seemed to help him come to terms with that and find the motivation he needed to move on.
Without a football scholarship, Aric lost interest in going to college. He moved to Colorado and went to work for an Acura dealership. At age 25, Aric was named the top Acura salesperson in Colorado.
A few years into his career, he started to experience episodes of pain that radiated throughout his body. He described it as a migraine he felt over very inch of his body. Even the light breeze from a fan was too much for him to endure during one of those episodes.
Over the next two years Aric’s health gradually deteriorated as the episodes of pain increased. He went to doctors and specialists who ran every test imaginable. They ruled out every disease I had ever heard of and several I hadn’t. The doctors could tell us what wasn’t wrong with him, but nobody could seem to figure out what was.
I moved to Colorado to help take care of his family. I watched as my son slowly deteriorate as doctor after doctor seemed to give up on finding a solution. Aric was referred to a pain management clinic to help him deal with the pain. From that point, he descended into a cycle of pain and prescription drugs, a living hell he soon decided he no longer wanted to live. Nine years ago, my son Aric, his mind clouded with pain and prescriptions decided to end his life. Had I walked through that door 60 seconds later, he probably would have succeeded.
To my knowledge, they have never made a conclusive diagnosis as to what Aric’s illness is. While he was in drug treatment though, he found a doctor who wanted to work with him on developing a treatment. They spent an incredible amount of time tracking Aric’s symptoms, the pain cycles, and his activities. They quite literally tracked what Aric did every minute of every day for the better part of a year.
Working together, he and his doctor were able to identify certain triggers Aric had to learn to avoid, foods he could no longer eat, liquids he could no longer drink, and methods of treating the pain that didn’t involve narcotics. Over a period of three years, Aric and his doctor learned how to manage his illness to the point that it is now a disadvantage, not a disability.
The stress of the car dealership was one of the triggers that had to go, so, once again Aric was looking to build a new career. Six years ago, he started working for a vinyl wrapping company, Big Dog Vinyl. “If you own it Dad, we can wrap it; and once we do, it will look better than you ever imagined.” Two years ago, the owner decided he wanted to retire. Aric went to him and asked him to teach him everything about the business. This month, my son will close on the purchase of Big Dog Vinyl.
So that’s my son. A kid who had the only thing he ever wanted taken away from him at age 17. A teenager who picked up the pieces, moved on, and built new dreams, only to have those dreams stolen by a mystery illness. A young man who refused to accept “I don’t know” and pushed himself to the limits to find a better solution. A husband and father who lost every dream twice, and still managed to pick himself up, start over, and build anew. That’s Aric. That’s my inspiration. That’s my hero. That’s my son.