As I write this, it is my son, Joshua’s, seventeenth birthday.
My husband, Geary, and I have been spoiling him rotten since last Saturday. I am not sure how it happened, but somehow birthdays that fall anywhere near a weekend then become a series of days of celebration, instead of having just one day earmarked as the special one. During these long weekends of fun and gifts, he declines to do too much in the way of household tasks or projects, as it is ‘his birthday weekend’, and to ask him to do anything close to a chore is met with a look meant to instill great quantities of guilt.
He also is somewhat irritated when either Geary or I attempt to do too much in the way of everyday burdens, as it might impede our ability to participate in all of the birthday joy.
So when it came time earlier this afternoon for me to put together something for my weekly column for Frontstretch.com, and I asked, “What do you think I ought to write about this week?”, he answered this way, “Well, since it’s my birthday, I don’t think you should have to write an article at all.”
In all of the time that I’ve been writing a column for this site, I know that I have never tried the ‘it’s-my-son’s-birthday-so-I-don’t-have-to’ ploy, and something tells me I shouldn’t try anyway.
So, instead, I have snuck to my computer area, and am going to write a forbidden article. If the title lured you in thinking that you were going to read some lurid tales about NASCAR drivers, or something along those lines, I apologize.
Instead, now that I have your attention for a moment, I would like to take this opportunity to say that part of the reason that my son is so darned happy this weekend is because of the world of NASCAR, and the fans and people that make it up.
If you weren’t aware of it before, Joshua has several mental health and learning disability diagnoses, and life for him has been hard. When he was younger, the tics associated with his Tourette Syndrome, and the eccentric thinking patterns from his Autism, made him a strange and unwelcome person in his home community. That he just celebrated his 17th birthday in the company of no one but his parents and grandparents is an indicator that his social life has been severely disabled.
Fortunately, however, that is not the whole story. Once Joshua discovered NASCAR, his world abruptly expanded and enlarged, and he suddenly had friends. They might not have been from his hometown, but they were from all over the country, and even from Canada. For example, the Frontstretch message board is populated by some terrific folks that have become like an extended family.
Due to this unusual but particularly kind and compassionate response from NASCAR fans, Joshua has experienced friendships and social interactions that have made him a happier young man with a higher self-esteem.
That’s nothing to sneeze at. It really isn’t even a stretch to say that it might have been life-changing for him. Go ahead. Try and argue that. How do you know, really, if all of this hasn’t helped him overcome a whole lot of loneliness and long weekends with nothing to do or look forward to? And given him just enough good stuff to keep him falling into a dark pit of depression?
I must cut this short now, as I am not supposed to be writing this in the first place. In the event that my son does come across it, however, let me say, “Hope you had a Happy Birthday, Joshua. I love you very much.”
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