In thinking about Tucker and Autism Month. Chris and I are so fucking amazed by his progress this year. We never imagined Tucker being this far socially, at his age. When Tucker was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder six years ago. I felt sad, cried a lot, and Tucker was very withdrawn. I knew nothing about autism. I wish I could tell myself back then, you will be the best version of yourself because of Tucker! Fucking stop it! This has been a process and others have noticed Tucker’s personality exploding too! Who is this kid?! Reflecting on Tucker’s progress, I realized I had a childhood friend who was helping me along the way this whole time. How could I not understand the love behind family, community of friends, and autism?!! I’m an idiot.
His name is Nate. He grew up around my block. My brothers and I would see him all the time walking around. He would stand at the end of our driveway staring at our house or peering through our sliding glass door. We were excited to see him and ride bikes and/or play. Nate was older than us and the friendship just happened naturally.
Growing up with Nate was funny, he did some weird shit all the time to make us laugh.
This one time, we rode our bikes to Good Bye Ranch (a local candy shop/grocery store) to buy some candy. My mom was nervous to let us go with Nate. We were are fine mom, gosh. We got back to the house and started eating our candy in the backyard. Nate had bought these HUGE gum balls. The kind you put a quarter in the machine at restaurants. Suddenly Nate said “Watch this”. He started chewing two gigantic gum balls at the same time. What is he doing? Then he popped a third in his mouth. The three of us started laughing. Wow, this is impressive. Then he popped a 4th and 5th gum ball in his mouth. His mouth was so fucking full and his jaw was working over time. He popped another huge one in. Holy shit, he’s crazy! He now has some drool coming out and can’t keep his mouth shut! Eeewwww. Out of nowhere, he fucking swallowed it!!! SWALLOWED ALL THE GUM BALLS. I’m not kidding. My mom told me if you swallowed gum, it would come out of your poop. I believed her. How is this all going to come out? My brother and I were in disbelief. We couldn’t even stop him, because we thought he knew. He was 7-9 years older than us. We were little kids. After that, we again just laughed and got on our bikes. Nate would yell “Back to 2” and try to pop a wheelie, we rode off around the block. He’s so funny.
Nate loved little matchbox cars. He would line them up in our driveway in a long line and was very meticulous about it. That’s a fucking big word for me:). We would marvel at which ones were his favorites. He would get upset if any of them got out of order. We knew not to mess with his toys. We were having fun.
One day, my brother and I noticed Nate was acting different. We were growing up, but Nate was staying the same age.
Me: “Mom, How old is Nate?”
Mom: “I think he’s 17.” I was 10.
Me: “Why isn’t he hanging out with people his own age?”
Mom: “I don’t know. I think he is stuck at a young age.”
That was all that was said about that. As kids, we started putting it together that we got older, but Nate did not. Why? It was fucking confusing. No one really talked about it. It was just understood he had special needs. I never knew what Nate was diagnosed with.
When I was in Junior High, Nate moved away for a bit to live in West Chicago. He was terribly upset with the new change. Worried where all his toys would go. We were sad not to see him walk around the block. His dad rented out his house for a few years. It was strange to go from playing with a childhood friend, to realizing he was different, to losing him completely. Wow.
Then fast forward a few years and something crazy fucking happened. Nate’s childhood house caught on fire by a candle, the renters had left lit. Suddenly, there was a new house being built. Once it was finished, NATE WAS FUCKING BACK!!! What?! The news spread throughout whole block and we were all excited. The interesting thing was we were all grown now and Nate was still the same age. He loved toys, rap music, saying the word “Shiiiiiiit” while fluttering the back of his hand under his chin, saying “awwwwwe you’re in trouble”, and making us laugh. We knew he was more than a friend. He was our Nate.
He came over to our house and ate dinner A LOT. My mom couldn’t keep up with is fucking appetite. He would eat 2-3 plates! My dad would hurry up and collect all his little snacks, so Nate didn’t get to them first. We would celebrate his birthday (9/11) and Christmas every year, my brothers took him places, and our friends would hang with Nate at the house. He was apart of the family. He came to all of our weddings and walked my mom down the aisle in my younger brother’s wedding. Later in the years, Nate would become friends with my brother’s and I’s kids. It’s like no time had passed with Nate and he had new little buddies to run around with.
I couldn’t stop but think how Nate helped me in being a good mom to Tucker. He helped me realize how people need to be apart of Tucker’s life. It helped Tucker’s friends see Tucker for who he is. There’s a lot of moments where kids and Tucker do not understand each other. These moments need to happen. As Tucker is very delayed in his cognitive development, kids can see he’s acting strange. You know what? They’ve already accepted him as a friend and are having fun. I’m forever grateful for this childhood friend, who taught me all this shit.
Nate passed away last year 2021, due to cancer. He couldn’t get through the chemo. He was 46 years old, but still young at heart. We miss you Nate. Thank you for making us laugh. Shiiiiiiit.
Growing up with Nate and having a son with special needs. I’m so grateful for all our friends, teachers, therapists, and especially our families for being so fucking awesome. We no where without you. Thank you.
In the past two-three years, my beautiful friend Hilary at The bar Above is helping me give back to our community, that has given so much love and support to Tucker over the past 6 years. She’s fucking awesome. With each candle, Tucker’s Trio set, and Animal Packs sold, some of the proceeds of the will be donated to the District 41 Foundation in Tucker’s hometown. Thank you The Bar Above.
For those local peeps in Glen Ellyn, type “TUCKERSTRIBE” in discount code to pick up your purchase at my house Sunday from 2:00-5:00 and forget the shipping!!!