One body of awesomeness

306-C West Johnstown Road, Gahanna, Ohio 43230.

At 19 years old, I knew it all. I bought my first car for $150.00. I had quit college to save money so I coud marry a girl. And I had moved out of my parents house (after they told me I had too) to my very own apartment. It was my life. My freedom. My place. Well sort of.

Rent was $525.00 a month. That was a lot. So I had to have a room mate. Well 3 actually. I had to share a room with my best friend Brad, while my crazy, gun nut, con artist other roomate shared the second bedroom with his girlfriend. It was not a good situation. Still, though, it was my first taste of adulthood. And while the girl dumped me and the car broke down (who knew a $150.00 car would not be reliable?) the memories of living in that place have stuck with me through the years.

I remember one day in particular, as I was walking to work, I saw a man in the driveway of a home along the way. He was teaching his son, who could not have been more than 4 or 5, how to ride a bicycle. The little boy had a helmet and elbow pads, and the bike had training wheels. I thought about when I learned to ride my two first two wheeler, being pushed around my mamaw's front yard - no helmet, pads or safety features -and careening towards the barbed wire fence that separated my "training course" from the field with the pond.

It was then that it occurred to me that someday I would be teaching someone how to ride a bike. Someday I would have kids of my own. I would throw the baseball with them and take them to the zoo and teach them all about life. I wondered how many I would have and what I might name them. And I specifically remember thinking how these people I didn't even know yet would someday mean more to me than anything in my life.

A few years later, of course, that journey began. I was 25 when John-Michael was born, followed by Ben 2 years later. Both were healthy and everything was moving along swimmingly. Then came baby number three. And there were issues.

Very early on, we were told we should consider the options. This baby had issues that they could not put their fingers on. He had enlarged ventricles in his brain, and that was just the start of the scarey things they presented us. He would be developmentally delayed, and would most likely never walk, talk, or function on his own. He would require 24 hour care for life, however short they predicted that life would be. The decision was easy. On December 11, 2003, that baby was born.

He was early. WAY early. The doctors brought their "I told you so" attitudes to the NICU everyday for 3 weeks before they let us take him home. And boy, was it the challenge they had promised. His head was huge and he just laid there. All the time. He did not laugh. He did not cry. My Dad has said several times it was like the lights were on but no one was home.

They knew us by name at Children's. Specialist after specialist, they all tried to figure him out. The scoffed at us. Made us feel stupid. And even scared us.  When we reached our breaking point, we took him to Dr. Kosnik, who removed a tumor from my own skull when I was 17, saving my life. He took one look at him and said "Kid has a big head, enroll him in the MRDD school." 

We did so. And the boy came alive. He began smiling, even giggling at times. They put him in physical, occupational, and speech therapies. He learned sign language and began communicating with us. He learned to crawl even though he couldn't lift his head off the floor. He just drug it along. When he overcame that and pulled himself up to the couch, they gave him a walker and full leg braces. They warned us not to get our hopes up, he still would need constant care and would always need these things to help him get around.

6 months later he started talking, and they were startled again. Cautiously optimistic the doctors again warned of him hitting a plateau. When they shrunk the braces down to just his ankles, they were quick to point out that his motor skills would never be that of a normal person. He would never be able to do simple things, like jump on a trampoline. I looked at my walking, talking, son. He could feed himself. He had hurdled every obstacle ever thrown at him. So I bought him a trampoline.

Can you guess what he did next?

A few months later, the braces went away completely. By the time he was five, he was ready for kindergarten. By the time he was in 3rd grade, he no longer needed therapy of any kind. He was declared disability free.

Not bad for a kid who was never supposed to walk, talk, or function on his own.

Today, that kid turned 13. I cannot believe how fast he got there, yet his disabilities seem like they have been gone for a lifetime. The things that boy has overcome in his life make him an inspiration to me. And as I sit here tonight, 24 years removed from the first thought I ever had about my future kids, I realize I was right. They are everything to me. And I could not be prouder of this kid.

Tanner Christian Brady Slusher, being your father and watching you grow has been and continues to be the coolest things I have ever seen. You are one of the most amazing people I know, and I thank God everyday that he chose me to be your Dad. You are truly my mini-me, and Awesome McAwesomesauce Jr. I appreciate everything you do for Tiffany and I, and I thank you for being such a great dude. I am exceptionally proud of you son, and I love you more than you will ever know.

Day # 1380. Last night, Little Red and I took Tanner to Gahanna Grill for his birthday. While we were there, we talked about everything he has overcome. I told him I cannot believe how far he has come. He said "Yep, now I am just one body of awesomeness."

That's my boy.

It is good to be me.

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