A message from the author, Rob Gorski:
This post is a day late and a dollar short. I have been wanting to write a follow up to My Broken Heart for quite sometime now. It’s really hard for me to put into words just how much meeting the bare-handed man has affected me. I was so upset and depressed in the months following this experience that I ended up back on antidepressants. I just couldn’t understand how this kind of thing could happen and I still don’t. We live in a world that has its priorities in the wrong places.
As a society, we seem to value money, power, fame and fortune. We can put a man on the moon and pay an athlete millions of dollars a year to play a game. However, when it comes to helping those in need, the ones that society has failed and forgotten or otherwise devalued and dehumanized for being different it’s a whole other story. That is something I will never understand or accept.
Life After My Broken Heart
It was one year ago today, that I met the bare-handed man for the first time. I say for the first time because I have actually met him several other times this past year. I have wanted to write about this for awhile but to many things happened this year that captured my attention and held it hostage. Among those things were my youngest and middle child both being diagnosed, officially, with Autism.
Meeting the bare-handed man last year, was a truly profound experience. There are few things in my life that have had this type of complete, all encompassing impact on me. The most important of these life altering events being the birth of my children. Trying to put the impact these events had on me into words is no easy task.
It’s like somewhere, buried deep inside me, is this pocket of emotion. Very much like the magma buried deep beneath the cauldron of a volcano. This pocket of emotion, over time, builds up pressure. As more time passes, it works its way closer and closer to the surface and yet never quite reveals its presence. It takes a truly earth shaking event to trigger a release of this built up pressure. When it does eventually release, it’s in the form of an uncontrollable eruption. In the case of the the volcano, the eruption consists of hot ash and molten rock. In my case, it’s an eruption of uncontrollable emotions.
When I witnessed the birth of my children, I experienced one of these emotional eruptions to such a degree that I literally wept and was unable to stop. There is such a vulnerability attached to this type of experience and perhaps that’s why they are so few and far between.
Meeting the bare handed man and witnessing the cruel way in which he was treated, led to the only other time I have experienced such an emotional eruption. Since I first met him on February 22 of last year, I have spoken with him several times. I’ve never set out to find him but it seems he always finds me. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I suppose I just wasn’t prepared to go through this multiple times.
A few months after I wrote My Broken Heart our paths crossed again for the first time since that snowy afternoon. This time however, I was at the Walgreens by my house, picking up prescriptions. What I thought was amazing was that he actually remembered me. I’m not sure why that really surprised me, but it did. I took the opportunity to introduce myself and learn more about him.
I introduced myself as Rob and asked him what his name was. He told me his name was Tim and he told me where he lived. Although he used the word stayed and not lived. I have a feeling that was significant. We spoke for a few minutes and he asked me for help again. I couldn’t drive him anywhere but I gave him what little I had before we parted ways, this time as friends…or at least knowing each other a little better.
Each time I’ve met him since, I was with someone.
The second time I saw him again, I was with my wife at the Giant Eagle Get-Go putting gas in the car. Ironically, that encounter took place just across the parking lot from where I initially met him. I didn’t have much to offer him, other than the change in my car. He didn’t remember at first but I reminded him that we had met twice before and that seemed to spark something and the memory returned.
The third time we ran into each other, I was with my Dad. We had stopped to pick up some ice cream at the local shop. As we were leaving, I saw Tim approaching people in the parking lot. It soon became our turn and I introduced him to my Dad. My Dad reached out to shake his hand. I could tell that Tim wasn’t accustomed to the friendly gesture and so to say it was a bit awkward would be an understatement. I didn’t have anything to offer him that night, however, my Dad gave Tim all he had on him at the time. My whole family already knew the story. They knew I had experienced something truly profound on that fateful 22nd day of February. However, being able to meet Tim put things into perspective.
I guess it would be like wearing glasses for the first time. Once you put on the glasses, everything changes. Well, in reality, everything is the same but you just see more clearly. It was a really amazing experience.
My path has crossed with Tim’s only a few times this year. While the few encounters were brief, the experience has taught me a great deal. When I look back over this past year, I realized that meeting Tim had opened my eyes to things I had been closed off to or simply unaware of. I learned just how important it is for me to see what lies just beneath the surface. I learned that beneath the tattered, inappropriately dress for the weather surface, lies a person that needs our understanding and compassion.
You see, there are people out there, all around the world. Just like my friend Tim. They are real and not only need but deserve our love, understanding, acceptance. They are people, human beings and were once, if not still, someone’s child.
Meeting Tim, for me, was like being graced with a glimpse of the future. While there was much about that day that should never have happened, some good did come of it. I was reminded that someday, my kids will be all grown up and I may not be around anymore, something that oddly enough, had escaped me until then. Reality can sometimes leave you feeling like you were kicked in the gut and this was one of those times for me. However, I have become much more aware of what needs to be done in order to both prepare my kids for the world and prepare the world for my kids.
I would like to think that my experience that day, the things I witnessed those people do in that frozen parking lot to my friend Tim, was an isolated incident. Sadly, I know it’s not. Things like this happen all the time. To this writer and father of 3 beautiful boys on the Autism Spectrum, this is simply unacceptable.
We need to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. We need to do what we can today to help the world better understand kids and adults with Autism. I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m terrified of what the future might hold for my children. I have witnessed just how cruel and unforgiving the world can be to people that are perceived as different. It an ugly reality but one that I’m working to help change.
By working together, we can help those in need and at the same time, lay the foundation in which to help build a better future for our own kids. This blog is dedicated to spreading Autism Awareness and providing support to those traveling on this most challenging of journeys.
Life AfterMy Broken Heart isn’t easy but nothing worth having ever is. Please help spread Autism Awareness, even if it’s one person at a time. Remember that the Autistic children of today will be the Autistic adults of tomorrow. Let’s help to ensure that what happened to my friend Tim in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle, doesn’t have to happen to anyone else, ever again.